Introduction: Hakima Roof Rack - Poor Man's Strut Channel Cross Bars

Picture of Hakima Roof Rack - Poor Man's Strut Channel Cross Bars

My SUV came with a basic luggage rack.  What I really needed was something with the functionality of a Yakima or Thule cross bar but with a dumpster diver price tag. For less than the cost of a single store-bought cross bar I was able to bodge a reasonably functional bar using strut channel that I purchased from Home Depot. 

Clamping a bar to an existing roof rack ain't exactly rocket science.  It's the strut channel that does all the heavy lifting in this Instructable, I'm just here to type up the notes.  If you are already familiar with strut materials skip ahead to the Step 1.

If you're not sure what strut is just look up in a grocery store and you'll see it.  Strut is that stuff suspended from a ceiling by rods to support electrical conduit, refrigeration lines, plumbing, etc. in commercial buildings.  Think of an Erector Set in real world scale. While it ain't pretty, strut channel has a lot going for it.  (How I love thee, let me count the ways.)
    Inexpensive and readily available
    Galvanized steel for strength and durability
    C- channel in cross section for added rigidity
    Predrilled holes create multiple points of attachment
    Flat sided for easy connections
    Easily drilled with power drill
    Easily cut with power tools - I haven't tried a hacksaw on it yet
    Matched perfectly with special connecting hardware
    Did I mention inexpensive?

Step 1: Gather Your Materials and Tools

Picture of Gather Your Materials and Tools

You will need
    Strut channel (comes in 10 foot lengths)
    U-bolts (two per cross bar)
    Metal cutter of choice - reciprocating saw, hack saw, cutting disc for drill, etc.
    Metal file for smoothing cut ends
    Something to pad the contact points on the car's existing rails - I used heat shrink tube and inner tube rubber.
    Something to cap the bar ends (so no one gets hurt).
    Non-permanent Loctite or double up on nuts in key locations.
    Any custom attachments you need to fit your toys.

Step 2: Cut to Fit

Picture of Cut to Fit

1. Slide heat shrink tube over u-bolt and shrink with torch, heat gun or in my case, a tea light.  The tube would not make the square bend of my u-bolts so I cut shorter pieces and convinced one to make the bend with pliers.
2. Cut your channel to length.  I clamped mine to the car roof and had a neighbor hold the free end while I made the cut.
3. File the cut end to square it off and remove any burrs.
4. Clamp cross bar down with u-bolt making sure that all metal to metal contacts are protected.  In addition to heat shrink tube I used a cutting from bicycle inner tube.

Step 3: Attaching Toys

Picture of Attaching Toys

Why I liked the spring nuts...
1. Cam action means no wrench is needed to hold the nut.
2. If you keep the spring (I took some of mine off) then the nut stays happily in the channel waiting until you need it.
3. Nuts fit some factory pick-up truck bed attachment systems perfectly too.  Slid right in to my neighbor's Nissan set up.


dub2801 made it! (author)2015-08-11

I had to make some adjustments from the original plan due to awkward shaped factory bars. I used 2" stainless steel bolts with plates to connect them on the top and bottom to accommodate the bars. I wrapped each plate in old, but still flexible garden hose. used nuts with nylon washers and placed hose under all contact points so nothing is touching the factory bars. I purchased 2 delta truck fork mounts and mounted them using stainless steel bolts with nylon washer nuts. used a 2" by 3" tall u-bolt to act as the rear tire holder. painted it in some rustoleum plastic dip (4 coats) and will give it it's first real run tomorrow. total including fork mounts $90 give or take a few bucks. the eye bolt will be used to secure the back tire to the rack, had those from an old homemade rack that did not fit the new car.

alhazen (author)dub28012015-08-16


jgerew made it! (author)2014-08-31

Thanks for posting! I used this design in a pinch for carrying a car top carrier and it worked perfectly! I added some rubber pads to protect the roof rails and increase grip. I'd like to add some caps to bolts and nuts but that can wait.

I used a hacksaw to cut the bars and was finished with the whole project in about 30 minutes.

alhazen (author)jgerew2014-09-05

Sweet! Glad you got some mileage out of this. I really like your rubber grips - the fit and finish of mine left something to be desired.

abadfart (author)2016-07-24

Thanks for the idea I put this on my xterra to fit my kyack racks on and I dipped my ubolts in tool handle rubber. Add some 5/8ths i bolts and you have a good place to tie down things onbthe roof

JoelO27 (author)2016-06-16

I arrived at this same solution a few years ago and just stumbled across this article now. My main complaint was that these bars tended to be noisy, I got a low humming that was super annoying. Anyone else have that issue? Can you think of a solution?

not2shabbyaggie (author)2016-02-24

Any ideas/guesses on the capacity of the rack? If I go with the 12ga strut and a 4ft span, I think I can probably carry a lot of weight, but I'm not 100% sure. I'd like to have 150+ lbs of capacity.

dub2801 (author)2015-07-23

I am DEFINETLY going to make this! I was actually thinking of covering g the ends of the bars with tennis balls. may not be the prettiest, but will definitely save the scalp!

JWEngland (author)2012-05-20

Good idea. Some acorn bolt caps or nuts could solve the exposed thread issue. Rubber caps for a spring-tension curtain rod would also work to cover the bolt threads, give it a more finished look.

alhazen (author)JWEngland2012-05-20

Thanks JW. I bet I have one or maybe both somewhere in the garage. (Finding them may be a bit of a problem though. Somehow I missed Spring cleaning this year.)

JWEngland (author)alhazen2012-05-20

I know exactly what you mean about Spring cleaning! I've had to set that as a workshop priority this year. I found myself spenidng time looking for things I thought I had, or buying something and then finding the same item in the workshop later!

rimar2000 (author)2012-05-20

Good work, those bolt ends sticking up help to tie a rope. Maybe you like to read my roof rack. Specially STEP 6 !

alhazen (author)rimar20002012-05-20

I like that. Thanks for the idea.

Looks like you've been keeping busy - that's a lot of instructables. Keep it up.

ventifact (author)2012-05-20

There are a lot of bolt ends sticking up to grab clothing and flesh.

alhazen (author)ventifact2012-05-20

You are right. Even though these are fairly blunt, Murphy's Law dictates I cover these. I'm leaning towards plastic cups (like miniature crutch tips).

The bar ends could use a little work too. There is the old "cut tennis ball over the bar end" trick but that is just one layer too ghetto even for me. Liquid rubber for coating tool handles is probably what I'll do there since I already have a can.

Once the galvanized coating gets a bit etched from the weather I'll hit it all with a coat of paint, too.

LesB (author)2012-05-20

Great. I have been putting off getting racks because they are so pricey. In what section of Home Depot do you find the strut channel?

alhazen (author)LesB2012-05-20

It's back in electrical next to the metal conduit. The accompanying hardware is usually right next to it. Cost about $12 for a 10' length.

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