Rack Installation and Fit Tips

Following are some great car rack installation and fit tips for our products.  Many of the tips are listed on the individual product description pages (and many will link you back to this page).  Longer tips are listed here.  Follow the links below to find what you are looking for.  We will constantly be adding to this list, and if you can't find info that you are looking for, please Contact Us for further assistance.

Thule 480 Traverse, 480R Rapid Traverse, 400XTR Rapid Aero Foot, 400XT Aero Foot & Yakima Q Towers
Thule 450 Crossroad & 450R Rapid Crossroad
Thule 460 Podium & 460 Rapid Podium Foot Packs
Lock Cores
Steel load Bars
Thule AeroBlade Load Bars
Ski Racks
Ski Binding Clearance
Ski Tips - Front or Back?
Crossbar Spread
Thule 92726 Pull Top Ski Rack
Thule 725/91725 Flat Top Ski Rack


Thule 480 Traverse, 480R Rapid Traverse, 400XTR Rapid Aero Foot, 400XT Aero Foot & Yakima Q Towers 
Start by reading the instructions for assembling the towers.  Before attaching the brackets to the tower, you need to attach the towers to the bars with the correct distance between the two to ensure a precise and strong fit.  The difference between an amateur and a professional installation is having even bar lengths outboard of the tower.  The best way to ensure that this is correct is to follow these steps:

1.  Measure your exact bar length and designate it for the front or the rear crossbar.  A 50" crossbar may actually only be 49 5/8".  In your instructions, note the Thule or Yakima suggested distance between the towers for the same bar (front or rear).  Don't confuse this number with the distance between the 2 crossbars (crossbar spread).   As an example, you might see 37 5/8" as the distance between the towers for the front bar and 36 3/8" as the distance between the towers for the rear bar and 29" as the distance between the front and rear crossbars.

2.  Subtract the suggested distance in your instructions from the total bar length you calculated using your tape measure (49 5/8" - 36 3/8" = 13 1/4").   Dividing this result by 2 yields 6 5/8", which is the actual distance used to ensure that the towers are in the right place.  This measurement is the distance from the end of the bar to the inside of the tower hood. Using a tape measure allows you to be very precise.  I know what you're thinking; you never thought you'd ever really need to know fractions.  Well, this is Rack-It Science friends.

3.  For those of us, who need a calculator, use this table below to determine your decimal places.

Fractions Decimals   Fractions Decimals
1/16 0.0625   9/16 0.5625
1/8 0.1250   5/8 0.6250
3/16 0.1875   11/16 0.6875
1/4 0.2500   3/4 0.7500
5/16 0.3125   13/16 0.8125
3/8 0.3750   7/8 0.8750
7/16 0.4375   15/16 0.9375
1/2 0.5000   1 1.0000

4.  When using the 400XT Aero Foot & 400XTR Rapid Aero Foot, once you've zeroed in on your measurement, squeeze in the interior clamp until the first click.  This will engage the tower onto the bar, and keep your measurements intact.

5.  When using the 480 Traverse Foot & 480R Rapid Traverse Foot, once you've zeroed in on your measurement, squeeze in the interior clamp all the way closed.  This will engage the tower onto the bar, and keep your measurements intact.

6. When using the Q tower, turn the hex key that is supplied with the rack to tighten down on the bar.  It is normal for the older model Q Tower (part# 0105) to slide about 1/4" when tightening on the bar, so you may need to adjust for this to maintain accurate measurement.  When you tighten the tower on the other side of the bar, make sure everything is level and even.  Do this by placing the whole setup (bar with towers attached) on a table.  With both tower bottoms flat on the table this ensures they are level.

7.  Double check the distance between the two towers on the bar and make sure that this measurement is the same as the suggested distance found in your instructions.

8.  If you have done everything correctly, there should be an equal amount of crossbar on either side of your towers and the distance between the towers is correct.

9.  Now check your instructions for the correct location (front, back, left, and right) of each pad and clip and install on to the towers.

Thule 450 Crossroad & Thule 450R Rapid Crossroad Foot Pack
If you've got a power drill, and a 5mm hex head bit for your power drill, installing this rack will feel like working the pits at a NASCAR race.  We always prefer professional tools when installing racks in the shop, and this combo is the goods for installing this tower.

When loading bike or ski attachments on a siderail system, we generally mount the front crossbar just behind the sunroof, if there is one.  This will usually still give you plenty of room to keep bike trays from interfering with the back liftgate.  On Subaru Outback, or short roofline siderail applications, mount the front bar at the very front end of the siderail.

Line up the little arrow that is imprinted on the rubber gasket of the tower so that it sits directly on the center of the rail.  The tower will naturally fall into place here.  When measuring the bar extending outboard of the tower, make sure you don't move the towers off of this reference point.

Find reference points on the rail, like seams, to make sure your towers are mounted squarely on the roof.  If you measure 14" from say a "screw pocket" on one rail to the edge of the rubber gasket on the tower, make sure you measure the same distance from the other side of the car too.

Eighths-of-an-inch count!

Thule 460 Podium & 460 Rapid Podium Foot Packs
The Thule Podium Foot packs are designed to work with vehicle that have a raised siderail, a vehicle with fixed mounting points(BMW sedans), a vehicle that has a track system, or someone who wants to mount fixed points on a topper or a Jeep Wrangler hardtop.

 It is best to get the Thule FitKit set up before installing the 460/460R to the FitKit.  Otherwise, the foot gets pushed too far in and will not allow you to get the endcaps on at the end of the installation.  Loosely attach the Podium feet to the FitKit and then equally set the distance of the overhang on the crossbars.  If the Podium feet are too tight on the FitKit you will not be able to easily move the crossbars within them and it will make it more difficult to crossbar overhang equal. 

Lock Cores
If you've already ordered locks, and wish to match your existing lock number, just tell us the lock number, and we'll get you the same number to keep everything the same.  When purchasing lock cores for your vehicle, it's best to forward think about what other types of accessories you wish to purchase in the future and buy more locks than necessary, so that you can have all of your Thule & Yakima accessories keyed alike.

Use the blank Change Key that is included with your lock cores to install the lock cores into your rack system.  Most rack towers and accessories have a plastic insert installed where the lock cores go.  First remove the plastic insert, and then insert your Change Key into the lock cylinder.  Once the Change Key is fully inserted, the tumblers inside the lock cylinder will align so that you are able to insert the lock cylinder into the rack.  Once the lock core is completely inserted into the rack, hold the lock core in position and remove the Change Key.  Then lock it!  Voila!  You have just beefed up your security system!

Steel Load Bars
Load bars lengths are provided by the manufacturer to create a useful foundation for many different vehicle applications.  However, individual needs may vary, causing you to want a longer load bar.  For example, white water boaters prefer longer crossbars so they can load more boats when shuttling up and down river.

From a legal standpoint, your load bars cannot extend further than your side view mirrors.  In other words, your car cannot be wider than your mirrors.  On some smaller cars, excessively long load bars may cause you to hit your head when either entering or exiting the car.  Nothing ruins a good day like a mild concussion, so choose longer loadbars only if necessary.

Occasionally, a longer loadbar is warranted, but the next size up, for example going from a 50" bar to a 58" bar is too much.  The difference in length is 4" on each side of the tower.  In this case, a small hacksaw can cut the 58" crossbar to a 54" crossbar, which gives you a little more real estate, but not too much to cause the bar to stick way out on the roof.

The right amount of loadbar is different for many applications.  For bikes, you should not need more then 4" of loadbar extending outboard of the tower to mount any fork mounted bike carrier.  For boxes, you only need 2" extending, and ski carriers will only need approximately 3" extending outboard of the tower.

Thule AeroBlade Load Bars
Thule's AeroBlade Bars are a great decision for people that need to maximize the real estate of their roof rack system. 

The AeroBlade bar contains two channels, one T-Channel on top of the bar that runs end to end, and one on the bottom of the bar that extends from the end in approx 10".  The top T-Channel is used for mounting Thule Accessory Racks and the bottom channel is used to attach the Thule Rapid Towers. 

Utilizing the T-Slot with Thule Xadapt Kits in the AeroBlade loadbars allows you to use the entire bar length for mounting accessories, since the tower is inserted below the bar.

Be sure to choose the recommended bar length recommended in the fit guide.  Longer bars will not fit, since the channel underneath the bar will not be long enough to attach the Tower to.  If you need a longer loadbar, choose the standard rectangular steel load bars.

Ski Racks
Today's roof mounted ski and snowboard racks come equipped with universal mounting hardware that allow you to attach them to any style crossbar, whether factory installed or aftermarket.  No more dealing with Clap-Ons, Fat Mouth Clamps, and vertical or horizontal Mighty Mounts.

Check with us if you want to put more than one ski rack on your roof--you made need to combine a couple of different racks to make them fit or install a base rack system that has enough real estate to meet your needs.

Ski Binding Clearance
With the new ski technology, many skis these days have significant riser plates beneath the bindings to create more leverage on the ski as it carves.  As a result, binding clearance has become more of an issue when loading skis on the roof.  Racks are designed to carry your skis base to base, the same way you carry them on your shoulder.  If your bindings hit the roof (the bottom ski) when you load them into the rack, we recommend using the ski lift that is included with all ski racks.  This is most likely to occur on factory installed crossbars, which have little clearance already.

Snowboard bindings vary.  Riders that use the easy-to-use clicker setup, which has almost no profile when mounted upside down in the ski rack, usually don't have to worry about the bindings hitting the vechicle's roof.  However, most snowboarders all ride with the high back bindings for better support and more percise energy transfer.  This means, even with the high back folded down, you may encounter binding interference on factory installed racks when not using the ski lift.

Ski Tips to the front or the back?????
Ideally, you want to mount your skis so that the tips face backwards.  On many vehicles with shorter rooflines, this isn’t possible without having your ski tips hit the back glass when raising the back door or glass.  Many factory roof racks will move forwards, but some have stops built-in, to prevent sunroof interference with the factory crossbar.  If your ski tips facing backwards still interfere with your back glass, it’s completely ok to carry your skis tips forward.

How far should my crossbars be apart when mounting my ski rack???
Most binding plates extend a little past the toe and heel of the bindings.  Ideally, you will want to clear the bindings and the riser plates when closing a ski rack, so we recommend setting your crossbars 26"-30" apart.  Too narrow a bar spread and you will have to contend with closing the rack on 5 inches of bindings and riser plates.  Too far apart, and you risk some scumbag sliding your skis out of the rack and making them their own.

Thule 92726 Pull Top 
The Pull Top Ski Rack is a great option for a tall vehicle.  It allows you to pull the ski rack out from the top of the vehicle and load your skis and boards, without getting covered by the dirt from your car. 

This rack will carry 6 pairs of skis subjectively, depending on how fat your skis are.  This rack is also really wide, so if you need more than one ski rack on top of your car, you will probably have to combine a couple of different options.  You could use the Pull Top with a 575 Snowboard Carrier or you could pair it with a Flat Top 4, depending on your car.

The Pull Top comes with universal mounting hardware and will work on almost any kind of crossbar system.  It can also be "flush mounted" into the T channel on top of crossbars, but the bars must be alomost completely level.  Any bend in the crossbar will cause the pull mechanism to bind and not funtion properly. 

Elevated SideRails, Bindings and the Thule 92726 - Ski racks maximize the amount of skis/ snowboards they can carry by having them stacked base to base.  This is fine for most ski racks, but this may negate the "pull top" feature on your new ski rack if your vehicle has an elevated side rail.  If you do have an elevated siderail, just make sure your bindings are not going to hit it when pulling the rack out, or you might wish you had saved some $$ and gone with a more traditional ski rack.

Thule 725/91725 Flat Top 6 Ski Rack
The Older Model Flat Top 6 has mounting points that are 26" apart, which is too wide for many factory crossbar applications. An example of this is the Subaru Outback factory roof rack. T he Flat Top racks have a slightly higher profile, which allows them to be mounted on factory crossbars without the ski riser system.

Keep in mind that this measurement is not critical with the use of the new 91725 or 91726 applications, because the universal mounting hardware will work equally well on the thicker portions of the factory crossbar encountered on the Subaru Outback, for example.