How To Install A Roof Rack WITHOUT Damaging Yor Paint! (Warning Lots Of Pics)-

How To Install A Roof Rack WITHOUT Damaging Yor Paint! (Warning Lots Of Pics)-

How To Install A Roof Rack *WITHOUT* Damaging Yor Paint! (Warning: Lots Of Pics)

*First, I apologize if there’s already a post like this.

*Second, I’ve re-installed my roof rack every fall for the past few years (for snowboarding) and removed it in the spring with no visible damage. So while I may never have had paint damage, every situation is different and your mileage may vary. In other words, don’t sue me if you get some scratches!

Some people like hitch mount bike racks for their simple convenience, but those of us that participate in mulitple sports (like snowboarding in the winter and biking in the summer) a modular roof rack is essential. The problem is, roof racks have always notoriously scuffed roof paint — hopefully that’ll all change today! I’m not just going to cover how to protect your car from your roof rack, but from scratches and paint damage in general also.

Ok, on with business!

1) Pre-Wash (optional): Chances are your car is crusted over in road salt, bugs, tar, tree sap, or some other nasty substance. Rather than taking tons of time, tons of effort and elbow grease, (plus bug & tar remover if applicable), it might be worth it for you to head over to your local quarter washer and easily blast it all off saving you time and energy.


[SIZE=2]2) Wash: There are a few fundamentals which I feel are often overlooked by most people when washing a car:[/SIZE]

    [SIZE=2]Do NOT use dishwashing detergent/soap: this will strip any and all wax from your car and is mildly abrasive and may cause swirl marks in your paint. Use soap made for washing cars.[/SIZE] [SIZE=2]Use two buckets (optional): One bucket is just water, the other is soapy water. After soaping down a section of your car, rinse the dirty sponge in the plain water bucket before soaping up again. This helps keep dirt out of your soap bucket and off of your car, otherwise you may potentially be grinding dirt into your paint when applying soap, thus causing more swirlmarks.[/SIZE]


3) Dry: Another overlooked step is drying your car. Drying your car after you wash keeps it looking clean by preventing evaporated water from leaving deposits (aka "waterspots") on your car. Important! Always use 100% cotton to dry your car — fabrics or cotton blends with things like polyester are abrasive and will leave swirl marks!

4) Wax and Buff: Waxing your car helps protect it against the elements and really makes it shine. Personally I would recommend something like the Meguiar’s "3-step" process (and there are other brands that do just as good with a similar process):

    Step 1 is the swirl mark remover (which works really well actually) Step 2 is the showroom quality "wet look" Step 3 is the sealing and protective wax

If you’re really pressed for time you can use any car wax (or just the step 3 here). Obviously the first couple are kind of optional, but I really can’t stress enough how important it is to at least have a good coat of wax on your roof before the next few steps.

5) Rough Mount The Roof Rack: We’re not actually installing it yet here, just carefully placing it over where it’s going to go. Make sure you just rest it above the car and leave a little space — dont actually seat it. You’ll see in a moment why:

6) Fitting The Vinyl Strips: This is where the magic happens. By placing your roof rack in direct contact with your roof, you create a nasty situation where dirt, salt, and moisture get trapped in there, along with the base bars constantly rubbing it all into the paint. That is what causes the paint hazing that a lot of people get (which the Step 1 swirl remover should help with).

To get around this scuffing, we’re going to place some clear vinyl film between the base bar feet and the roof. This will prevent rubbing on the paint, and prevent dirt from getting in there. This is also why I heavily recommended at least waxing your roof, because it will ensure protection from the vinyl and will make it easier to peel off later when necessary.

How To Install A Roof Rack WITHOUT Damaging Yor Paint! (Warning Lots Of Pics)-

It doesnt really matter what brand of vinyl film you get, I just got whatever I could find at my local auto part store. Just make sure it’s thick/sturdy, meant to be put on a car, and that it’s clear. I spent about $20, but I’m only half way through the roll and I’ve used it for the last 3 years.

The roll might look something like this:

Unroll a little bit of the vinyl (but don’t peel away anything!) and place it under one of the feet. This saves us from the tedious act of measuring (lol). You can get a rough idea of about how much you’ll need here and you can cut accordingly, be sure to leave a little excess on the left and right sides in case you need to adjust the base bars a bit later.

Once the one section is cut, you can use that as a template to cut a piece for the other side of the car.

7) Applying The Vinyl Film: Now you can grab one of the strips that you cut, peel the back off and carefully place it under the foot of the bar. If the bar wont stay propped up like the one in my picture, you might have to prop it up with something, have someone hold it up for you, or use masking tape to roughly mark where you need to place your vinyl and remove the base bars completely during the application.

While applying the vinyl you should only stick down one side at first, and then slowly, smoothly, and firmly slide your hand across the vinyl. You’re both sticking it down and pushing out any air bubbles here. While your base bar is held up, use something to really smooth out the rest of the air bubbles. Your vinyl roll should have come with an applicator tool like this, but if you lose things like me and get desperate. well, i’ve used things like the edge of a CD jewel case or the rounded corner of an Armor All wipe dispenser. (Please dont do those things! )

Either way, get that vinyl smoothed out and bubble free. If it has bubbles or the edges aren’t firmly affixed, they might start to peel after a while, and that could lead to dirt and things getting under there — we don’t want that!

You can barely see the clear vinyl once it’s on and smoothed out!

8) Finalize The Roof Rack: Firmly attach your base bars, put your end caps on, and install your bike rack according to the manufacturers instructions. That’s it, you’re done!

(car is dirty in this pic because it was taken a week later)

Things to keep in mind:

    If you don’t plan on removing your rack for winter, like if you snowboard, make sure you measure the outer width from binding to binding (mine was 31"). Then make sure your base bars are at least that far apart, so you can properly fit your snowboard’s bindings between holders. My final base bar width was 36", mostly because I feel like it looks better farther apart. If and when you remove the vinyl film, you might notice a light patch where the vinyl used to be. This is because your car is dirty, and you’re just seeing a clean spot! A good wash and wax will fix the dirt problem here.

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