How to Install Roof Rack on Car without Rails – A Complete Installation Guide

  • By: Josh Rosenberg
  • Date: June 22, 2022
  • Time to read: 8 min.

When we have to go on a trip and we need to take a lot of stuff with us, especially when we are with the family, a roof rack might be necessary. For example, if you have one or more kayaks that are not foldable, where will you keep them to take them with you? Yes, you need a roof rack for this purpose.

You must buy a durable and reliable roof rack for your car. For this purpose, never forget to check the size of your car’s roof so you could find a suitable-sized roof rack for your car without rails. Do you know how to install a roof rack on a car without rails? If not, this guide is especially for you.

Read also: 8 Best Kayak Roof Rack for Cars without Rails

How to Install Roof Rack on Car without Rails?

Let’s have a look at the steps you need to follow for installing a car roof rack without rails:

Determine the Car Roof Type

First, you have to find out the roof type of your car. It is because there are different types of car roofs such as domed, rounded, flat, etc. There are also other types of car roofs such as hardtops, convertible roofs, vinyl roofs, T-tops, etc.

It is necessary to determine the type of your car roof before selecting the rack type for it. If the car roof is not strong enough, you should not install the rack. So the material and size of your car’s roof matter a lot.

Choose the Rack Type

The next step is to select the best roof rack type for your car. There are a lot of roof racks such as rain gutter racks, factory track and fixed point, flushed and raised, bare roofs, etc. Once you are done determining the type of your car roof, it would be easy to choose the best rack type for your car.

Make sure the roof rack is able to handle one or two kayaks easily. It must be designed in a way that the kayak can easily fit in there and the rack could easily fit on your car. Let us tell you the most common types of roof racks are basket style and full-length style. 

The full-length style is the one that is like a permanent installation on your car’s roof. It is the one that is mounted across the entire width of your car. On the other hand, the basket-style rack is the one that can be attached to any kind of car’s roof and it sits above the roofline of your car. 

Gather the Necessary Tools

The most important step after choosing the best roof rack is to get all the necessary tools that are needed for the installation process. For this purpose, you must have a list of all the materials and tools needed. Not only the tools are needed, but you must also be aware of the right techniques to be used for the installation of the roof rack without rails. You can also get the help of an expert if you do not know how to do it properly or you are confused. 

Let us discuss some of the most important things that are needed for installing the car’s roof rack without rails. These tools include the owner’s manual of the car, a hand drill, a ladder, a complete socket set, a torque wrench, and clamps.

You must know how to use all these tools and when to use them. For this purpose, you should learn the functioning of each tool. Moreover, make sure all these tools are quality tools and are not damaged. You can also ask an expert to get the best tools for yourself. 

Select Installation Location

When you are done gathering all the necessary tools, the next step is to select the location where you want to install your roof rack. Let us tell you there is no specific position for installing the roof rack on your car’s roof but for your information, it must be installed between 24 and 36 inches apart, measured from the same position of each crossbar.

For selecting the installation location, you have to determine how much weight you have to carry on your roof rack. So, its location must be decided on the basis of the roof’s structure. Moreover, the factor of style preference must also be considered because some designs of the roof racks look good at the front end of a car. 

Another factor to be considered for this concern is the ease of installation. It means you should select a location where it is easy for you to mount the roof rack without any issue. Moreover, it must also not obstruct your view too much. When you are done deciding the location, it is time to move toward the next step. 

Drill the Holes for Screws

In this step, you have to drill the holes for the screws of the roof rack. Before starting the drilling process, first, you have to mark the places using a marker or a piece of tape to make sure their distance is appropriate. 

No doubt, it is quite a complex task to drill into the body of a car. It is because there are great chances of damaging the car. If you drill the hole in the wrong place, the car’s body will be affected badly, you will have to drill another hole and the extra hole will look bad on your car.

Moreover, if there is an extra hole in the car’s roof, your car will get damaged from the inside when it is rainy weather. When drilling the holes, it would be best if you take the help of another person or an expert to get this work done efficiently. 

For drilling the holes, make sure all the necessary tools are near you. For example, you need a ladder so you can easily drill all the holes by moving from one spot to the other when needed. 

Attach the Roof Rack

Next, you have to attach the roof rack to your car. For this purpose, you need the socket set for tightening all the screws. Double-check the tightness of the screws and make sure they have a strong and firm grip on the roof. 

You need the help of another person to put the kayak on the roof rack and fix it on the rack. Make sure it is properly fit so it does not slip out on the road while driving. 

Clean the Car’s Roof

When you are done with the installation process, now you have to clean all the mess. For this purpose, you need a piece of cloth for cleaning all the mess that was created when drilling the holes. Also, clean your car from the inside. 

When all the dirt is cleaned, put all the gathered materials in their place. You can put them in the store back to their place.

Test the Working

The last step is to test the working of the roof rack. It means you should test the tightness of the rack and its efficiency to hold the kayak. For this purpose, you have to give it a ride. Place the kayak on the roof rack and drive your car.

If you cannot risk putting the kayak on the roof, you can put some other stuff for the test drive but make sure its weight is equal to the kayak for which you have installed the rack. If your luggage stays safe in the test drive, it means the roof rack has been successfully installed without the need for the rails. 

Benefits of Knowing How to Install Roof Rack on Car without Rails

  • When you know how to install a roof rack, you can save your money to hire an expert to get this work done.
  • You can easily fix any issue with the roof rack if you have knowledge about its installation process.
  • When you are aware of the installation process of the roof rack, you can easily replace it with a new one when the existing one gets damaged. 
  • You can install the roof rack according to your needs and preferences using the available tools.
  • You can also provide this service to others and charge for it when you know how to install a roof rack properly. 

What Vehicles are not compatible with Roof Racks?

What Vehicles are not compatible with Roof Racks

Not all the vehicles are compatible with roof racks which means you can not install these racks on every vehicle. We know that the roof type of every vehicle is different so you must check it before buying a roof rack for your car.

A pickup truck is the one that does not allow you to install a roof rack because it does not come with enough storage to install a roof rack. On the other hand, the cars available in small sizes and the ones that have a small roof are also not compatible with the roof racks. Moreover, some super-compact cars also do not allow you to install the roof rack on them.


Can I Put Roof Racks on Cars without Rails?

Yes, you can put roof racks on cars without rails because they are specially designed for carrying the kayaks from one place to another whether they are folded in the carrying bag or are not foldable. 

Are the Roof Racks necessary?

It is highly recommended to install the roof rack when you have to carry something which you cannot put inside your car. For example, if you want to take your kayak with you on a trip to the water, you need the roof rack especially when the kayak is not foldable. You can also have hockey equipment, wet camping gear, and other things on the roof racks. 

Is it necessary to clean the Car Roof after installing the Rack?

Yes, it is necessary to clean your car’s roof before and after installing the roof rack because if the dust and dirt stay on the surface of the car for a long time, it damages the body of your car. So, do not risk your car’s body and clean the roof when the installation process is completed. 

What is the Major Benefit of a Roof Rack?

The major benefit of a roof rack is to carry large and heavy things with you.

How to Install a Roof Rack on a Car without Rails?

You can install a roof rack without rails by gathering all the necessary tools and knowing the right drilling technique. You must be aware of all the steps to install the roof rack.


To conclude, you need to install a roof rack when you have to carry something heavy or large with you when going somewhere such as a trip. You can install the roof rack without rails yourself or by hiring an expert to get this work done. Follow all the steps mentioned in this guide to complete this project effectively and efficiently.

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