Monday, October 07, 2013

Quick Easy Car Roof Rack Pads Made of Noodles!

© 2013 by Tom King

Behold the humble swim noodle (only shortened)
We're not talking about macaroni art here.  Have you ever had to strap something like a canoe or kayak to the roof of your car in order to get it from here to there.  Well it's the time of year when summer clearance sales offer the cheapest roof rack padding out there. It's those long foam swim noodles. 

Swim noodles offer a quick and easy way to strap a canoe, kayak or even a bunch of boards or poles, skis or whatever to the top of your car without scratching the roof.  Get the ones with the holes in the center if you can. They work best in this application

Figure 2
We're going to talk about doing this with a luggage rack first.  If you don't want to scratch up your luggage rack, it's simple to install a swim noodle pad that fits around the cross bars and even side rails of your car luggage rack.  Here's what you need:

1. Enough swim noodles to cover the rack bars you want to pad.

2.  A large, very sharp knife

3.  Zip ties

Figure 3
  • Cut the swim noodles to the length you need to cover the bar where you want it padded - lengthwise as shown above in figure 2.  
  • Split them only halfway through so that you have a slit along one side as shown in figure 3.
  • Wrap the noodle over the bar. The foam noodles are wonderfully adaptable to any shape bar of an inch or two across.

Figure 4
 The noodle will also fit over a T-shaped bar or a square bit of tube steel.  The T-shape is also similar to the gunwales of a canoe.  I slip  these noodles over the metal gunwales of my aluminum canoe and they hold themselves in place. Just flip the canoe over and the foam noodles rest against the top of the car. So long as you avoid getting sand and grit between the roof and the foam you shouldn't have any problem.  I spray off the roof with water before I load up a canoe this way.  When coming back home, I throw the rest of the water from my cooler over the roof to rinse off any debris to avoid scratches. 
Figure 5

If you're mounting the pads on the roof rack, it's a good idea to secure them with lightweight zip ties if you're traveling any distance to keep them from rolling and coming loose.  In a pinch you can secure the noodles with duct tape.  On canoe trips, I always carry duct tape in case someone pokes a hole in one of the canoes.  Tie a zip tie at either end of the noodle and one in the middle if it's an especially long stretch as shown in Figure 6.

Figure 6

You can also use foam noodles to pad the arms of a canoe rack or canoe trailer to provide extra padding and make your boats more secure.

If you look at an endwise cutaway of the noodles when they are wrapped over the gunwales of your canoe, they'd look like this.  They stay secure because the canoe is upside down and the weight of the boat keeps them securely in place. 

The picture below shows the noodles slipped over the gunwales of the canoe in place for car topping.  Check out my post for a handy removable pickup canoe rack design. It includes pictures of some of the racks my readers have built from the design. 
Here's how it looks on a car.  Check here to see a better description of how to load and pad a canoe for cartop carrying.

The whole point of this is that noodles are cheap at the end of the summer season and it's wonderfully handy to have an assortment of them around for toting your boats!


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