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DIY Auto Roof Rack

One of the things that we lost when we sold the 7-passenger Ford E-150 van and bought the 6-passenger Mazda 5 was space.  Not that I'm regretting the transaction, I'm not.  But, the space was pretty nice.  Too bad we paid for that space with every trip.  The van got about 14 mpg versus the Mazda getting about 26.  I could go on at great length why I prefer the Mazda over the Ford, but there's no need for that.

With three children, we needed a third row.  Yes, some families pull it off with only two, but I am willing to bet that those families would love the extra row and the extra personal space that goes along with it.  Children get along a lot easier when they're not forced to rub elbows.

With the third row folded down, there is cargo room galore.  The downside to the third row, however, is when it is flipped up for use, the cargo room goes from "Sure, we can move that recliner for you" to "Honey, you'll have to put the gallon of milk in your floorboard because the hatch won't shut with it behind the backseat."

So, an alternative was needed.  I priced aftermarket roof rails at $153 + shipping.  But since that would just be two cross rails, I'd still need something else in order to actually put anything up there.  So, I looked around at the vast inventory of random stuff at my house and this is what I came up with.  Here's my material list:
  • (6) 3/4" x 10' EMT conduit     -     $3.87 each     -     $23.22
  • (6) 7/8" rubber feet (pkg. of 4)     -     $.99 each     -     $5.94
  • (4) 6M x 3/4" bolt     -     $.30     -     $1.20
  • (4) 1/4" lockwasher     -     $.05     -     $.20
  • (4) 3" corner brace     -     $.90     -     $3.60
  • (20) 1/4" x 2" bolt     -     $.10     -     $2.00
  • (20) 1/4" nut     -     $.03    -     $.60
I already had the items in blue so it only cost me $9.94 + tax to make this.  And, to get the angle I wanted, I substituted some old piano foot pedal braces I had in lieu of 2 of the corner braces.  But, even if I hadn't had any of it, it still would've only totaled about $40 with tax.  And this is going to be much more useful than any aftermarket set of rails.

I think that it turned out pretty good.  I doubt a person could come up with a more stylish, equally useful alternative for less cost than this.  And, it's easy to remove with just the four mounting bolts.  It's surprisingly light and yet super strong.  Those cross bars don't hardly move even with me sitting on them.  Yes, I tried it.

The next time we all have to hit the road with luggage, we'll be able to stretch out and ride in comfort while our luggage is safely secured out of our way.


Did you have to drill holes in the roof of the car for the mounting brackets?

No. Underneath four little plastic covers were four mounting points consisting of a 6mm threaded hole. That's what the four 6mm 3/4" long bolts in my material list were for. I'm assuming that our Mazda 5 must have a roof rack accessory OR that Mazda was just cool enough to know that guys like me will want to build one and not drill holes into my car.

What size length did you cut the conduit? I want to make this anyways as my family fills up the whole car.
For now, I did a quick/dirty use of the mount points by getting 4 marine grade eye bolts M6 as only need for a kayak right now.

All sticks of 10' emt conduit were cut in half for my roof rack so that every resulting piece was 5' in length.

Thanks for your comment. A kayak roof rack would be a great project for this material as well!

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