Car-Top Kayak Rack for Around Ten Bucks





Introduction: Car-Top Kayak Rack for Around Ten Bucks

This instructable will show you how to make a car-top rack for hauling your kayak for about ten dollars.

Step 1: Get Some Pool Noodles.

I bought two pool noodles from the dollar store.  Then I used a sharp knife to cut them to that each piece was approximately as long as the width of my car's roof.

Step 2: Put the Noodles on the Roof.

Now just put the noodles on top of your car's roof.  They're not attached to anything, so try to do this out of the wind.

Step 3: Lift Your Kayak Onto the Roof.

Lift your kayak and position it on top of the pool noodles.  If they slide around, it's pretty easy to lift one end of the kayak and reposition the noodles where you want them.  With three noodles, you obviously want to put one toward the front, one in the middle, and one toward the back of your car.  Make sure the kayak is balanced well so it doesn't start sliding off of the car roof before you have a chance to strap it down.

Step 4: Strap It Down.

I bought two straps.  One came from the dollar store and is just a piece of nylon webbing with a buckle at one end.  You simply slide one end of the strap through the buckle and it is held in place by friction.  It's very easy to use, but I'm not sure I would trust it to hold very tightly if put under a lot of stress.

The other strap is the ratchet type where you feed one end into a slot in the ratchet gear arrangement, then crank up the ratchet.  This is a pretty sturdy item that cost about five dollars at the local home improvement store.  When you ratchet it down, you can feel pretty sure that it's going to stay ratcheted until you push the buttons to loosen it.

To stap the kayak to the roof, open both passenger doors.  Put the business ends of the straps on the passenger seat behind the driver's seat.  Throw one end of the straps over the roof, go around and toss that end through the passenger door.  Then attach the strap to the buckle or ratchet and tighten until the straps are good and taut.  Not too much or you'll dent the roof.

Step 5: Bungee Cords at Front.

The bungee cord is not there to hold the kayak in place, just to make sure it stays pointed in the right direction.  I could probably skip this step, but I like to keep an eye on the kayak while I'm driving and this makes it easy to do so.

Step 6: Bungee on the Back As Well.

Just to be safe, I put a bungee cord on the rear of the kayak as well.  It's easy to hook it from the bottom of the car's frame to a handle on the kayak.

Step 7: That's It...You're Ready to Roll.

I've been using this system for the past year and have transported my kayak at freeway speeds of 70+ mph with no problems.  I do tend to reach back and check the tightness of the nearest strap every couple of minutes.  The only thing you have to get used to is that sometimes, depending on your driving speed and the speed and direction of the wind, your kayak will "sing" as the straps and other parts vibrate.  It's actually somewhat soothing in a zen kind of way.



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20 Discussions

Ok the noodles are a FANTASTIC idea the bungees are a joke, the shape of the noodles doesn't matter 1 little bit, they will be pinned down by the yak/load + straps thus shape is a convenience not a matter of need..

Anyone using rachet straps on there yak to the point that the straps have a high pitch ping are overdoing it but better safe then sorry I guess. Webbing capable of holding 250 kg force plus isn't needed 100gk is a must due to kinetic forces at max mainland EU speed + US, but you will never utilize the full strength only someone who doesn't know about fiberglass/PE yaks would say otherwise. The stitching on the hook end not the rachet end is more important than the ratchet if your going to use that and not the CHEAPER much better spring loaded buckles*aimed at moving kayaks* that you should use.

My experience is driving around the UK to mainland EU for the lakes and whitewater and much coastline, literally over 1,000,000 MILES in 4 pickup trucks over the last 20+ years of my adult life in the EU alone about half again through the US and Canada, most yaks moved at once on the roof using no more then 25gk downward force=6 sea touring yaks 2800 kilometers round trip *weekend*.

Ignore the haters that only post negative doodoo in there posting history.

"We have a be nice comment policy.
Please be positive and constructive".

2 replies

Pro is right. Bungee is a joke, and so is a regular buckle. What you need is a a strap with spring-loaded cam buckle.

1,000,000 miles... 20 years... that's 140 miles every single day for 20 years... that's impressive... 140 miles in the UK gets you a long way... in fact from southwest to northwest ... from Land's End to John o'Groats is 874 miles.... impressive... where do you find the time to kayak and read/comment on instructables?

What if you have two kayaks!

I agree with the other comments here that proper bow and stern tie-downs are required. But I want to stress the point that UNLESS you know exactly what you're doing with ratchet straps its waaay too easy to over-tighten them and damage your kayak. That is why most(if not all) kayak/canoe carrier kits come with CAM straps instead of Ratchet straps. Cam straps are the kind with a metal buckle that uses pressure to keep the strap from slipping out, you can pull it through one way and it won't go back until you press the buckle.

Use Cam straps to secure a canoe or kayak to a vehicle. they are plenty strong enough and will tighten down enough to hold snug but it's a lot harder to over-tighten them and damage your boat.

But no matter what, please be safe and make sure your load is secured properly. No one wants a damaged boat or to cause injury and/or accidents

Just don't be driving in front of this guy on the interstate or his boat will be in your back seat if you have to brake quickly.

1 reply


Sorry, but this is absolutely irresponsible and unsafe. If you have to brake hard, your load will fly forward off the car. No way your bungees will hold a projectile at 70 miles per hour, much less 35 miles per hour. No way a dollar store webbing strap can hold that kind of force.

Your 'cheep' alternative could kill an innocent bystander when your load flies off the car.

Instructables MUST begin to implement a policy that if a topic is unsafe, possibly deadly, it must be removed.

3 replies


Ok, be nice, be nice . . . be nice . . . you were dropped on your head as a child weren't you?

There is nothing wrong with this Instructable, the kayak is not going to turn into a deadly guided missile seeking out innocent bystanders to impale. It is basically IDENTICAL to several brands of car top surfboard/paddleboard/kayak carriers marketed for $30 bucks and up, just a guy with a little more imagination than you figured out a way to make his own and was generous enough to share.

If you don't like an Instructable move on, nobody appointed you God or net nanny.

I was nice, you were the one who thinks I was dropped on my head as a child...

I saw a kayak fly off a car that was involved in a high speed accident. The car was hit head-on, the boat flexed under the WEBBING (not bungie elastic) straps, and flew off the top of the car into oncoming traffic. The passenger in the other car was killed and the child was severely injured, airlifted to the hospital.

I saw it happen, and ever since, I have been on a campaign for people to properly secure their boats.

Creativity and being frugal does not trump safety.

If you do some research, you will discover that the major brands of boat carriers require front and rear tie downs.

Thule's website states…"Be sure to tie down bow & stern of boat to vehicle bumpers or tow hooks." with an illustration of the proper tie downs.

Every Yakima boat rack comes with a warning. "Boat Loading Use all provided straps to secure the boat in accordance with the instructions. Bow and stern tiedown lines must be used!"

Malone's website states that same information regarding fore and aft tie downs. "Install the bow & stern safety tie-downs per the enclosed MPG370 instructions."

Even Walmart's foam blocks come with front and back tie down straps. So, I don't know where you are getting your information.

I make no apologies for correcting an Instructable and I maintain my position that the website should remove potentially deadly or illegal Instructables.

Just who the hell deciedes to rig up a kayak like this and go 70mph? That's plain irresponsible. I put a canoe on top a friends car like this, took backroads, and never eent over 40. No problems at all. So if you aren't too bright about what's gonna work and what's just reckless, forget the kayak.

This Instructable is dangerous and irresponsible.

In the event you have a collision at 70 mph or 50 mph or even 35 mph, your boat will become a projectile. Remember, Newton's Law of Motion - "Things in motion stay in motion until acted upon by an outside force." It's not just a good idea, it's the law!

1. Your straps from the dollar store are not strong enough to hold under this kind of force if they have plastic buckles. That's why Thule and Yakima have metal buckles. What strength are the straps capable of holding? Webbing straps have ratings for a reason.

2. You have placed the kayak on ROUND pool noodles, just ready to roll off. The REAL kayak/canoe foam pieces are rectangular for a reason. (Hint - no rolling.)

3. There is no way that you can tighten these straps enough to keep this from sliding. If you have an accident, the straps will slide around in the window opening.

4. Your tie-downs front and back MUST be secure. Bungie cords are not strong enough for this.

5. The handle you tied the bungie cords to - is it meant to be a tie down? Or is it only a plastic handle with plastic points holding it to the boat?

6. Do you know the weight that your roof is capable of holding? If tightening down a ratchet strap is denting your roof, consider researching the weight your roof was designed to carry.

I'm not trying to be mean, but this whole idea is just dangerous. You are not only putting yourself at risk, your car and boat is at risk, too. My main concern is the danger of the other drivers on the road.

Please redesign this.

1 reply

A couple simple tweaks with regards to this would make this set up safe, and one that I use.

1. You do need stronger straps. Bungee cords are not meant to hold weight like this. A set of ratchet straps, with each strap rated to hundreds of pounds, can be purchased for 10-30 bucks. Using 4 of them will do, depending on the length.

2. You need to put two straps through the front and back of your car door frames where the 'armpit' of the curve is so they will not move if force is applied to them and then fed over top of your boat, or through METAL grab handles if you have them. You need to put straps(not bungees) front and rear, attached to points on the frame, not on your plastic bumper. Make an x with front and rear straps, as the rear hold the force of a quick stop in the event of an accident, and the front has to withstand 70mph winds for a long period of time on interstate travel, so double up where you can. Again feed these through solid grab handles.

3. If you strap your kayak correctly, round or square insulation does not matter because the foam should only be there to keep the kayak from scratching your car, and the force per square inch on your roof panel and your kayak plastic should be minimal. Spread out the tension.

4. Ultimately, I trust the straps with a combined force capacity of thousands of pounds compared to a roof rack that is rated far less. Some factory racks that come on cars aren't even rated to carry a kayak.

Great instructable. I'd replace the bungees with something better and use two real ratchet straps, but good stuff, otherwise.

There sure are a lot of Chicken Littles in the comments here. I'm still laughing at the guy who thinks squashed pool noodles are going to roll.

I have to echo the above comments: Do Not try this method under any circumstance. I have seen canoes go cartwheeling off a car using a similar set-up fortunately there was no one behind.
Use Quality ratchet straps with a rating 5-7 times that of the weight of your load. The wind will provide much more lift than you think and it is better to be safe than sorry.

1 reply

Agreed - I have seen many loads go flying. It is important to use proper tie downs.

Great solution for taking your kayak from one end of the drive way to the other. On the road?? You got to be kidding.

. I've carried boats this way with better tie downs and they've always come loose though I never actually lost the boat. This method will distort the door where the window frame is held away from the body and produce a huge leak for wind, dirt and rain to come into the car along the straps. Buy a properly fitted rack from Thule or Yakima. You may never appreciate it if you do but if your boat comes off and hits another car doing sixty mph it could kill people and you could do prison time for negligent homocide.

Very Good Simple solution! will try it out on our neighbors canoe on our pick up, it is a long brute , those pool floats will help a lot, thanks

Thank you so much for sharing your creative idea! I didnt take kayak out last year at all and thought I was going to have to trade my depenable Honda for a pick up truck or trade my kayake for one you fill with air.