Proper loading on vehicle racks

Inigo Roces

With the number of cases rising and alert levels reducing our travel options once again, those weary of the confines of the city will be turning to nearby destinations for an escape.

While there was a short window for air travel a few months back, any hopes now are dashed again. With options abroad out of the picture, land travel is once again the only viable option.

Not surprisingly, the car accessories market has been enjoying the windfall with sales of car camping gear soaring. Roof racks, tow hitch baskets, and similar detachable vehicle storage solutions are getting popular, enabling drivers to truly maximize both the passenger and cargo space of their vehicles.

Unfortunately, one thing we’ve seen a lot over the pandemic is the haphazard loading onto these detachable carriers. Just a few days ago, the Manila Police District released a memo that it will be flagging down and inspecting such examples. The memo was quickly recalled as it failed to specify what exactly constitutes as haphazard loading and substandard detachable racks. Nonetheless, the fact that they have turned their attention to the matter shows that there’s cause for concern.

I’ve been taking a few road trips myself and have seen some worrisome examples on the road.There’s more to loading a roof rack than simply piling stuff onto it and strapping it down. As such, here’s some simple advice to properly load racks.

Before anything else, check the rating on your roof rack.There should be a sticker or plate on your roof rack telling you how many kilograms you can carry and do not exceed it.

First off, determine which items should be best loaded inside versus on the roof rack. Some fragile or heavy items, or those that are difficult to tie down, are best kept inside the vehicle. You don’t want a lot of weight on top.

When loading the roof rack, load smaller items at the front to improve the aerodynamics. The idea is to create a wedge shape out of your cargo so it’s lowest at the front and gently rises as it gets to the back. Disorganized loads can cause air turbulence at high speeds, making the vehicle difficult to control, slow, and consume more fuel.You can use a tarpaulin to protect your cargo from wind and rain, as well as to help make the load more aerodynamic.

Keep the center of gravity as low as possible and between the front and rear axle. This means you should load heavier items low down and nearer the middle of the rack.

To secure it, use ratchet straps, not ropes or bungee cords. Ropes and bungee cords still stretch a bit, which may allow your cargo to move while in transit. Ratchet straps are a worthwhile investment as they can be tightened and have a locking mechanism to ensure they don’t loosen.Secure the ends of your straps so that they don’t flap in the wind or get tangled anywhere else (this frays them very quickly). Bungee cords are only good for securing tarpaulins. Do not use cellophane or cling wrap! Even if you’re confident in your loading and strapping abilities, it’s always prudent to check your load periodically and especially after going over bumpy ground. This allows you to tighten any straps that may have come loose.

With these tips, you should be able to properly load your rack and truly maximize your vehicle’s cargo capability. While roof racks and ratchet straps are a great investment and addition, nothing beats packing light and using them sparingly. Luggage is always more secure inside the vehicle.

(Iñigo S. Roces is the MB Motoring Editor)