DIY Roof Rack - Ford Freestyle




High price of after market Roof Rack getting you down. If you just need cross bars rails for a factory rack so you can mount or bungie stuff to it here is what I did:

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Step 1: Here You Go:

Bill of Materials:
2 Square Tube 1x48 1/16 thick Aluminum - Home Depot or Ace Hardware
4 U-Bolts 5/16 x 1 3/8 x 3 7/8 with nuts and cross washer - Ace Hardware (Home Depot didn't have correct size.)
Couldn't find 1 3/8 wide squared corner U-Bolts which would work better (Ace has some but not the correct size.)
8 Cap Nuts 5/16 18 coarse - Home Depot
8 Lock washers INT Tooth 5/16 - Home Depot
1 Drill Bit 5/16 in retrospect use 1 size up so the U-Bolts have some play - Home Depot
2 3 packs 3/8 Heat Shrink in the Electrical Section - Home Depot

1. Figure out where you want the cross bars and mark front and back with a pencil on the roof rails and on the cross bars.
2. Fit U-Bolt on angle underneath roof rails touching Aluminum and mark with pencil.
3. Drill holes in Aluminum.
4. Slide Heat Shrink over U-Bolt and heat with hair dryer or lighter.
5. Install roof rack, put U-Bolts on with cross washer, Lock Washer and Nut on top of Aluminum
6. Use Dremel cut off tool to cut U-Bolts to size for Cap Nuts to fit. (Tip: leave original nut on so you can un-screw the nut in case the threads get mess up during the cut off).
7. Tighten nuts.
8. You're done, I've attached some pictures.

Took about 1 hour to complete

Total cost of project: less than $65
I'll add better pictures later.

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    15 Discussions


    4 years ago on Introduction

    I'm having a hard time finding a u bolt that is the right size. Any advice on an alternative?


    6 years ago

    Great idea! Works perfect too. Thanks


    I was looking for an inexpensive way to tie my canoe down to my factory installed roof rack on my Ford Escape and came upon your suggestion. My canoe is 44" wide at its widest point. I couldn't have the u-bolts protrude up past the top of the aluminum tube because they would interfere with the sides of the canoe after placing it on top of the tubes. So I came up with an alternate clamping method using a short 6" piece of aluminum channel and placing it inside the tube and allowing the u-bolt to only bolt down on top of the channel. I had to use 2" x 2" aluminum channels to accomodate the 1"x1 1/2" aluminum channel. I had to cut 3/4" off each u-bolt leg. I also to had drill a 3/4" access hole on top of the 2"x2" tube to get access with a socket to tighten the nuts below. I've attached some images to better show my variation to your design.

    1 reply

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    I recently down sized to a Ford Escape and am planning to recycle an 8 ft long powder coated steel u-channel (was support for interior ladder rack from my cargo van ) as cross bars and add adjustable eye-bolts as tie-downs. I have no idea how noisy the u-channel may be.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    I've bought all the material: can't wait to build this.
    I have a question: is this the washer I need?

    1 reply

    8 years ago on Introduction

    Great job here! I was thinking of fabricating my own, and this seems like a fairly simple and cost effective roof rack. One question. I plan on using mine to transport plywood and drywall home from the hardware store. In order to lay the wood and drywall flat, I'd like to hide the washers and nuts inside the square tubes. Any downsides to doing that? That means the tubes will only be fastened down using the bottom side of the square tubes.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    my vehicle came with side rails but no cross bars. the cheapest I have been able to find crossbars is about 150 bucks. i just priced out materials at lowes yesterday and I can make my own using your instructions for about 1/3 of the price.

    no more wooden crossbars for me wooohoo

    1 reply

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    I finally got around to making mine. I made a few changes but they still came out great.

    I used 1 inch square steel tubes instead of aluminum.

    Since I used steel I primed and painted the metal flat black to match the factory rails that run front to back on the vehicle.

    I got a can of plasti-dip (used for recoating tool handles), put a piece of foam into each end of the bar, and dipped each end several times to cap the ends of the bars (now they don't hum when i drive


    9 years ago on Step 1

    I just did this - here's a few alterations I made: 1.) Instead of heat shrink, I bought 20' of vinyl tube with a 5/16" inner diameter. It was the same price as two packs of heat shrink tubing, but now I have a lifetime supply to cover the U-bolts. It's also thicker, giving your rails more cushion. 2.) Steel tubing is cheaper and stronger, if you're concerned about carrying serious weight. 1" steel square tubing is about 1/2 the price as aluminum. You'll have to paint it, however. 3.) Consider using stainless steel hardware if you plan on keeping your car outside for extended periods of time.


    10 years ago on Step 1

    Thanks very much. I did very slight variation on this as I have the same vehicle - Ford Freestyle: 1) Didn't bother with heat shrink. Not sure what the purpose of this is?? 2) Kept the U Clamp's flat washer (long rectangular piece) and left it at the bottom of the clamp (under attached roof rack). I figured since the bottom of the rack was flat - it was a nice fit. 3) Something HAS to be done about the open ends of the Aluminum tubes. The noise is AWFUL starting around 60KM (40MPH). Home depot has plastic caps - but they'll need some adjusting as they don't fit. But this setup is an excellent tutorial on how to make a more secure roof rack. It's quick, easy, and I concur with the cost of parts. Best of all, it's easily removed when not in use. Thanks again!

    1 reply

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    1.  I assume the heat-shrink tubing is to prevent the U-bolts from scratching of the roof rails.  It also will prevent them from sliding or making noise, since they're both hard surfaces.  It's probably a good idea, but not necessary.

    2.  The caps they use on the bottom of square-legged furniture like tables and desks would be ideal to cover the open ends of the aluminum bars.  If Home Deport doesn't haven them, maybe a furniture store would.

    3.  PVC pipe might also work well for this, and might be a bit more aesthetically pleasing, especially if you paint it.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    I have done the same thing recently, but I modified it slightly I chose to use oak rather than aluminum witch honestly I should have used because the oak does have some flax but i have been carrying a kayak on it for about 2 weeks now traveling alot on the highway 60 to 100 miles a trip at 65 plus mph its working good honestly and it did only cost under 50 bucks rather than 300 the only draw back is estetics.

    1 reply