Raising The Roof Rails

Grand Caravan custom fit roof racks prep

Why you need NOT fear custom fit roof racks and the dreaded “D” word (Drilling).

There are some vehicles and applications for which there are no tidily packaged kits. You might be surprised to learn that the average bare roofed minivan is often a difficult vehicle to fit. Difficult, but not impossible. Where Rhino-Rack Yakima and THULE’s direct fit kits end, custom fit roof racks begin.

Now, I feel like I should let you in on a little secret. All of us at the shop either have, or plan to have, custom track on our vehicle despite there being direct fit options. Custom track adds versatility and permanence to a roof rack. Custom track also supports and distributes larger loads. Unlike fixed point or clamp-on kits custom fit roof rack installations are designed to remain on the vehicle.

We aren’t worried about drilling our own roofs because after a few hundred vehicles without any sign of a leak that concern is reduced to a faint whisper. Why don’t they leak? Well, as you might suspect a manufacturer that made leaky racks wouldn’t last long. Rhino-Rack uses special blind rivets, a layer of butyl sealant and foam tape to keep the water out. We add a spot of windshield primer and the odd dab of urethane to make double sure the rain and wind stays out. Knock on wood ?

Here’s the process of mounting custom fit roof racks on a Grand Caravan. The process is similar for most vehicles.

Grand Caravan Badge

First, we wipe down your roof so that we have a clean dry work surface. (I didn’t take a picture of this; imagine a guy with a microfiber towel and a spray bottle.)

Next, we measure your roof to determine track placement. We need to make sure that you get the most usable space on the flattest part of the roof. It’s also considerably easier to adjust your rails if we can lay your tracks parallel. (In some applications, like our Honda Fit, this isn’t possible. Tracks can still be laid but later adjustments become more challenging.)

Measuring for a custom roof rack

Initially, we tape your rails in place to hold everything steady while we DRILLLLLLLLLL!

Drilling For Custom Roof Rails

After drilling, we dust the metal filings off your roof and dab the holes with windshield primer to seal the bare metal and prevent rust.

Priming A Custom Track Installation

Once the primer sets Rhino-Rack provides butyl patches to seal each hole. These butyl tabs are super sticky and turn our fingers black but they can’t be beat when it comes to sealing.

Butyl Tape Sealing Caravan Roof

Next, we carefully lay the custom track back over the butyl tape. Soft foam on the underside of the track prevents whistling and vibration but also loves to stick to the butyl if we aren’t careful.

Laying Custom Track Onto Butyl Pads

An air riveter secures the track with blind rivets. A regular hardware store rivet will leak because they are open ended. Rhino-Racks rivets are ‘blind’, meaning that they have a closed end.

Riveting Rhino Rack Custom Roof Track

Now that your track is fastened down, we slide square nuts into the track and thread the quick release RLT600 pedestals into place. Once again, measuring is important so your rails will end up parallel and properly spaced.

RLT600 Pedestals Installed Into Custom Track

The quick release legs (RLT600) used in this application are assembled to the Vortex cross rails on the bench. When they are loosely together, we place the assembly on the roof and make sure all the measurements are even before torquing the Allen bolts.

RLT 600 Quick Release


Once the bolts are tight, this set of Vortex bars is ready for the road. Or, to save some wind noise and stay sleek; you can pop the rails off and cap the mounting points until your next adventure.

RLT600 Vortex Bars Installed On Custom Track

Rhino Rack Roof Rails Capped

#OnwardsToTheWeekend #LeaveNothingBehind