Can I Put A Kayak Rack On My Car With A Sunroof? [How To Do It]

If your car has a panoramic, popup, built-in, or any other type of sunroof, you’ve most likely wondered “can I put a kayak on a car with a sunroof?” The last thing you want to do is ruin the sunroof and pay hundreds to get it fixed, so is it possible?

Can You Put A Kayak Rack On Your Car With A Sunroof?

Yes, it’s possible, but you will need to purchase clearance bars and longer bolts, so the rack doesn’t sit directly on top of the glass. That said, if you have an aftermarket sunroof, check the manufacturer’s manual, to find out whether or not it’s possible to install a roof rack.

Outdoor enthusiasts are some of the most creative people around. They realize you don’t always need a rack to carry a kayak. Whether you have a Honda Accord, or a sporty BMW with a sunroof, this article will show you how to get one installed. As well as answer some important questions about using the sunroof with the kayaks on top.

What Is A Kayak Rack?

A kayak rack is a special device that attaches to the back of the car with hooks and bolts making it easy to transport the vessel. There are several different mounting systems available on the market from roof-mounted, vertical towers, and horizontal bars.

Depending on the type of vehicle, will determine the type of rack you need. In this article, we’ll be talking about roof-mounted racks.

How To Put A Kayak Rack On A Car With A Sunroof

Putting a kayak on a vehicle with a sunroof is no different than any other vehicle. The video shows the installation of a roof rack on a Nissan Rogue. You can follow along on the video, but I’ve also outlined everything that’s involved with installing crossbars on the vehicle.

So let’s get started.

Tools You’ll Need

  • Allen wrench set
  • Precision screwdriver set
  • Tape measure (for measuring the height of your sunroof)
  • Utility knife or sharp blade
  • Masking tape
  • Bolts, nuts, and washers to match what’s on top of your roof rack system. If you have a Yakima system for example, then you’ll need the standard bolt, nut and washer package.

Before Starting

Remove the antenna or any other accessories on the roof. This will ensure you don’t damage them during the installation process.

Step #1 What Type of Rack Will You Need?

Most newer vehicles will already have a roof rack installed, so all you’ll have to do is install the crossbars. If you have an older vehicle without them, you may need to invest in a clearance bar with longer bolts.

The clearance bar will ensure that the kayak rack doesn’t hit against your roof and potentially scratch or dent it. The longer bolts will make sure that the brackets attached to the back of your car won’t come loose or get damaged.

So, the type of kayak rack you use will depend on what the top of your vehicle looks like. If you have a Toyota Prius (what I have) you’ll need to buy the whole system, which includes the crossbars, saddles, and etc. Of course, most Toyota Prius’s don’t have a sunroof unless you’ve added an aftermarket one.

Regardless, if your car doesn’t already have crossbars on it, you’ll need to purchase an entire roof rack system.

Some of the most popular ones are multi-purpose systems such as Thule, Yakima and etc, which allow you to mount canoes, kayaks, bikes, skis, and snowboards.

If you’re unsure of what type of buy, scroll down further. I’ve shared some of the best roof racks to purchase if you have a sunroof.

Step #2 Measure Your Sunroof Height

This will be how high you need to raise the roof rack so it doesn’t come in contact with the glass top. This is only necessary if you have to put the crossbars (the ones that go long way, not side to side).

Ensure you use a measuring tape to mark where you’ll be putting the bolts to hold the rack. Every vehicle is different, so you’ll want to check with the owner’s manual.

For the purpose of these instructions, we’re assuming that your vehicle has existing side rails so we’ll be walking you through how to install rooftop crossbars.

Step #2 Read The Instructions

The roof rack instructions will come with instructions on how far to position the crossbars to ensure the weight is distributed properly. Most pre-installed roof racks will have bolts or markings of where to position the crossbars.

If not, you’ll want to use the tape measure to find the height of your sunroof and then measure from that point to where you’ll be installing the new crossbars. Ensure the crossbars allow enough space, so nothing touches the glass.

Step #2 Unlock The Cross Bar Locks

Use the enclosed keys to unlock or (open) up the rack. Once unlocked, insert the hex wrench into the adjustment gear and turn counterclockwise to release the lock on the lever.

Repeat the steps until all four sides of the cross rails are loose. Once loosened, open up the bottoms and place them horizontally on the crossbar of your vehicle.

Step #3 Position The Cross Bars

If your vehicle doesn’t have markings for where to place the crossbars, use the measuring tape to ensure they are even. You want them positioned so the weight is distributed evenly on top of the vehicle.

Once you have determined this, use the Allen wrench to tighten up the bolts.

Step #4 Check The Rack For Sturdiness

Don’t overtighten the screws or you could strip them. Ensure each side is tight by checking that they are perpendicular to one another and not angled inwards or outward.

They shouldn’t slide or move when you pull on them. This is when you know they are installed properly.

Step #5 Attach The Saddles

Once the crossbars have been attached, you can attach the saddles, which are the attachments that hold the kayak in place. There are many different types of kayak holders such as stackers, rollers, and pads which make it easy to transport a kayak.

Be sure to shop around as the prices, and installation process will vary depending on the type you buy.

Best Roof Racks for Cars With Sunroofs?

As mentioned above, the type of rack you get will depend on the type of rack you buy. However, I’ve had several types of vehicles from a Toyota Prius, Honda Accord (with a sunroof), and a Toyota Celica with an aftermarket sunroof.

Plus, we’ve helped several of our kayaking friends install roof racks on all kinds of vehicles. Here are some of our favorites that work great for vehicles with sunroofs.

eTrailer systems: The AeroBlade roof rack system from Thule, is compatible with a panoramic sunroof. It consists of Wingbar Evo Crossbars, Evo Fee (silver or black), and the Fit Kit.

Best Marine Kayak Roof Rack Pads: These are perfect for vehicles without crossbars. It comes with all the accessories you need and uses pads, which won’t scratch the glass on the sunroof or the top of the vehicle.

HEYTRIP Universal Soft Roof Rack: It also uses pads to protect both the roof and sunroof from damage. It is perfect for transporting a kayak, surfboard, or kayak.

Inflatable Roof Rack

If you’re looking for a low-cost option or you’re concerned about damaging your sunroof, then consider an inflatable roof rack. It’s perfect for a short trip and can easily be removed after use so it won’t affect the opening and closing of the sunroof.

There are several different options to choose from and this video will walk you through on what to look for.

Will I Damage My Sunroof With A Kayak Rack

If installed properly, a kayak rack will not damage your vehicle. Be sure you read the warnings that come with the rack system. The manufacturer will clearly state how to care, and precautions to take to protect both your rack and vehicle.

For instance, always be aware of the clearance distance between the cargo and your rooftop before operating the sunroof. Failure to do so may cause damage to your cargo or sunroof.

Can I Open The Sunroof With A Kayak?

Using a sunroof with a kayak attached will depend on the type of sunroof your vehicle has. Below are the various types of sunroofs and whether or they can be opened with a roof rack.

Type of SunroofHow It OpensCan Be Used?
Pop-up sunroofTilts upward No
Spoiler sunroofThe panel tilts up and slides backNo
Inbuilt or MoonroofA panel slides back remaining between the interior and metal roofYes
Folding ragtopsA fabric panel that folds back whenever openedNo
PanoramicMulti-panel sunroof that encompasses the front and rear seatsNo
Removable roofPopular on convertibles, featuring a removable glassYes

The ability to use the sunroof will depend on the type of distance between the glass and the kayak. I’d recommend measuring the distance before trying to open the window.

Final Word

It’s definitely possible to put a kayak on a vehicle with a sunroof. However, there are several important things to remember when installing a kayak rack on your vehicle with a sunroof.

You need to measure the distance between the roof and your back, as well as determine how far back you want it installed.

The brackets should be installed so that they do not cause any dents or scratches on the roof of the car. You also need to buy longer bolts for the brackets.

Finally, you should be aware of what can’t go on your roof and can potentially weigh heavily on it- such as heavy items that might cause irreparable damage.

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