QUESTION

I’ve got a few questions about roof racks. I’m looking to buy one pretty soon, but I’m not sure what to look out for. Some racks seem to be a bit more expensive than others, and I’m wondering why that should be. So with that, what makes one rack more expensive than another?

Keith Saunders 

ANSWER SUPPLIED BY: Richard Ransome

Big Country 4x4

(011) 795 9700

Typically speaking, our roof racks are a bit more pricey than others, so from that point of view, we’re probably well qualified to answer your question.

That said, it would be easy for us to cut back on the design and engineering of our roof racks (and to sell them at a cheaper price), but we’d rather focus on – what we believe – are the four fundamentals of a good roof rack:

  • Strength
  • Size
  • Noise
  • User friendliness

 

STRENGTH 

There’s an industry trend these days to manufacturer roof racks that are bolted together; while this is beneficial from a shipping, pricing and packaging point of view, in our experience, a bolted roof rack has NO structural benefits.

Welded racks are stronger than bolted-together racks, but to take this concept a step further, we also dovetail our joints, and then we weld them. This means that the load (on the roof rack) is not carried by the weld itself, but rather, by the construction of the cross-members and their dovetail joints.

Sure, a bolted rack may just about get the job done, but if any one of those bolts is not properly torqued, it doesn’t take an engineer to figure out what’s going to happen when a steel bolt starts to vibrate (and move) inside an aluminium bolt hole.

Also, because our roof rack slats do not bend or flex when you walk ion them, the rack can be mounted much closer to the roofline – only a 10 mm gap is needed.

 

SIZE

Naturally, smaller roof racks are cheaper to make. Even a few millimetres difference can save a manufacturer massive costs in raw materials, especially when thousands of racks are being made. Of course, the buyer may not recognise a slight difference in size from one rack to another, but if you want optimum packing space (area), bigger racks have bigger price tags.

 

NOISE

There are two ways to design a rack: you can either make the slats run laterally, or longitudinally. It goes without saying that lateral slats will generate more drag and wind noise, while longitudinal racks will run quieter.

 

USER FRIENDLINESS

Aside from ease of use and quick installation, a critical feature of any rack is accessory fitment and availability. So when you shop around for a roof rack, make sure there’s a wide range of available accessories and attachments.

Also, you may want to consider the ability to adjust the rack’s height, so that it can be lowered close to the roof, or raised high above it to allow a table (or solar panel) to slide underneath.

I hope this helps, and good luck with your decision.

 

Richard Ransome

Big Country 4x4

(011) 795 9700

 

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