Kayak Car Topping Helper (because They Can Be Heavy)




Introduction: Kayak Car Topping Helper (because They Can Be Heavy)

About: I like to explore with my hands, but I trouble choosing one area of focus. I have completely renovated my house, but nothing I do is craftsman quality. I want to build an electric car, hack computer hardwa...

My mother is approaching 80 and has decided to take up kayaking. She can handle everything about the boat, except getting it on and off the roof. After some searching on the internet, she found some ideas that could work but did not quite satisfy her needs. Then, she passed the whole thing on to me. This is the best of both.

In short, the kayaker will lift the front of their kayak to the device, which will enable them to roll it up onto the roof. The "car topping helper" will carry the load while the kayaker directs it.

It attaches to the car with a double suction cup device, the type used by construction people to move large plate glass windows and heavy counter tops. The structure is PVC pipes and the wheels made for a lawnmower.

Step 1: Materials

The materials are basic, but some of it had to be found online. This is for EACH device you build.

Double Suction Cup: The type used for safely handling glass panels, sheet steel and smooth laminates. Two suction cups provide lateral stability, and the handle between the two makes for a convenient bar to attach the frame to. I bought the Woodstock D3042 Double Suction Cup from Amazon because I liked that it was yellow. They are very strong; my son attached them to the door frame in our kitchen and hung from them.

PVC Pipes: These make up the structure:

  • 1" PVC Tee with Threaded Branch (2): The straight part was smooth but the branch is threaded so you can reduce.
  • 1" to 3/4" Threaded Male Adapter (2): To reduce from 1" Tee to the 3/4" the rest of the device will be.
  • 3/4" PVC Tee Smooth (2): Will need priming and PVC cement.
  • 3/4" to 1/2" PVC Male Adapter (2): This will narrow the channel as the axle comes out.
  • 3/4" PVC Pipe: After buying a 10' length, I only needed about a foot for each device.
  • PVC Cement: To hold all of the pipes together.

3/4" to 1 3/4" Stainless Steel (Hose) Clamps: To attach the device to the double suction cups. I make sure the tightening head is hexagonal to take a socket for tightening.

6" Plastic Wheel: A lawn mower wheel. They used to be quite common, as our landfill seemed to be cluttered with broken mowers. Of course, when you want one there are none to be found. They need to spin a bit with the weight of the kayak, so the cheap ones on bar-b-ques might be too flimsy--go for this quality. Note: The axle hole is 1/2".

1/2" Axle: Like the lawn mower wheel, the simple metal rod is disappearing from my landfill. You'll need about a foot for each device.

1/2" Axle Nut: These tap onto the end of the axle rod to secure the wheel. I include the photo of the bag because no one at Home Depot could tell me what they were called, so they could not look it up on their computers to find it. Everyone knew what I was talking about, though, but because they are such a small item in a huge store it took a while to find them.

With this as a model, you will no doubt figure out ways that work best for you and materials that bypass the need for adapters and the like. Put them in the comments section, please. This worked for me and the limited access I had to PVC and other structural materials.

Step 2: Cut 1" Tees in Anticipation of Attaching to Double Suction Cups

The most difficult part of this entire design was figuring out how to attach the whole device to the double suction cups. I thought it would be easy, but was wrong.

When buying from Amazon, it was noted that the handle was hollow. My plan was to cement a PVC pipe inside of it and attach 90 degree elbows for the vertical frame. The inside of the handles are just a smidge narrower than 3/4" PVC pipe. I found another pipe that was a little more narrow, but when I attached the elbows they interfered with the arms that work the suction mechanism. The frame was going to have to attach to the exterior of the handle.

It is clamped on.

In order to create a platform that will match, cut the 1" PVC tees down the length. I used a table saw, carefully. The 1" arc matches the handle of the double suction cups well enough.

To offer the most lateral stability, cut off one end of the tee so that you can push it to the end of the handle. Two tees fit nicely.

Because the rest of the device is 3/4" you will need to use an adapter that offers a female smooth end to insert the 3/4" PVC pipe later.

Step 3: Crafting the Frame

You can see from the photos what the finished frame will look like.

My 3/4" PVC pipes were cut to 3" each (3 total). I cut them down a bit after fitting everything together

Note: The piece that links the left and right verticals together, when fitted in snug, should cause the "feet" of the two 1" tees to touch but not overlap.

Note: The vertical pieces that connects the 1" tees to the 3/4" tees need to be long enough so that, when the wheels are attached, those wheels do not interfere with the movement of the arms that work the double suction cup mechanism. At the same time, the longer you make them the higher center of gravity you are creating--that will weaken the device while it handles the weight of your kayak.

Put the whole thing together without cement, and rest it on top of the double suction cup handle. Hold the wheel to where it should go. Is there any interference? If okay, cement the PVC together (but don't cement it to the handle of the double suction cups--you'll use clamps later). Let dry.

Note: If you have not used PVC cement before, know that it dries fast. If one tee is not in alignment with another as you fit it in you will be unable to change that. One way to make sure it is all on the same plane is to lay it flat on the workbench as you work on it. Of course, read the directions of the PVC cement before using. You'll need to rough up those joints!

Step 4: Attach the Wheels

The wheels will take some weight, but they are not turning much. Of course, you want them to spin easily but I did not feel the need for washers and such.

The 1/2" axle should be long enough to go through the frame, two wheels and still have a 1/4" on each end for the axle nut.

Once the axle is through and the wheels are on, use an axle nut to keep them on. Again, Home Depot could not name them (I thought they were called "caps") so here's a photo. They go on with a hammer and stay on.

Step 5: Attach the Device to the Double Suction Cups

Originally, I had thought of using PVC cement to attach the frame to the double suction cups. The 1" tees, cut, did not quite match the arc of the double suction cup handles so I would have had to clamp them for drying--it was unclear if the tension would still be present and, eventually, cause it to detach at an inconvenient time. More important, by using the clamps my mom can adjust the angle of the frame once the double suction cups are attached to her car. One will be on her trunk, while the other on the rear windshield. At this time, I am not sure if a straight vertical will do the trick or adjustments will be needed. In using clamps, my mom and I have options.

Unscrew the clamp until the one end comes out the mechanism. Then, put the frame in place on the handle of the double suction cup and loop the clamp around both. Feed the clamp end back into the mechanism and tighten.

Adjust vertical angle as needed.

Step 6: Suction to Car

Make a second (or third) device for your car.

These suctions cups are seriously strong bonding.

Line them up to create a rolling path for your kayak. My mother plans to put one on her trunk and another on the rear window. For this Instructable, I just stuck them on the hood and front windshield. Once you get the nose in the first device you will pick up the other end and walk it forward. The wheels should be wide enough to offer stability, and the double suction cups should hold it all tightly.

Once on your roof you will tie it down or do what you do. Enjoy.



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    26 Discussions

    I have some suggestions to make this better.

    You need something to keep the kayak from sliding side to side on the wheels. Unless the boat has a deep keel in the center (most don't), the boat has a tendency to slide sideways on the rounded bottom. If you could design an goalpost-like extension beyond the wheels to guide the boat, it would improve it significantly. (Design the uprights like about the EZ Loader boat trailers.)

    And just a tip from someone who has been kayaking and car topping a long, long time. These boats can be quite heavy and awkward. It's not easy to lift one end of the boat up and over your car hood or trunk lid and on to a roller, run around to the other end of the boat, lift it up, push it and roll it in place.

    Not to be unkind, but sometimes, it's better to save your back and car paint finish go with a known solution.

    1 reply

    I don't disagree. She wanted something simple and it has worked for her all summer. Instead of a kayak, she bought a light (49 lbs), short one-person canoe so she could easily get in and out of it. I agree that heavier, longer crafts can be unweildy.


    2 years ago

    Good for your mother for taking up kayaking at 80! I'm in my 60s and have been wanting to do this for years. Finances have played a part, but things are beginning to work out. I have a Volkswagon Wesfalia, and am trying to think of a way I can use your idea, possibly on a plank of wood leaned against the back of the van, then hoisted up on to rollers on the top of the van. Thanks so very much for this ’ible!!!

    1 reply

    She went with a small canoe, as it is easier to get in and out of. You could feed it into the back of your VW, I think. It's that small. With the ramp, I know you can do it.


    2 years ago

    Looks good, I would suggest some roof bars though!

    1 reply

    My mother has them. This is my car. She's a state away, and I wanted photos now for Instructables. I want to add her using it, but she never takes photos. But, yes, racks are recommended.

    I like this idea and have seen something similar on another site, one caution I read on the other site was when the guy was putting weight on the windshield he cracked his windshield. No details on how, but just thought I would pass this along. I plan on maybe building something like this for my suv, but I wont have to put the rollers on any glass. Great instructable!

    1 reply

    I had not thought of that. I'll pass it on to my mother. Her canoe (she went with it instead of a kayak) is 47 lbs. It has been okay this summer.

    Great directions! I am interested in trying kayaking, and if I like it, your 'bile might just make my life easier.

    This is awesome!!, My 80lb, 12' Fishing kayak is a beast to hull on and off my SUV especially after 4-5 hours of paddling. My kayak has a concaved bottom so if I make this it will be similar but a slightly different design.

    Great job on the Instructable

    Add another suction cup with a couple pulleys attached to it to the roof towards the back of the car. One pulley at the cup, another pulley at the boat attached to the drag/lift handle by means of a quick release clip, or carabiner. Attach a piece of paracord to the handle of the cup, and run it to the pulley at the boat, then back to the pulley at the suction cup.

    You should now be able to stand near the boat to guide it if needed, and pull the rope to make lifting it to the roof a cinch.

    What an awesome 'ible! I CANNOT WAIT TO MAKE THIS! Great job!

    My car bonnet has still raw wounds from when I recently dragged my fibreglass canoe across it on the last trip. I might have to adapt your brilliant idea for that.

    This is awesome! I used to do a lot of flat water Kayaking then I came down with a neuro-muscular disease and had to give it up. Handling of the kayak out of water became to much for me but seeing this I might just be able to get back out there on those days I'm not tired or weak to go. Thanks

    Great idea, but for most kayak racks, simply throwing a towel over the first saddle will allow you to easily slide the boat into place. You can then lift one end to remove the towel before securing the boat to the racks.

    This would be great for loading a Stand Up Paddleboard, as well. So great that your 80 y.o. mother wants to get into kayaking, and that you are helping her not have to be dependent on someone else to get out there. :-) I love it!

    nice job, very simple design and very effective. I took it a bit farther and made them wider to help load plywood on to the roof of my suv but i use three.