Towers / Feet
The primary (and usually most expensive) part of a roof rack is the tower/foot set. These bear the weight of everything on your roof, and are installed at the strongest points on a vehicle’s roof. Towers usually come with a locking ability, so no one can remove your roof rack (note that many towers have lock cores and keys sold separately).
From left to right: Thule 450R Rapid Crossroad, Yakima RidgeLine, Inno IN-XR
Towers themselves are usually somewhat generic. To actually mount the towers to your car, you will usually need a vehicle-specific fitting kit. These are designed by the manufacturers to fit a specific vehicle or range of vehicles.
Fitting Kits typically consist of:
- Clips/Clamps - attaches the tower to your specific roof-line, rail, etc.
- Bottom Pads - rubber bases that sit between your roof and the tower. Provides stability and prevents damage to vehicle roof.
Fit Components from left to right: Thule 400 fit kit; Prorack fit kit; Yakima RidgeClips and Base Pads
Usually two bars that run across the width of the vehicle roof, which you then mount your activity-specific racks to; whether it’s ski racks, bike racks, cargo boxes, kayak racks, etc. Crossbars support the weight of all the gear you’re adding to the roof and transfer the weight to the towers/feet. The major crossbar types include: round (Yakima), square (Thule, Inno), aerodynamic (Thule, Yakima, Whispbar, others), and factory.
Crossbar examples left to right: Yakima roundbars, Thule Aerobars, Whispbar Through bars
Some manufacturers - notable Rhino-Rack and Whispbar - produce integrated crossbar+tower roof racks. All these require is the specific fitting kit. These are usually simple to install and are very durable, but may sometimes have a more limited range of vehicles on which they can be used.
Vehicles with flush or raised factory siderails often have the simplest roof rack requirements. Many options will not require fit components, and some (mentioned above) have integrated tower-crossbar options.
A lot of times you can purchase adapters, that will let you put your bike/kayak/ski mounts onto a crossbar it wasn’t initially designed for. There are a lot of different crossbars and gear mounts out there, so if you're not sure what can fit onto what, just get in touch with us.