Why Do Cars Have Roof Rails?

Roof rails are commonly seen on cars of today's generation, more frequently on SUVs and mini-vans. They enhance the overall appeal of the car's exterior, and they also serve a lot of purposes. If you're wondering about car roof rails and their function, then we have just the answers for you!

Car roof rails are commonly attached for styling purposes, making vehicles appear modernistic and aerodynamic. Aside from that, a roof rail is mostly used to secure luggage, sporting equipment, or any other heavy storage that you need when traveling but just can't seem to all fit in the car.

They do not only make a vehicle look good, but roof rails guarantee convenience, specifically if the car's trunk cannot provide any more space for loading bulky materials. For a more thorough discussion on roof rails, you can read further and know more about them. 

Beautiful view of sunny snowcapped mountains with skis fastened on car roof rails in the foreground, Why Do Cars Have Roof Rails?

Types Of Roof Rails 

While it's easy to identify that a car has roof rails because they are directly seen on the car's roof, it's also important to know what types of roof rails are attached to your car so that you'll know what to do with them, what their capacity of storing is and other features they hold. 

Here are some common types of roof rails: 

Side Roof Rails 

Chrome roof rail trim on a modern blue vehicle

There are some instances in which side roof rails are called faux roof rails because they are only installed for the sole purpose of aesthetics rather than cargo-loading functions. Most of the time, these types of roof rails do not really guarantee 100% security to your equipment.

Flush Roof Rails 

Flush roof rails run from the front to the back of the car's roof. They are usually installed horizontally and said to be one of the most convenient ways to store things due to their flexibility and durability. 

Raised Roof Rail

This type is factory installed and is elevated on the roof so that a tower can be installed around it. This kind provides a high load limit, and you don't have to worry about scratching the paint of your car. However, some roof rails might be too short and are positioned near the vehicle's rear. It's important to ask the car manufacturer the load capacity that the rail is going to take. 

Roof Rail And Roof Racks: What's The Difference?

Some of you might be confused with the terms roof rails and roof racks because most of the time, both hold the same function in storing and loading gear. It's not that hard to distinguish them at all. 

Roof rails are attached to the vehicle in an up and down direction parallel to the length of your car. Roof rails are most of the time factory fitted, and they usually rely on roof racks to ensure sturdiness when it comes to loading heavy things. 

Roof racks are engineered to guarantee more cargo weight. It can be said that roof racks act as the roof rail's main sidekick that offers a much greater job. You can customize and attach your roof rack according to your liking and what gear and objects you plan to carry. 

Types Of Roof Racks

Side view of man holding his bike while dismounting it from a car roof carrier.

Platform Roof Racks 

This type of roof rack allows a maximum capacity of loading different types of gear and equipment. It is a platform that is attached to the roof rack feet and makes your vehicle versatile to any type of carg0-loading. Platform roof racks are perfect for off-road riding as this 100% guarantees that your things won't fall. 

This platform roof rack from Arksen is equipped with heavy steel construction and is resistant to any weather conditions and corrosion. It also offers a steel wheel fairing that reduces your cargo from falling or even getting damaged by the wind. More importantly, it's easy to mount!

See Arksen's platform roof rack on Amazon.

Through Bar Racks 

This is also known as a crossbar, and this type of roof rack adds style and sophistication to your vehicle. This can go as a wingbar or square shape heavy-duty bar that overhangs on the foot pack on each side. It also guarantees a great amount of weight capacity, plus it reduces wind noises when the vehicle is at speed. 

FindAuto's bar rocks fit most vehicles and also have lock keys and straps provided for safe cargo loading. They are made up of premium aluminum alloy and ABS plastic. These products are guaranteed rust-proof, light-weight, and long-lasting. 

Click here to purchase FindAuto's bar racks on Amazon.

Flush Bar Roof Racks 

Sleek and sporty, flush bar roof racks are perfect when you want something relatively small-scaled as this bar is approximately 12 inches (30 centimeters) and it can handle less area for loading. 

This AeroBlade Edge flush bar roof rack from Thule is a kit-based rack system and is equipped with a WindDiffuser technology that reduces noises and helps in aiding fuel economy. It's also very easy to install. 

See Thule's AreoBlade Edge rack on Amazon.

Important Reminders 

Over and above all of that, you must do your homework by gathering more information and personal evaluations on roof rails, roof racks, their weight capacity, and the methods of mounting them. Also, be sure that you seek and consult car experts and technicians before deciding to install roof racks on your vehicle. Most importantly, always settle for the best quality that will guarantee reliability and solidity.

Do You Need A Roof Rack If You Have Roof Rails?

suitcases tied with rope on a car roof

Most of the time, yes. You are going to need a roof rack even if you have roof rails because the rail alone cannot withstand securing a heavy cargo load without the rack. However, there are some instances in which roof rails may only require internal roof mounts, and this can be purchased and attached during the vehicle's manufacture, so you won't have to worry about getting a set of roof racks to match the roof rails. 

But if you are a driven adventurer and then you usually spend a lot of time in the great outdoors, a roof rack is a great investment and should be added to your list of essentials. 

Can You Install A Roof Rail?

A bare roof does not have any tracks or rails, and if you happen to have one, don't worry because there are effective ways to install a roof rail on your car's roof. You can even make it a do-it-yourself project, but to ensure that you do not risk the quality of your car's roof, consulting the car manufacturers is highly recommended. 

For a visual representation, you can check out this YouTube video by BMC HD videos on how to install roof rails on your car. With the right tools and determination, you can successfully do this on your own! 

Can Roof Racks Affect The Car?

There are times that the roof rack may have certain impacts that can affect your car. Firstly, it may alter your car's exterior since you are going to make changes to its physical appearance. 

Not only that, it can lessen your fuel mileage and have loud wind noises in your car. Since you are also loading heavy objects in your car, there is an increased probability that your car will roll when you are making a turn, and so this heightens the possibility of road accidents, so you must know the maximum capacity that the roof rack holds. 

Can You Install A Roof Rack With Sunroof?

Windsurfer and camper packing and unpacking from a car's roof rack in nature.

You can definitely install a roof rack even with a sunroof as most car manufacturers provide instruction in the owner's manual on the right methods of doing this, and it's critically important that you follow this accordingly. 

There are also instances that some roof racks might not be suitable when they are attached to cars with sunroofs. Additionally, the process of installing roof racks on vehicles with sunroofs may likely break the glass, and it's good to be careful and wise about the risky decision. 

Final Words 

Toyota 4Runner SUV (2016 Trail edition)

Roof rails aren't just for making the car look great, but provide functionality for loading things that do not fit inside your vehicle. Now that you know all about this, you have all the freedom to select what type of rails you should opt for and what racks to go with them. 

You can also head over to the following articles on our site: 

12 Best Minivan Roof Racks That Will Help You Haul Even More

Why Do Some Cars Have Black Roofs?

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One comment

  1. I love reading your blogs. You share lot of information in the blog. I also remember a blog that is related to roof rails. You must visit the site once.

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