Dos And Don’ts Of Carrying Cargo On Your Car Roof

Land Rover with luggage on roof

How to tie cargo to your car’s roof safely

We often have to transport stuff that simply won’t fit in the car. The logical thing is to tie it on your car’s roof and there you go. Let’s look at this. There are certain dos and don’ts to this practice.

In the movie National Lampoon’s Vacation, the granny dies during the road trip, so they tie her to the roof rack. Do not do this.

However, if you often have to transport the same bulky item, say a couple of mountain bikes or kayaks or extra luggage for weekend trips, shop around and get dedicated roof racks/carriers to do that job. It will cost a bit, but the ease of use and the built-in safety will make it worth your while.

Now let’s say your aunty 20km away phones to offer you a double bed for free, you just have to come and get it. So it is a once-off occasion that you cannot pass on. There are a couple of scenarios to consider here.

Do you have a friend with a bakkie? Do you have roof racks for your car? Were you ever a sailor?

If you have a friend with a bakkie, ask him and pay for the petrol. This is the best way. The reason I say this is that we have all seen a guy with a SSS barrelling down the highway with the mattress on top slowly but inexorably escaping to one side of the roof.

If you have a decent roof rack and you had been a sailor, i.e. know about knots, it should be a doddle. Some rope, some common sense there you go.

If you do not have roof racks and can only do granny knots, but really need that bed, this is what you can do:

Make sure your car can handle the load. If your aunt also offered you a fridge/freezer and your car is a Fiat 500, you should probably make another plan.

But let’s say you are confident your car can handle the load. First, get some cam or ratchet straps from your local camping or outdoor place. This will give you peace of mind and allow you to arrive with everything still on top.

Make sure there is something soft between your car’s roof and the load, like a blanket. The rule of thumb is to put the lighter items at the bottom and the heavier on top. If your load consists of two or more items, first tie them together in a parcel before tying the parcel to your car.

Centre the load, keeping an eye on the weight distribution. Keep the weight centred as well.

Tie your straps through the doors, not the windows. If you have to tie the straps to some part of your car, choose a strong metal part, not plastic. Finally, cover the entire load in canvas or netting for maximum safety and integrity.

Be sensible. Choose a route where you can drive slowly in safety. Be aware of the extra weight on top when going around corners or stopping. If any part of your load is going to overhang your car, tie a red rag to it to alert other drivers and cyclists.

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