Making your own roof rack crossmembers

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Feb 20, 2003
If ya don't know, I ain't tellin'
I've got four quick-release gutter mounts that I can bolt to crossmembers. The manufacturer intended them to bolt to 2x4s for a quick/cheap roof rack, but I was thinking of something less likely to rot!

Should I just use some steel square channel and paint the bajeesus out of it when I'm done with all the drilling (crossmember bolts, eyebolts for tiedowns, etc.), or is there something better out there? Is there stainless steel square channel available? Chrome? Endcaps? Eventually, I want to bolt a basket on, too, but just need the crossmembers right now.

bout 10 or so years ago I went ahead and built my own roof rack out of some thick wall aluminum square tubing. (First project in aluminum and my new mig). Here is a pic of the mounting point. I suppose if you didn't want to do a whole rack, you could just weld a pair of tubes to the base plates and clamp them on. Would work for putting a canoe or something like that up there. Also, the best place I've found in the Philly area to get steel, aluminum, SS, sheet, rod, tubing you name Metal Supermarket off of I-95 at the Cottman Rd exit.
Hmmm, aluminum, didn't think of that--nice and light. Great basket! Looks like same gutter mounts I have, too.

Anyway, I'm a metals novice (more into woodworking, but that might change is Santa is nice to me next month) so I know little about strength. How strong is aluminum? Will square aluminum tubing handle, say, a dozen 2x4s on a bumpy road? Even with base plates, I'm afraid aluminum crossmembers are likely to fail. (Hmmm, sounds like I answered my own question?)

Also, how easy was it to weld aluminum? If I get a small MIG, should I try steel first, never having welded before?

Anyway, thanks! I'm leaning to steel crossmembers and an aluminum basket now. Now, just gotta get Santa on board for this. . . .
Aluminum should be fine for your intended rack. Lots of factory made racks are of alum. However a mig welder will not weld aluminum without a conversion kit. Or just get a tig welder. It's also more difficult to weld. I would go with thin wall steel tubing. When your done you'll be able to tell if it will hold weight and such. A rack is a perfect project to get a jump start on your learning curve for welding. At most $50 in materials. Just make sure its solid before strapping stuff on your truck. Nothing scarrier than a rack full of stuff dropping off your truck at 65 mph. Best of luck to ya
[quote author=Archengine link=board=1;threadid=7540;start=msg64447#msg64447 date=1069123198]
Or just get a tig welder.[/quote]

Santa ain't gonna be that nice this year. . . . I've been a baaaaad boy. :D
I have a Lincoln SP 170 or 175 mig unit can't remember the exact model and I'm 3k away from home. It's a 220/240 unit that can weld mild, stainless and aluminum. To weld aluminum I just replace the liner, wire and hook up to straight argon. Since I did the rack way back I've gotten much better with aluminim mig welding. As far as strength...shiite 2x4's f that I have put too many 6x6x16' waterlogged pressure treated up there than even I am comfortable with ....only having 4 gutter mounts. 10+ years and no rust or like. If it ever goes away...I would do SS next.
I used old bed frames and conduit. Just bend the conduit flat with a big vise on each end and weld (or drill and bolt)onto the bedframe. U bolt the frame to the crossbars. bed frames are pretty strong steel considering they usually support two adults bouncing around, and that doesn't include the weight of the mattress and box spring.Good luck.

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