Kitting out your car with roof racks and various accessories to transport all your gear, whether it be buggies, bikes, extra luggage or surfboards is a great idea as it frees up interior space and is the safest way to transport all your stuff.  However, there are some important do’s and don’ts that need to be followed when using roof racks, bike racks, water sport carriers and roof boxes. here’s our top 27 essential tips for driving with leisure accessories:

27 Essential Tips For Driving With Leisure Accessories

Roof racks

If you regularly have bigger objects to transport that won’t fit inside your boot, a set of roof racks could be the ideal solution. Almost every modern car can be fitted with roof racks – or roof bars as they are also known as.27 Essential Tips For Driving With Leisure Accessories

When you’re purchasing roof bars it’s essential to get ones that are designed for your exact model of car. This way you can be sure that they will fit correctly. There are 4 main types of roof rack, differentiated by the way in which they mount to your car and are as follows:

  • Roof bars for cars with raised roof rails
  • Roof bars for cars with integrated/solid roof rails
  • Roof bars for cars with fix points
  • Roof bars for cars with no roof architecture (basically a fancy way of saying none of the above)

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Once you have selected the right type for your car, important things to check for are features like TUV and ISO approval and also what the maximum load weight is. This can vary from 50kg up to 90kg so make sure you get the ones that are suitable for what you plan to be carrying. We’ve got a comprehensive list of do’s & don’ts for roof racks which you can read here but these are the main points:

Do’s and Don’t When Using Roof Racks:

  • Do: Thoroughly clean the car at the points where the bars mount to avoid any scratches to your paintwork.
  • Do: READ THE INSTRUCTIONS! & pay attention to torque settings.
  • Do: Put a tiny bit of copper grease on the mounting bolt threads, it will make removing them in the future so much easier.
  • Do: Fit all the rubber filler strips. Leaving these out will create excessive wind noise.
  • Do: Periodically check the mounting bolts for tightness.
  • Don’t: Overtighten mounting bolts. Pay attention to the torque settings in the instructions.
  • Don’t: Leave them on your car for extended periods when they are not required.
  • Don’t: Overload – Check weight limits. The weight limit of the bars will be clearly listed but you also need to check the weight limit your car can carry – check your owners manual.

27 Essential Tips For Driving With Leisure Accessories

Check out our complete guide for more info on roof racks

Roof Boxes

Roof boxes are a quick and easy way of virtually doubling the cargo capacity of your car and are especially useful on holiday road trips when the car is full of people. Roof boxes should always be fitted to roof bars, not directly onto the car. Make sure that it is fitted in line with the car, parallel with the road and not so far back that it may restrict the boot lid from opening. Try to get one that has secure locking and double sided opening too.

27 Essential Tips For Driving With Leisure Accessories

Do’s and Don’t When Using Roof Boxes:

  • Do: Pay close attention to the weight limit of the box; it isn’t simply a case of cramming in as much stuff as you can possibly fit.
  • Do: Reduce your speed – Your roof box will have a speed limit that the manufacturer recommends you do not exceed.
  • Do: Take extra care when entering car parks or other places with restricted height clearances to avoid any embarrassing incidents!
  • Do: Bear in mind a heavily loaded roof box can affect your cars handling. The centre of gravity will be raised considerably and extra care should be taken when cornering. A roof box will also make your car more susceptible to cross winds and with the added weight up top allow for extra braking distances.
  • Don’t: Pack items that you might need during the journey in the roof box as this will only waste time stopping to look for them.
  • Don’t: Let heavy items move around inside the roof box, make sure they are strapped down.
  • Don’t: Drive into underground car parks without checking the height first
  • Don’t: Leave your roof box unlocked, especially if you’re going to a safari park!

27 Essential Tips For Driving With Leisure Accessories

Watersport Carriers

If you are transporting your canoe, kayak or surfboard on the roof of your car having the correct type of carrier is essential. Simply strapping it to a set of roof bars isn’t safe enough, which is why a dedicated carrier system is recommended. Not only do they work to hold your kit in place they protect it properly too.

27 Essential Tips For Driving With Leisure Accessories

Make sure that the carrier is approved and correctly rated for the weight of your equipment. Don’t make life harder for other road users either; if you equipment is longer than your car, make sure you highlight this by covering the end of it with high visibility material so as to alert drivers behind you.

Do’s and Don’t When Using Watersport Carriers:

  • Do: Get help. Loading a kayak or small boat can be quite difficult. it’s when you’re struggling and straining that things tend to get damaged so rather than scratching your lovely paintwork with that 12 foot canoe you’re trying to manhandle on your own, get someone to give you a hand.
  • Do: Tie it down. If you’re carrying canoes, kayaks or surf boards you must tie them down to the car front and back, not just to the roof rack (use the car’s towing eyes). When travelling at speed the lift generated by these kind of products can rip any brand of roof rack clean off your car if it’s not tied down properly. Even if you’re not travelling quickly, strong winds (and it often is very windy when surfers/wind surfers are heading out) could exert forces higher than the roof rack is rated for and cause damage so this is a really important point.
  • Do: Periodically check the mounting bolts for tightness.
  • Don’t: Drive into underground car parks without checking the height first
  • Don’t: Exceed the speed maximum limit your carrier is rated for

27 Essential Tips For Driving With Leisure Accessories

Check out our complete guide for more info on watersport carriers

Bike Racks

Bike racks come in 4 basic types:

  • Roof rack mounted
  • Towbar mounted
  • Spare wheel mounted
  • Rear door mounted

The type you choose will depend on your budget and the equipment that you already have fitted to your car, eg towbars or roof racks. But regardless of the type you need to ensure the racks is firmly mounted to the car and the bike firmly mounted to the rack before driving.

27 Essential Tips For Driving With Leisure Accessories

Do’s and Don’t When Using Bike Racks:

  • Do: Thoroughly clean the car at the points where the rack mounts to avoid any scratches to your paintwork.
  • Do: Use additional bungees or straps the stop pedals from rotating and potentially coming into contact with other bikes on the rack or your cars paintwork
  • Do: Be conscious of the size of the load you are carrying. There is a good chance that your bike is going to be slightly wider than your car (with all rear mounted racks), so leave some extra room on each side – especially when overtaking fellow cyclists. The same goes for when reversing into a car space, as a rack and bike can easily add another two or three feet to the length of your car.
  • Do: Ensure that your rear number plate is still clearly visible too as it is a legal requirement when driving.
  • Do: check the tightness of mounting straps periodically after driving. Road vibrations do have a tendency to loosen straps after a while so this is a really important one.
  • Do: Lock your bikes to the rack. Some racks come with built-in security locks but if your doesn’t, use a standard padlock
  • Don’t: Overload the rack, doing so could damage your car or cause the rack to fail.

Some bike racks feature a number plate holder, so getting an extra number plate made could be useful. If you are stopping off along a journey for a break and your bikes are only tethered rather than securely locked to the rack keep your car within sight to reduce the risk of theft.

27 Essential Tips For Driving With Leisure Accessories

Check out our complete guide for more info on bike racks

At MicksGarage we stock an enormous range of roof racks, bike racks, watersport carriers and roof boxes plus we have plenty more info, reviews, videos and buying guides for travel equipment right here on the blog. Use the navigation on the right or click the links above to see more.

Happy travels!