Adventures in Time and Space

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Custom Roof Rack for my X

My xTerra comes with two large roof rails, great for mounting skis and other accessories. But unfortunately, most available roof racks mount on top of the rails, which creates several problems:

  1. You lose about 6 inches of usable space between the roof and the rails
  2. The total height of your vehicle is increased, which makes it harder to get into garages (especially in SF!)
  3. Because they stick above the car's profile, even when empty, they kill the gas mileage (turbulent airflow!)

So, I decided to design and build my own custom rack that would sit in between the rails, making better use of the space, being more aerodynamic both empty and loaded, and would feature a "gap" between the mounts, where the stock rails could be placed and still leave room for mounting my ski racks 😃

Parts List:

  • 1-inch square steel tubing
  • Four U-bolts and attachments
  • Satin black powder coat material
  • Clear coat spray (optional)
  • Adhesive rubber padding for bottom of rack (optional)
  • Internal rust protectant spray (optional - for inside tubing)

Did some quick sketching and basic trig
to plan things out:



My Engineering Professors Shake Their Heads

Check out my super-professional designs 😁

I wanted it to sit directly in between the xTerra's roof rails, with just enough clearance so it didn't hit the roof itself. I also wanted to include places to hook bungee cords, mount accessories, and run wires, so I planned those in from the beginning.

Basically, it was a whole lotta this:
(I slowed things down so you can see it in progress)




I decided on square steel tubing, easier to build and weld, and creates a nice flat surface to load gear on. Here is it layout out the cut pieces to be welded. Here it is being set up on the welding table.


Pro Tip:

If you don't do shitty welds, you don't have to spend so much time cleaning them up with a grinder. Check out all the polishes spots where my welds used to be. My shitty, shitty welds.




Starting the process of powder coating. The metal is electrified so that they powder sticks to it. It was a bit difficult to get everywhere with the size of the spray booth and the weight of the rack, but I managed it.






No Tyrannosaurus Rexs allowed in the spraying area. Seriously, people. We even put up a sign.

And of course the oven takes forever to heat up...then you have to plan a mad dash to move the piece in before all the heat escapes and without touching any of the powder so as to mess up the coat (and bake it on that way).





It's not a real project unless you leave with some this case, a bit of melted skin where the rack swung into my arm upon removal. But the finished product looks good! All the messed up parts are on the back side where nobody will see them! (So they essentially don't exist) 👍



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