No matter the size of your car’s boot there comes a time when it’s not going to be up to the job when you have a lot of cargo to transport. Bags, coats, pushchairs, tents, golf clubs… too much of this stuff and, before you know it, your boot is crammed full.
That might signal the time to break out a roof rack and use that valuable space above the car for the extra goods to be carried. And that’s all fine as long as you appreciated that your extra load is going to be outside the car, out of sight and therefore a potential danger to you and other road users.
The police take a dim view of any badly-secured cargo whether it’s on a truck, van or car, and overloaded roof racks, or those with unsecured items, will attract their attention. Breaking the rules carries a maximum penalty of £5000 and up to nine points on your licence, so it’s worth making a few checks on your load before you set off.
Watch the weight
Before you do anything, check the maximum roof load of your vehicle. You are not allowed to just pile as much as you can on to your roof rack. Your car will have a maximum permitted roof load which you can find in its handbook. A Ford Puma, for example, can take 50kg, a Mini Clubman’s maximum is 60kg while for a Range Rover Sport it’s 75kg.
If you think your load is going to get anywhere near that, weigh it – and don’t forget to include the weight of the rack itself in your calculations.
If it’s new to you, read the roof rack’s instructions carefully, especially when it comes to fitting it to your car. Having it badly-attached could damage the vehicle or, worse still, it could come off while you’re driving.
If you have had the rack for a few years you will know how to fit it, but it’s still worth a good look to make sure no parts have broken, rusted or perished. If they have, don’t risk using it. A little light maintenance such as greasing the roof mounts occasionally, will make the rack last longer.
Set aside the lightest things for the roof rack – any heavy objects are much better off inside the car. Don’t strain trying to put something heavy on the rack by yourself. You could drop it and damage your car’s roof.
Follow any manual instructions on loading and make sure everything is tied down and safely secured. They might feel firmly fixed in place while you’re stood at the kerbside, but remember that once you get up to any sort of speed on the road, wind can get underneath things and start to loosen or lift them.
If you are going long distance make regular stops to check on the roof rack and its contents, making adjustments where necessary and ensuring that any retaining ropes aren’t left flapping around.
Check the car
Carrying that extra weight can affect the handling of your car so drive accordingly avoiding, for example, going too fast into bends or braking sharply, both of which could unsettle the load above you. Keep a safe distance between you and the car in front.
Your car’s tyres might need some extra inflation to compensate for the added weight – you can check this either in the vehicle’s handbook or often on a sticker inside the driver or front passenger door.
Whenever you’re not using the roof rack, take it off the car. Having it up there empty causes extra wind resistance and will affect your fuel consumption over time.