View Full Version : How to make Roof Rack Mounts

09/17/2018, 08:22 PM
I didn't want to use the stock cross bars for mounting a roof rack on my VX because I think the baskets look goofy way up high on them. I wanted a smoother lower profile look for mine. I know the stock crossbars are getting hard to come by as well. And since quite a few people have asked about the mounts I made, I decided to do a write-up. This write-up is really intended for the rack I have been using but most things should transfer over to a different type as well. The mounts I fabbed up haven't been powder coated yet because I am still finalizing the design (you'll notice rust on the steel and the rails). Feel free to ask questions and I will be happy to help you out!

Here is what my VX looks like after mounting an aluminum rack to the custom mounts:
http://www.vehicross.info/gallery/data/500/thumbs/moab2006_009.jpg (http://www.vehicross.info/gallery/data/500/moab2006_009.jpg)

Parts needed:
- (1) 36" length of 8" wide, 1/8" thick steel plate.
- (12) 1/4" stainless steel countersunk bolts - (6) 1" long and (6) 3/4" long.
- (2) 36" lengths of 1/2" square tube steel.
- (2 to 4) plastic caps for 1/2" tubes.
- Silicone or something similar to keep out moisture in holes.
- (1) Rack of choice - as long as you can make it work with flat brackets.

Tools used:
- Tape measure or ruler
- Heavy-duty vise and hammer (or some better way to bend 1/8" steel plate)
- Construction paper, utility knife, pencil, marker
- Drill, 3/32" bit, 3/16" bit, 1/4" bit, countersink bit, 1/4" tap, 3-in-1 oil, toothpicks
- Reciprocating saw or band saw
[I used a welder but you could get by with a bolt up design instead.]

After you get all your parts and tools together cut the 1/8" plate into four pieces. You should then have (4) 8"x9" plates. I had access to a sawzall and it worked great. [I advise you always use 3-in-1 oil on your saw blades and drill bits and taps!] The four recesses in the the roof rails are about 7" wide so you will need to notch out one corner of each of the four plates. Use some construction paper to use as a template for the desired cut and bolt hole locations. You only need to make two templates (one for front and one for rear) and flip them over to work for the opposing side (right or left). Label the two sheets "front" and "rear". Lay the front template over one of the "front" recesses and use a blade to notch out the rear area to allow the finshed part of the roof rail to protrude through. You should be able to feel where to cut. Do the same for the "rear" recess while being sure to remove material from the rearward part of the paper again (NOT the front). Transfer the shape of the templates to the the plates and label them to prevent confusion.

Next we drill some pilot holes in the roof rails... :eek: don't worry, the rails are hollow so the sheet metal in your roof is never penetrated! Grab your drill and 3/32" bit. What we want to do is make two holes per mount. You can see the tips of the two existing bolts that mount the roof rails to the roof if you look down on the recess. Each recess has this - the steel in the roof rail these bolts go into is what we will use to secure the new mounts to the the VX. Using a tape measure and marker, evenly space out two holes at 5-1/4". Try to follow the lines of the overall rail instead of the skewed rectangle cutout in the recess.

This is what things should look like after drilling and tapping:
http://www.vehicross.info/gallery/data/500/thumbs/rack_002.jpg (http://www.vehicross.info/gallery/data/500/rack_002.jpg)

Before making the holes any larger, take two toothpicks and jam them in the two holes you made - you may need to trim the picks down to get more accurate marks in your template. Take your template and tape it in it's correct location then wrap it tightly over the rail and press around the toothpicks until they poke through the template. Voila'! While the template is taped down use a marker to locate where the radius of the roof rail begins and ends. Now do the other template the same way. For now, one front and one rear recess is all you need to drill into. Leave the other two alone.

Here is the template in place with the notch cut, the holes punched, and lines shown where the radius begins and ends:
http://www.vehicross.info/gallery/data/500/thumbs/rack_004.jpg (http://www.vehicross.info/gallery/data/500/rack_004.jpg)

Now we move on to the plates again. I used a heavy hammer and a large vise to form the metal (the mounts) based on the lines I copied from the templates onto the steel. Line up the plate so that the radius lines are just above the jaws of the vise. Be sure you are hammering on the right side or you may end up with four left brackets and no rights! I hammered and hammered, then placed the piece in its determined location on the VX to see how things were looking and placed it back in the vise and hammered some more. I did this until I was satisfied. I moved on to the next piece once I had the previous one reasonably close to the desired shape until finally I had all four really close. Then I worked on one at a time to better perfect each one's shape. This was not hard but it was somewhat tedious to beat the metal into symmetrical submission.

Here is one plate mounted:
http://www.vehicross.info/gallery/data/515/thumbs/RearPlateTop.jpg (http://www.vehicross.info/gallery/data/515/RearPlateTop.jpg)

So now that the plates are looking good put a template on the inside of one and transfer the hole marks. Again, use the 3-in-1 oil on your bits and taps! Now drill the two holes with the 3/32" bit then place the plate in it's designated spot and use your bit or a toothpick to see how things line up. If you're able to pass through the holes in the plate and in the roof rail with the plate solid against the rail then perfect! It should be really close so take the plate and step up to the 3/16" bit, re-drill. Now take it back to the mounting spot again. Place it firmly on the rail where it goes. Now you can use that new hole in the plate to locate and drill a 3/16" hole into the recess. Keep the bit perpendicular to the plate and drill just enough so you can remove the plate and see where you will be drilling your hole. If it is too close to "the wall" in the rectangle of the recess, move the bit away perp. as required and place your hole there instead. Do that to all four locations.

Each plate may get a little different here as you need to make up for the slight differences you may have had to make to get the holes in the recesses where you needed them. Use the 1/4" bit at an angle on the plates to slightly adjust the center of the hole to what will work best to line up each hole in the recesses. Be very aware of where your bit is "walking"! Start using the 1/4" tap to thread each hole after your done drilling. Go slow and steady here - always cleaning out the tap when it gets tight. Make sure your tap and bolt sizes and thread counts match and that you are always using lube! It would suck trying to dig a broken bit or tap out of the roof rails...

Here is another shot of a finished recess:
http://www.vehicross.info/gallery/data/515/thumbs/rack_001.jpg (http://www.vehicross.info/gallery/data/515/rack_001.jpg)

Now you can place your rack on top of the mounts and see where you want it to sit!

Stay tuned for the next installment! :p
I will edit this post when I have more to add... When my new replacement rack comes in I will be able to add detailed pics of how it mounts to the plates/brackets.