$25 Steel Roof Rack - No Welding




About: I've been a tinker my whole life, so I quit my day job when I graduated from business school and now I run a flat-packed furniture company out of Baltimore, MD.

Here I will walk you through my $25 weld-less roof rack.

Build Story:

I woodwork for a living and I was putting a lot of wear on my OEM Subaru Roof racks that are made from aluminum. One day I slightly overloaded the racks and took it over a speed bump and the racks were completely ruined. I looked online and replacements were around $250 and I knew I could build my own for way less!

Tools needed:

  • Tape Measure
  • Marking tool
  • 3/8" drill bit
  • Power Drill (I used a drill press)
  • Metal Saw (I used an abrasive chop saw)
  • 1/2" Socket wrench,

Materials Required:

  • (2) 2-3/8" Galvanized Fork Latch- $5.72 - Fencing Section
  • (8ft) 1" square tube steel - 16ga - $5.50 - Hardware - MUCH cheaper at a metal distribution store (King Metals, Metal Supermarket in USA)
  • (4) 5/16" x 4" Galvanized Carriage Bolts - $4.32 - Hardware
  • (4) 5/16" Galvanized Nuts - $0.72 - Hardware
  • 1" Plastic Tube inserts - $0.40 - Metal Distribution Store
  • Spray Paint (I powder coated)

Step 1: Clean and Cut the Metal

First remove the preliminary layer of oil off of the metal with acetone or mineral spirits. Once the metal is cleaned, mark at least 4" longer than the width of the roof rails of your car. My pieces are 45" long on my Subaru.

Mark at 45" and 90", cut using a metal saw. I used an abrasive chop saw for this step.

Step 2: Mark Rail Locations and Drill Holes

Due to the variation in the rails, make sure to measure the exact location of the rails and where your bracket will overlap. As you can probably see, I thought I had the measurements calculated correctly but in practice they were off. Definitely place the rails on top of the car to see exactly where the rack will intersect with the rails.

After you get the exact location, mark the middle of the metal and drill through with a bit that is larger than the 5/16" bolt, I used a 3/8" to account for the powder coating in the upcoming steps.

Step 3: Deburr Metal and Second Cleaning

Using a rasp, deburr the edges and any drill blowout. Clean the metal again before painting or powder coating with acetone

Step 4: Protect the Metal

I have access to powder coating equipment to give my rack a professional finish. This can certainly be done with less, a simple spray can with an outdoor level protection should be perfect.

Step 5: Attach Rack to Rails

First insert your caps into the end of your metal to prevent water and reduce drag.

Next using the brackets from the fork latch, insert the bolt through the bottom of the bracket and up through the metal on both sides. Insert nut over the bolt and tighten to the car rails with a 1/2" socket wrench.

You are now complete, I hope my Instructable will help you build a simple rack of your own. Thanks for looking!



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11 Discussions


1 year ago

I picked up a couple of cross bars that are made for my Subaru for $40 from the wrecking yard.
I'm going to drill these to hold 1 or 2 solar panels to power an emergency communications station.
It will power short wave transceivers for disaster relief.


Reply 2 years ago

Didn't know this was a thing, but the max load is only 88lbs. I regularly haul 400lbs with ease!


Reply 1 year ago

It's not so much the weight on the rack but the rack's ability to safely hold the load during a crash.


2 years ago

I like it. 1, because it provides a flat loading plane, unlike my stock Honda rack which has a weird camber that makes things want to slide off. And 2, because it has protruding ends. If you rely on the dolly knot to hold down loads you need knobs, hooks or other protrusions. Rings and eyes just don't do it. Could you drill the top holes larger and hide the nuts inside the square tubes?

1 reply

Reply 1 year ago

Thanks, and yes I believe so! I welded up a beefier version and will try to upload that how to.


2 years ago

Very cool! You just saved me over $200. I will use these on my new Yukon instead of spending $250 or more and they will be stronger. Question though: couldn't you use u-bolts (they make some that are square rather than rounded) instead of the carriage bolts and fork latch? I would think it would be easier to assemble, stronger and even cheaper.

1 reply

Reply 1 year ago

Yes, the only difference is you would have to hack off the top of the U bolt to make this into a smaller size to fit the metal rail