Roof Bar Buying Guide

Buying car roof bars is not always straight forward, so we have put this roof bar buying guide together to help you through the buying process.

Before ordering you will need to see…

  1. Which type of roof bar fixing does your vehicle have?
  2. What will the roof bars be used to carry?
  3. What are the weight limits for carrying roof bars?
  4. What is the difference between steel and aluminium roof bars is?
  5. How easy is it to fit roof bars?
  6. Can I lock the roof bars to my vehicle?
  7. Which brand of roof bars should I choose?
  8. How do I stop my roof bars from whistling?
  9. What’s the difference between t-track slots and u-clamps?
  10. Can you go through a car wash with the roof bars on?
  11. Do roof bars damage your car?
  12. What’s the difference between roof bars and roof racks?
  13. Do roof bars affect fuel consumption and car performance?
  14. Tips on selecting what roof bars fit my car...

Which type of roof bar fixing does your vehicle have?

DriveDen roof bar types
  • Open rail
    Your vehicle has side rails which run from the front to rear of the roof and will have a gap between the roof and the rail, usually large enough to fit your fingers through.
  • Closed or flush rail
    Similar to open rails, but without the gap. The rail will be touching the car roof along its entire length.
  • Fixed point
    Your vehicle has no pre-fitted side rails, but has removable or sliding tabs, which reveal a screw fixing hole. The fixing points will be on the roof, front and back, and on both sides of the car.
  • Normal roof
    Your vehicle has no rails of fixing points on the roof. Bars for "normal roof" cars fit to the door openings. Sometimes cars have a location hole, which can be seen when the door is open. Some 3 door models allow for the rear bars to fit to the edge of the rear window, but some will require both bars to clamp on the front door opening, meaning the gap between bars may be quite small. If this is the case, we will indicate the distance.

What will the roof bars be used to carry?

DriveDen roof bar and carry boxes

Roof bars are generally used by sport enthusiasts, holiday-goers, and trade professionals to carry bulky items on the top of their vehicles that may not fit inside or for those wishing to make more space to the interior. Some popular car travel accessories include:

  • Bike racks
  • Roof boxes
  • Kayak & canoe racks
  • Ski & snowboard racks
  • Large wooden sheets & materials

It is crucial to consider the size of the items you wish to carry. As modern roof bars are getting wider to cut noise and air drag, which can cause issues with accessories being fitted. If you have existing car bike racks, car roof boxes or other accessories, please check the width of the fittings for these, as some may be too narrow for the bars. Bars range from 32mm up to 70mm, so this is an important factor when ordering.

What are the weight limits for carrying roof bars?

Roof bars are rated and tested for a safe load weight, usually between 60kg and 100kg. This is the weight that can be safely carried on your roof bars. You will also need to check your vehicle handbook as this will tell you the safe weight that the vehicles roof itself can carry. You may buy 100kg bars, but your car can only carry 75kg. You will need to adhere to the lower weight.

What is the difference between steel and aluminium roof bars is?

DriveDen steel aluminium roof bar types

This decision will be based on your budget, load weight needed and the style.

  • Steel bars
    Steel bars will have a lower cost so are ideal if you only plan on using them occasionally, however they will be heavier and usually square in shape, meaning they will not be as quiet as aluminium bars.
  • Aluminium bars
    Aluminium will be lighter and generally stronger with higher weight limits. They are also aerodynamically shaped and more stylish looking. Aluminium bars often include T track slots, giving more fitting options. Please be aware aluminium bars are wider then steel, so care needs to be taking when checking existing or future accessory fittings will be suitable for the width. We detail bar widths and accessory fitting widths in all our product descriptions.</

How easy is it to fit roof bars?

Bars usually take 15-30 minutes to fit on the first time, then once the distances are set up, about 5-10 minutes each time they are re-fitted on the car. We would recommend removing bars when they will not be used for some time. This will reduce fuel consumption and wind noise.

All our roof bars come with fitting instructions, and we also provide fitting advice throughout our website, on our YouTube channel and by getting in touch with our customer services team.

Can I lock the roof bars to my vehicle?

Yes, all our bars have a method of locking the roof bars to the car roof. This is normally in the form of a plastic cover which is locked over the fitting bolts. Each brand and model are different and will be detailed on the product page. Locks on roof bars are to act as a deterrent and are never 100% secure. They are designed to put off the opportunist.

DriveDen lockable roof bars

Which brand of roof bars should I choose?

We offer a few brands, giving plenty of choice, whilst ensuring all our products are safety tested, approved and easy to fit. Farad and Modula branded bars are both manufactured in Italy and imported directly by us, ensuring the best possible pricing. These two brands offer great value, great quality and excellent fit.

We are also an official Thule dealer, so can offer great prices on Thule bars and accessories. These are regarded as the industry leaders, and Thule also work with most car manufacturers on their original equipment roof bars

How do I stop my roof bars from whistling?

Generally, roof bars will start to make a high whistling noise when you’re driving at faster speeds on motorways. This is caused by gusts of wind flowing over and under the roof bars. You’ll find more modern and premium bars are now designed to try to keep noise to a minimum, look out for the term ‘aerodynamic’ on our product pages. There are a few things you can do to see if you can reduce wind noise, these include making sure the roof bars are setup according to the instructions provided (you’ll be surprised to hear that we do get queries from individuals who have put the bars on back-to-front). If you don’t have fixed points on your vehicle you can try repositioning the bars a little further forward or backward to see if this makes a difference. Padding out the roof bars with surf pads or wrapping rope around the bars could potentially help disrupt the airflow and reduce whistling noise.

What’s the difference between t-track slots and u-clamps?

T-Tracks: some roof bar accessories will use t-track fittings, where accessory fittings and screws slide into a slot on the top of the bar via the side panels and positioned into place. This allows for quick fitting and allows you to use the full width of the roof bar. Our Farad Aero & Wing and Thule WingBar ranges feature t-track slots.

DriveDen T-Track fixings

U-clamps: these fittings don’t slide across the roof bars and act as a loop that wraps around your roof bar instead. These a typically useful for older steel roof bars, accessories that use u-clamps and roof bars that are missing the t-track sliding slot. Our Modula Square and Thule SquareBar ranges typically pair will with accessories that use u-clamps.

DriveDen U clamp fixings

Can you go through a car wash with the roof bars on?

Technically you can, but we don’t particularly recommend doing so. If you’re going to a manual hand car wash where there’s minimal touching of the bars, then it shouldn’t be too much of an issue. If you’re going through a petrol station, we’d suggest detaching your roof bars as you would a car aerial when going through an automatic car wash. The risk of roller brushes damaging the vehicle is a lot higher and we certainly advise against going through them when carrying accessories on your roof.

Do roof bars damage your car?

There are a few things to look at to prevent damage to your vehicle when carrying roof bars. The first being the maximum load the bars can carry; you need to check this in two places. The roof bar max load capacity (generally around 75kg), which indicates the max weight the roof bars can withstand without becoming damaged or affecting the roof surface of your car. Secondly, you also need to check your car manufacturer’s guide, they will provide a max travel weight to ensure you don’t put too much pressure on other elements of the vehicle.

Certifying your roof bars are fitted correctly according to the provided instructions while also ensuring you’re not over-tightening any of the fittings will prevent any accidents from occurring. Using a sunroof while the roof bars are intact also increases the risk of damaging your car, we recommend setting your sunroof to its preferred position before setting off on your journey and checking your car manufacturer’s manual for advice on using car sunroofs when on the road.

What’s the difference between roof bars and roof racks?

DriveDen roof bar and roof racks

Both roof bars and roof racks are essentially the same word as they are both tools used to transport bulky equipment on the top of our cars. We genuinely use the term ‘roof bars’ for most of our roof bar sets that tend to come in pairs and fit horizontally on top of the vehicle. Where the term ‘roof racks’ is used we tend to refer to product lines that act as crates or baskets that sit on top of the vehicle, generally where larger vehicles and vans carry cargo that require basket-style roof racks to transport trading materials.

Do roof bars affect fuel consumption and car performance?

The simple answer is yes, carrying extra load on the top of your vehicle will increase its fuel consumption. By how much can vary by car type, amount being carried on the roof and speed of driving. Studies vary in percentage as to how much fuel can be burnt, our advice would be to ensure all items are secure and to keep speeds beneath 60mph where possible to keep consumption as low as possible. And to ensure you remove roof bars when they’re not required.

Tips on selecting what roof bars fit my car...

Now you have read this buying guide, you are ready to browse our roof bars and find your ideal set. Please select your vehicle make, model and year. You will then be able to filter down on the left had side to your vehicle body-style and other filters such as steel, aluminium, open rail type. Or for the most accurate results input your vehicle registration details into the yellow box and we’ll present all our products that are tailored to fit your vehicle perfectly.