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Monday, 02 May 2011 02:00

Custom Car top Rack

Written by Gregg Crisp
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Custom Car top Rack Photograph by Greg Crisp

A few weeks ago after purchasing two new kayaks for my wife and youngest son I was faced with the dilemma of trying to transport 4 kayaks to a launch and on family vacations. I had several options including buying a trailer or cleaning off a trailer I am storing stuff on and building a kayak trailer out of it.

(For trailer building tips check out YakSushi’s adventure in The Super Bestest Kayak Trailer Ever!) But I was still thinking I wanted to put the kayaks on the top of my Tahoe since parking can be limited at some of the local lakes I frequent. So I started looking at different car top carrier systems, and while almost all of them were very good the one thing they all had in common were that they cost big $$$. And my Malibu X-Factor has a hard time fitting in most kayak mounts.



Well as I pondered my dilemma I turned on the TV and started to watch one of my favorite shows Larry Dahlberg’s Hunt for Big Fish. Well he started the show with this line “Most of the really great lures available today were built by guys just like you and me tinkering in their workshops.” Well he is right, and not just about lures but most of the great ideas out there come from individuals trying to solve a problem they have. So I grabbed my old Yakima rack and started to measure it up thinking that some guy created this in his garage. Well after some reverse engineering it looks like the person who came up with the design used standard ¾” pipe with a rubber coating over it. And after some experimenting I found that the mounts I had would grip ¾” pipe without an issue. So next I logged into one of my favorite web sites that I use for work supplies, McMaster-Carr. After some browsing I found a ¾” aluminum railing system that seemed to fit the bill perfectly. So I sketched out a design and placed an order.

The next day I received the parts (almost all shipments from this company show up the next day no matter where you are in the country) and set to work.

Everything fit the way I planned and only had to make a few cuts, to get things to fit right. I added heavy pipe insulation over the bars to protect the bottom of my kayak. And in about 2 hours I had the rack that I really wanted.



I decided to make a bunk system for my Malibu as over the summer my kayak will live on the rack so I can stop and fish for a few hours on my way home from work. And with the weight of my Malibu and bottom design I notice deformations with most regular kayak holders. So for $170 plus the mounts I had (bought for $20 at a swap meet) I have a solid rack I can keep my kayak on.

Part Number






¾”x 8’ Crossbar





¾” x 7’ Bunk





Tee W/Through Hole





End Plugs





¾” x 6’ Insulation











Next I will add some mounts on the sides to hold some, I could use some standard “J” style carriers but I will probably add some of my own design. Look for it over the next few weeks.


About the Author: Gregg Crisp has been an avid fisherman all of his life. In 2008 he discovered kayak fishing and has never looked back. As an environmental contractor he has traveled and lived all over the United States, having fished in over 20 states. He currently resides in New Hampshire with his wife and two sons. Gregg is also the author of YakFish.net.

Read 11389 times Last modified on Monday, 02 May 2011 07:57


# The Nothing 2011-05-02 07:18
Brilliant work! I knew that Yakima bars were a standard conduit size, but I never thought of doing anything like this!
# ABadBackcast 2011-05-02 08:40
Looks good Gregg! I don't see any reason you can't fit 4 kayaks up there.
# Nate 2011-05-31 18:07
How is this rack working out for you? Do you know how much weight the pipe will hold before it bends? I would like to use this technique to put some 78" bars on my Yakima Xtowers to carry two canoes.
# Hammerhead 2011-06-03 18:35
It has worked great for me so far I did a long trip to J-Bay over some bad NYC roads with out anything loosening.
I have been able to get up to 5 kayaks on the rack with no issues. The bars flex some but less then 1/2" when my Malibu is in the middle alone. But when I put some on the outside there is a cantilever effect that straightens them out. I haven't put any Yakima accessories on them yet and the bars are a slightly smaller diameter then the Yakima bars (~0.1") but my plan if there was a problem was to wrap a layer of electrical tape on the bar to make up the difference.
# napigsi 2012-03-26 12:16
Gregg, I just came across this install and I think it will work with what I am wanting to do with my jeep. My question is how far apart do you have your bunk supports on the toho? And, do you think the bunks will stay rigid with the bunk supports say 6 ft. apart?
# Hammerhead 2012-03-26 14:30
Quoting napigsi:
Gregg, I just came across this install and I think it will work with what I am wanting to do with my jeep. My question is how far apart do you have your bunk supports on the toho? And, do you think the bunks will stay rigid with the bunk supports say 6 ft. apart?

The spacing on my crossbars was just under 5'. You can't really see it in the picture but the bunks flexed nicely and contoured to the bottom of the kayak. This gave me more surface contact and kept the kayak from deforming. At times the kayak spent days on the rack with out any issues. I don't think spacing out the crossbars to 6' will be an issue. The aluminum is pretty strong and should conform nicely to your kayak.
# JFW3 2013-07-02 21:20
Very nice!!

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