With over 25 years of not only selling and installing racks but also using them ourselves, we here at Rack N Road want to share our experience and knowledge to make sure your investments in your car, gear, and racks are protected for years to come. This guide will cover the basics of rack safety and maintenance learned through practical application and years of practice.
Locks can be added to most rack accessories if they do not come with them. The lock cylinders for Thule, Yakima, and Inno have codes stamped on them for replacement purposes. This also allows us to swap out or match locks to a existing number. Replacement keys, locks, or matching services are at available at any Rack N Road location.
We also carry trailer hitch and trailer locks, bicycle cable locks, and various locking strap systems for securing cargo, kayaks, SUPs, or canoes. Looking for long-term storage or locking solutions? Check out www.parkabike.com for our recommended line of bike parking racks.
Tips to remember:
- The metal tumblers in lock cylinders need periodic lubrication. We recommend graphite spray.
- It’s always a good idea to bring some lock de-icer to the mountain with you– snow or freezing rain build-up can jam the lock. (WD40 can be used in a pinch!)
- Down to one last key? Trust us– you’ll lose it at the worst possible time. Call us with the key code or bring it in the get extras. Don’t have a key or code? We have over 200 different rack keys in-stock and can help in a pinch!
STRAPS AND TIE-DOWNS
Straps and tie-downs are critical to protect you vehicle, gear, and passengers. Most any racktastrophe can be avoided with pure common sense and the proper equipment. While most accessories, such as bike or kayak racks, come with their own straps, feel free to supplement! Rack N Road carries straps and tie downs of all shapes and sizes, and can recommend the proper ways of tying loads on your specific car. Always feel free to visit our stores if you’d like some advice from the pros.
Kayaks, canoes, surfboards, and stand-up paddle boards (SUPs) will almost always require use of bow and stern tie downs. These long loads are susceptible to lift and inertia, which can cause them to twist or tip in inclement driving conditions. In general, a load extending past your windshield wipers should be secured front and back. Many larger vehicles have built-in anchors for such straps. For smaller vehicles or those without factory tow-hooks we can secure anchor points using Thule’s Hood Loop/Quick Loop or Yakima’s Anchor Strap Kit for under $20.00. The Bow/Stern ratchet kits from both companies make this process very simple by removing the need for knots and can be tightened or removed in seconds.
There are many other accessories available to make attaching equipment to your roof easy and safe. Thule or Yakima Load Stops are a great addition to prevent movement of lumber or other home improvement materials and household items.
Tips to remember:
- Check state laws and regulations when carrying loads exceeding the length of your roof or overall width of your vehicle. Many states require special tie-downs or markers.
- Thule and Yakima both recommend and require use of ALL straps provided to maintain warranties on their products. Check with Rack N Road to see if your specific vehicle has other special requirements or restrictions.
- Always stay within the limits!! This includes weight limits of your rack/hitch and speed limits. If it’s windy or stormy, SLOW DOWN!!
- Straps can loosen over time, so check them regularly (especially if new). Replace straps that begin to tear or fray, and keep them dry and inside to protect them from becoming weak.
WEIGHT AND LENGTH RESTRICTIONS AND CAPACITIES
As stated above, many states have differing laws about length, width, or height restrictions. It is always best to exercise caution. If a rack or the equipment on it is moving (or even bouncing), it probably needs extra tie-downs or supports. Here are some common questions we get from our customers:
- Do I need a red flag on the end of my kayak? — In most states, any load extending more than 2 feet off the front or rear bumper will require a red flag or strap to ensure it is visible to other drivers. This is true of lumber, boats, or even furniture.
- My trailer hitch has a 200 pound tongue capacity. Why can it only hold 2 bikes? – When calculating the forces exerted on a trailer hitch, we must factor in leverage and inertia. The further a load extends from it’s attachment point (i.e. a trailer hitch or crossbar) the more force it exerts (Force x Distance = Work). Tongue capacity is a measurement of downward pressure at the hitch, and it does not take into account the length of cargo baskets or hitch mounted bike racks. The inertia of a bumpy road or speed bumps amplifies this force even further. Always slow down for uneven road surfaces when carrying any type of load, and contact us for advice on the true load capacity of such carriers.
- My Kayak/SUP doesn’t have any straps on the front. Does it still need to be tied down? – Yes, it most likely does, especially if your trip involves any freeway speeds. It may require some ingenuity, but we can figure out a way to tie down just about anything. If it extends beyond either the front or rear windshield, chances are it needs the tie-downs.
MAINTENANCE AND UPKEEP
Without proper maintenance, many racks can rust, seize, or otherwise stop working. Any moving parts on a rack should be lubricated from time to time, and most racks should be stored inside whenever possible. Since trailer hitches and most hitch-mounted bike racks are made from steel, rust needs to be controlled before it can spread. There are many affordable lubricant and rust reformer sprays we can recommend based on the application.
We recommend that racks are inspected and lubricated prior to every use. Bolts and straps can loosen over time and may need to be re-secured or tightened. At least twice a year (at the beginning and end of each season) your rack should receive a tune up along with your skis or bikes. Feel free to bring them to any of our locations for quick inspections, tune-ups, or small replacement parts.
You’ll find that Rack N Road has a full selection of not only best-selling Thule, Yakima, and Inno accessories, but that we also have replacement keys, parts, and straps for most any of their racks. Using experience, ingenuity, and years of experience, we can provide advice and stellar installation services to ensure a safe and happy trip for your family and your gear.