How Cargo Carriers Work

Additional Parts Needed for Cargo Carriers

This VW van has an aftermarket roof rack installed. The luggage looks strapped down. Good. Wait! Don't forget the luggage cover.
This VW van has an aftermarket roof rack installed. The luggage looks strapped down. Good. Wait! Don't forget the luggage cover.
Ulriche Hammerich/iStockPhoto

There may be a few more things you'll need before taking off for the great outdoors or on a nice, long vacation. For example, we don't recommend you simply toss your bike or your suitcases on to your roof-mounted luggage basket and go; you'd most likely wonder where exactly your stuff fell out.

The suitcase problem is easily fixed. There are some low-tech solutions, like luggage nets that hold your cargo in place and snap to your luggage rack. It's also a good idea to look into all-weather covers or bags to protect your things from the elements.

To carry a bike, snowboard, kayak or surfboard on your luggage rack, you'll need an additional part. These are specially designed racks that keep bikes, kayaks and surfboards upright and stable. Ski racks hold skis and snowboards in place. Some models include a bar that lies on top of the crossbars. The bike sits in this extra bar and is held tight by fasteners. Some rear-mounted carrier baskets allow for similar accessories.

It's also a good idea to invest in some good locks for your cargo carrier to prevent someone else from helping himself to your stuff while you're parked. Cargo boxes in particular usually come with locks already installed, but there are additional locks on the market for everything from cargo boxes to snowboard racks. If you have a rear-mounted carrier, be sure to use a lock for your hitch as well, so thieves can't take your stuff and your carrier, too.

There are also some safety issues with cargo carriers that can be addressed with some well-placed accessories. Since it's mounted on top of the car, a roof-mounted cargo box doesn't get in the way of brake lights, but this can be a problem with rear-mounted cargo carriers. If you have a rear-mounted cargo carrier, you'll want to look into purchasing a brake light kit. These additional brake lights mount onto your rear cargo box and sync with your brake pedal. You might be surprised to find a plug designed just for this purpose beneath the rear of your car. With most brake light kits, you simply mount them and plug them in. There are also some rear-mounted cargo carriers on the market that have brake already built in.

With a well-installed cargo carrier and any necessary additional parts to make it safe, you'll be road tripping in comfort with lots of extra space in no time.

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  • "Frequently asked rack questions." Rack Attack.
  • "Load Warrior." Yakima.
  • "Technical support and instructions for roof mount bike rack #64720." Pro Line Racks.
  • "Thule Terrapin cargo box." Auto Anything.
  • "Time Travel series." Thule Car Rack Systems.