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Cheap DIY Shell Roof Rack

Discussion in 'Tonneau Covers, Caps and Shells' started by WormSquirts, Feb 22, 2017.

  1. Feb 22, 2017 at 10:38 AM
    #1
    WormSquirts

    WormSquirts [OP] Armageddon

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    A while ago, I needed to put a roof rack on my rack-less Leer 100xq canopy. I wanted a system that used tracks, and a rack that slides in them, rather than hard mounted towers. I checked out all the usual suspects, Thule, Yakima, etc. and found that just the tracks cost around $250 (CAD) and then the towers, cross bars, and locks were an additional $600 or so. There's no way I could spend that kind of money, so I decided to go a different direction.

    I headed over to the Pick n Pull, and searched around looking for anything that might work. What I found was a very large number of Ford Windstar minivans with stock roof racks on them! The crossbars themselves are basically useless for anything more than maybe 1 ski, but the tracks they slide in are absolutely perfect. Five bolts each to remove them, $10, and I was out the door!

    Cleaned them up, and they were the exact right length for my Long Bed.

    To install, I measured them to be about equal front to back. I discovered that the canopy isn't straight, but sort of tapered towards the back, so I measured across to make sure the tracks would remain parallel to each other, so I could slide my rack up and down as needed. I drilled through the canopy and used 1/4" bolts, fender washers, nylock nuts and silicone to bolt them on and make sure there were no leaks.

    BONUS: As a little side note, I used longer bolts than I would need for mounting the tracks to the cap, so that I would have extra threads on the inside of the canopy. These I used to bolt up some cheap stretchy netting on the inside so I could throw blankets or sleeping mats or whatever light thing you can think of up on the top out of the way. Netting: https://www.amazon.ca/gp/product/B011ARI7TC/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1 I just used fender washers and wingnuts to attach it!

    20170222_090430.jpg

    From here, you can just buy regular Thule or Yakima towers and crossbars, and call it a day knowing you saved yourself about $240. I decided to carry on and build my own rack as well. The reason was I wanted the rack to be as low profile as possible for my roof top tent. The bought racks generally end up being about 5-6" high, and that wasn't going to work for me. That and I didn't really want to spend $600 bucks.

    So, with the tracks complete, I moved on to the rack itself. I bought 10' of 1" square tubing, and had some 1" flat bar lying around. All in all I think I spent about $80 on steel and bolts etc. For this part, I'm sorry I don't have many good pictures.

    I cut 8 sections of flat bar 3" long. I did have to grind them down just slightly narrower to slide easily in the tracks.

    Taking 8 - 5/16x1" bolts, I cut the heads off. I then drilled 2 - 5/16" holes through all of the pieces of flat bar, about 1/4" in from each end. Taking 4 of these pieces, I welded my studs into the holes so I had 4 pieces with 2 studs each, something like this: _||____||_ . These would be what slide in to the tracks.

    20170222_090621.jpg

    I then built the rack part using the 1" square tubing. These you can make as wide or narrow as you want. I ended up going with 56" wide so I would have some more mounting options even with the RTT on. You can also go as high or low as you want. I went with towers 1.5" tall (2.5" from the track to the top of the crossbar, or 3" from the canopy to the top of the crossbar). I decided on this height to accommodate for the cab of the truck. I don't know if AC are the same, but my DC raises up a bit towards the front. I wanted to be able to put long things on my rack, with out it hitting the roof. However, I also wanted the rack to be as low as possible. This is the height I settled on, but your mileage may vary. This 1" steel square tubing is quite strong. I propped it up on either end and stood my 180lbs in the middle, and we couldn't see any deflection at all.

    From here, the rack was a simple matter of welding the tubing together with 2 supports per cross bar, and the remaining 4 pieces of flat bar with holes in them as feet on each upright. Paint or powder coat or whatever you want to do (I spray painted), then finish off the rack with 4 end caps from Home Depot to give it a nice clean look.

    Now you can slide the four pieces with the studs into the tracks. Take your crossbars and line up the feet with the slides, and use 8 nuts to bolt them down, squeezing the tracks in between the 2 pieces of flat bar.

    And for a grand total of $100, and a few hours of time, you're done! I've now been using this set up for about 8 months, and have done hundreds and hundreds of km's of nasty dirt roads with my RTT on, and had no problems what-so-ever. Also, I will admit that I once forgot that I had the RTT on, and drove into an underground parking. That is A) a mistake I will never make again B) really super embarrassing, and C) a testament to the strength of the rack and canopy set up!

    If you have any other questions, let me know and I can grab more measurements or pictures!


    20170222_090607.jpg
    (I'm not sure why my third brake light looks blacked out, but it's not...
    2016-09-08 03.54.57 1.jpg
     
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2017
  2. Feb 22, 2017 at 11:10 AM
    #2
    Zac of all trades

    Zac of all trades FWP Fabrication Vendor

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    @ETXTacoma This guy has a RTT on a shell with windows...
     
  3. Feb 22, 2017 at 12:00 PM
    #3
    ETXTacoma

    ETXTacoma TTC #050 in the 903

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    But I think he also has a shell that can handle the weight of one.

    I would love to have a RTT on the truck, but would much rather have a shell that has the reinforced roof.
     
    Zac of all trades likes this.
  4. Feb 22, 2017 at 1:40 PM
    #4
    WormSquirts

    WormSquirts [OP] Armageddon

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    Mine is just the regular Leer 100xq, it's not reinforced. They do have a reinforced one as well, but this isn't it. No problems with mine, and there are a few other people on here that have the same with no trouble. Could be different for you though.
     
  5. Feb 22, 2017 at 1:47 PM
    #5
    ETXTacoma

    ETXTacoma TTC #050 in the 903

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    If mine was brand new, I would be fine with having a RTT on it. But since it is used, I was like ehhhh....

    Someday I want to get a trailer to run a RTT on, until the... going to get an Oz-Tent
     
  6. Feb 22, 2017 at 3:19 PM
    #6
    WormSquirts

    WormSquirts [OP] Armageddon

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    Oz tents are pretty slick too. Pros and cons.

    My shell is around 10 years old and came with the truck which I bought used as well, if that helps you at all haha
     
    dziner likes this.
  7. Feb 22, 2017 at 3:41 PM
    #7
    loginfailed

    loginfailed Well-Known Member

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    I bought the 100XQ and just paid the $200 for the tracks because they reinforce the shell at the factory to handle add'l weight. I like to DIY most things but I didn't want Leer to have a leg to stand on if I ever have a warranty issue.
     
  8. Feb 25, 2017 at 7:23 PM
    #8
    sherstcp

    sherstcp Well-Known Member

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    Ooooo finally! I have been trying to decide which canopy to buy for the past two weeks due to load restrictions for a rooftop tent. Everyone keeps giving me different answers. Did the Leer dealer tell you that the XQ with tracks would handle more weight? How much?
     
  9. Feb 27, 2017 at 2:00 PM
    #9
    JPinFL

    JPinFL Well-Known Member

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    Very cool.
    I need to do this for mine.
     
    WormSquirts [OP] likes this.
  10. Mar 12, 2017 at 8:50 AM
    #10
    jessetoedtman

    jessetoedtman Well-Known Member

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    Good idea on the light at the bottom of the rear hatch! What light did you use?
     
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  11. Mar 12, 2017 at 11:24 AM
    #11
    WormSquirts

    WormSquirts [OP] Armageddon

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    Thanks! I just used this stuff. I used it for inside the canopy as well, and have plans for lighting under the hood too
     
  12. Mar 12, 2017 at 6:59 PM
    #12
    jessetoedtman

    jessetoedtman Well-Known Member

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    Thank you- going to order some up!
     
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  13. Mar 12, 2017 at 10:29 PM
    #13
    TangoKilo

    TangoKilo Well-Known Member

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    Do you have a part number for these square tubing end caps from the Home Depot?
    I've been searching their website for a while with no avail....
     
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  14. Mar 12, 2017 at 11:28 PM
    #14
    WormSquirts

    WormSquirts [OP] Armageddon

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  15. Mar 26, 2017 at 6:49 AM
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    motohevy

    motohevy Well-Known Member

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    For what it's worth, I contacted Leer a month or so ago to inquire about the dynamic weight limit of a 100XQ since they're reinforced from the factory. Per Leer's response, the roof of the 100XQ is rated for #250. That's a considerably higher number than the #160 limit advertised by Leer for their factory installed Thule racks. Given how people tend to exceed "limits" in most, if not all, instances, a near 40% reduction by Leer in the Thule rack load limit seems to make sense.

    So, my understanding from discussions with a number of individuals in the industry is that if static loads are not provided by a manufacturer, they may be "safely" (please consider the term relative) calculated by multiplying the dynamic load by a factor of 2.5. Using this method, the 100XQ shell, based on Leer's 100XQ dynamic load rating, should have a static weight limit up to #625.
     
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  16. Oct 9, 2020 at 9:20 PM
    #16
    Kiltman

    Kiltman New Member

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    This is absolute genius. I have been running a number of ideas around in my head and had thought of something like this at one time (along with many more). I lack some of the skills, eg welding, that you have but perhaps I can convince someone to help me. I also love the idea of $100 instead of a huge cost. Thanks for sharing mate. Cheers, Chris from northern Alberta.
     
    Last edited: Oct 10, 2020
  17. May 8, 2021 at 1:40 PM
    #17
    TacoManSam

    TacoManSam Active Member

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    Nice write up, bro!!! :thumbsup:

    I'm looking into installing a truck topper tracked based roof rack system and I wish I knew how to weld so I could fabricate something like this. :p

    But excellent write up and "how-to". I'll have to keep my eyes out for some Ford Windstar tracks for sure! :D
     

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