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How Does a Roof Rack Affect Your Car's Performance?

Roof racks are God-given answers for storage and convenience issues when overlanding. They make transporting your beloved gear and equipment easy and secure. They are indeed a great addition to every overlander’s vehicle. While roof racks (or roof boxes and roof baskets) are awesome car accessories, many people wonder how these modifications affect your vehicle in general. To ease your worries, we will be tackling in this blog the different effects of roof racks on your car’s performance and what you can do to properly maintain both and make them last longer.

Prinsu 3rd Gen Toyota Tundra Crewmax Roof Rack | 2022

Pros and Cons of a Roof Rack

Before we go to the main event, let’s take a look at the quick side-by-side benefits and downsides of adding a roof rack to your vehicle.

Pros

Cons

Provides extra storage

Creates aerodynamic drag

Gives more interior space for passengers

Can be noisy

Safer cargo storage

Increases fuel consumption

Enhances your car’s aesthetics

Affects vehicle handling and riding stability

Can roof racks damage your car?

No, roof racks alone do not damage your car. However, improper installation, lack of maintenance, and constant overloading may result in unwanted damages to your vehicle. The addition of a roof system and other accessories to the exterior of your vehicle will also definitely change the dimension, shape, weight, height, etc.—which will ultimately affect your vehicle performance and driving characteristics.

How Does a Roof Rack Affect Your Vehicle's Performance?

Aerodynamic drag

The additional drag is a non-negotiable effect that comes with installing a roof rack. Whether it’s just an empty or a loaded rack, adding anything outside of your car will definitely affect your vehicle’s wind resistance. The magnitude of the effect, however, will greatly vary depending on several factors—such as the size and shape of your car, the type of rack you have, and the amount of cargo you put in it. 

Decreased MPG and Increased Fuel Consumption

In close relation to wind resistance, roof racks have a tremendous impact on your vehicle’s gas mileage or fuel consumption. According to a report, an empty roof rack itself can drop your mileage by 5% - 7% miles-per-gallon (MPG) and increase fuel usage by 1-2 liters per 100kms or up to 15% - 20% of your fuel bill. Fully-loaded roof racks driven at higher speeds by smaller cars have the biggest consequences.

Weight and Center of Gravity

If it was just the roof rack, it won’t really hurt much on your vehicle’s performance. However, as expected, roof racks are meant to carry heavy loads like cargo boxes, overlanding gear, or equipment that can weigh a lot. These extra burdens on your vehicle (plus the extra air resistance) can actually make your car slower. Additionally, the added weight does not only slow your car but at the same time affects its stability and handling by moving the center of gravity away from that designed by the car manufacturer. This negatively impacts your acceleration, braking, and sharp turn abilities. 

Height

Just like additional weight, the extra height cargos and loads eat up when installed on your roof rack can be a problem. For instance, larger vehicles carrying bikes (or any other bulky items) may find it harder to pass through areas like tunnels, bridges, or car parks. If not planned well, it can also be an issue when it comes to accessing car wash services or garages. The increased car height also causes aerodynamic drag that influences gas consumption.

Wind Noise

Depending on the type and model you have, roof racks can be noisy. They create a whistling sound as a result of wind resistance. This noise becomes more prominent while driving at higher speeds. While it can be a minor issue to some, others may find it very annoying especially on longer trips. The good news is that there are several ways to fix the problem, such as buying a wind deflector to make the noise less noticeable.

How to Improve Your Car’s Performance with a Roof Rack?

Knowing the effects is just halfway solving the problem. To make the most out of your roof rack while keeping your car in its best condition, here are 10 helpful tips that you can follow:

  1. Buy low-profile roof racks for better aerodynamics
  2. Go for lightweight yet durable roof rack models
  3. Choose aerodynamic sets that come with a wind deflector or wind fairing
  4. Remove your roof rack when you don't plan on using it for a while
  5. Try to pack and arrange your luggage in a more horizontal rather than a vertical manner
  6. Use more streamlined storage solutions, such as cargo boxes for less resistance
  7. Ensure proper installation before using it and driving around
  8. Clean and maintain your roof rack system from time to time
  9. Do not overload your roof system or go over your vehicle weight limit
  10. Select the right roof rack system for your car and needs

Closing

With a great roof rack comes great responsibility. Proper installation, constant maintenance, and correct usage will keep you and your vehicle from harm while getting the most value out of your roof rack. Surely, roof racks affect your car’s performance in some ways but remember that they also bring in a lot of value and advantages to make your overlanding life so much better. 

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