Replacing factory rack with ladder rack

Replacing factory rack with ladder rack

Postby mercury [OP] » July 11th 2011, 7:26am

I need to carry 2-4 kayaks on top of my '97 Astro, which would be pushing the #200 weight limit for the factory rack. I'm trying to decide on the best rack solution for this use, and keep coming back to ladder racks. They have a #500 or #600 weight capacity which is plenty, and I also like the utilitarian look as opposed to the more expensive Thule type racks.

I'm wondering if anyone has any experience replacing the factory rack with a ladder rack? I've searched this forum and found some good info on removing the factory rack. I know that there will be 6 holes on either side that will need to be used or sealed, and I'm hoping there's a ladder rack available that will use these existing holes to install.

Anyone have any experience or insight on this? Any other solutions I might not have considered?

Thanx!
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Re: Replacing factory rack with ladder rack

Postby WoodButcher » July 12th 2011, 4:22am

mercury wrote:Anyone have any experience or insight on this? Any other solutions I might not have considered?


Duct tape! :clap:

When I got my van the previous owner had a commercial rack on it. they bolted through the sheetmetal of the roof and nothing else, what a hack job. They were above cross members but didn't bother to use them. I used their mounting points and built my own custom.
Drop the headliner to locate the cross members and decice where you want to mount. After drilling through the sheetmetal of the roof you also need to drill through or secure in some way to the CM, at the outer edge of the roof there is space between the CM and roof you will need to fill otherwise your bolts with the weight of the load will eventually crush the roof down. I used hardwood cut to shape and PL Premium polyurethane glue to hold it all together. PL comes in a cauking tube and hardens like a rock so it will fill voids and secure the blocking. I used eight 5/16" stainless steel bolts through the whole mess to hold my rack. I haul ladders daily and have had as much as 750 lbs and so far not a wrinkle.
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Re: Replacing factory rack with ladder rack

Postby paintdrying » July 12th 2011, 12:52pm

I bought my van with a commercial ladder rack. It looks like they drilled through the sheet metal and put a metal plate on the inside. I can not figure out how they did this, some of the plates where really hard to access. They must have taken the cross members out and then reinstalled them after the rack was on. I do noy know how this was done.
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Re: Replacing factory rack with ladder rack

Postby mercury [OP] » July 13th 2011, 1:00am

Thanks for the info and ideas...duct tape, now why didn't I think of that ;)

I know that I could easily just ignore the factory rack and install a ladder rack by just bolting it on through the roof. I was hoping for something that actually replaced the factory rack though. That way I wouldn't have two racks up there or have to mess with plugging the holes let by removing the factory rack.

Anyone know of a good aftermarket rack that would actually fit the rails of the factory rack and be capable of carrying 4 kayaks? Or perhaps a rack that would fit into the same holes drilled for the factory rack? I'm just trying so make it simple and avoid having to drill or patch too much.
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Re: Replacing factory rack with ladder rack

Postby WoodButcher » July 14th 2011, 3:13am

I think the weight limitation of the stock rack has more to do with the placement of the rack and how it is mounted. granted the rack itself is not all that strong but that is about all the sheet metal up there can hold. If you were to find something that mounted the same way and location the #200 weight limit would still apply.
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Re: Replacing factory rack with ladder rack

Postby mercury [OP] » July 14th 2011, 4:26am

WoodButcher wrote:I think the weight limitation of the stock rack has more to do with the placement of the rack and how it is mounted. granted the rack itself is not all that strong but that is about all the sheet metal up there can hold. If you were to find something that mounted the same way and location the #200 weight limit would still apply.


Well that does make sense. The #200 weight limit wouldn't be too much of an issue since each kayak is no more than #45 (#180 total). It's always nice to get a little added capacity but the tradeoff of a simple rack that mounts to existing tracks might sway me to go with that, at least for now.

I keep looking at the facory rack and wondering if it really could carry 4 kayaks at #180. It looks so weak, but maybe it really would do the job. Most of the time I'll only have two boats on top and when I have 4 it'll only be for 10 miles or so at a stretch while shuttling up the river.
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Re: Replacing factory rack with ladder rack

Postby astroknut » September 2nd 2011, 11:03am

Is the roof-rack originaly drilled ( seriously?) through the sheetmetal roof? On the two middle supports, there is a gap( 3/8") from the support and down to the roof, and on a rainy day, the upholstry in the ceiling gets wet, and I get waterpuddles on the floor. How is the support under the sheet-metal? Do you plug it with silicone or something?
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Re: Replacing factory rack with ladder rack

Postby WoodMotorsports » September 2nd 2011, 1:53pm

Mine is an Adrian Steel, and like paintdrying's is drilled through the roof with metal plates on the backside. I've repaired a couple of my techs leaking mounts by using an innertube and cutting it up to make gaskets.

I've made one rack for a passenger model that used the factory "nutserts" that are under the rails when you take them off. For kayaks that may be fine, but for 28' extension ladders it's not a very stiff platform.
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Re: Replacing factory rack with ladder rack

Postby astroknut » September 3rd 2011, 1:48pm

WoodMotorsports wrote:Mine is an Adrian Steel, and like paintdrying's is drilled through the roof with metal plates on the backside. I've repaired a couple of my techs leaking mounts by using an innertube and cutting it up to make gaskets.

I've made one rack for a passenger model that used the factory "nutserts" that are under the rails when you take them off. For kayaks that may be fine, but for 28' extension ladders it's not a very stiff platform.

Thanks, maybe I will try something like that.
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Re: Replacing factory rack with ladder rack

Postby dit » September 4th 2011, 4:06pm

According to my owners manual the weight limit is actually for "dispersed load on the ROOF". The side rails and cross bars are for "tie down only" with no weight bearing capacity listed. That being said, I think the factory rails will hold 200 lbs (I've stood on mine 170 lbs), the cross bars on the other hand are very shaky.
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Re: Replacing factory rack with ladder rack

Postby Phantom » September 4th 2011, 5:08pm

a former co worker showed me how he built his own very strong roof rack
First he added support to the structure of the van , shown in pic at the circles he added 1/8 plate steel about 3 in wide and 1/8 ' thick that spans across ceiling along the van cross members , and even from the floor up the side in a couple spots .welding where possible
He then used 3" in. square steel tubing as side rails and ran them above the same location as where the circles are using plate steel squares at mounting points where the rails mounted , After rails were done he used 2" in. square steel tubing for the cross members of the roof rack , for each of the cross members he drilled a hole just large enough for the 2" in. tubing to fit through then welded the connection to make it solid .

He carries lumber like 6 x 6, 8 x 8 . and railroad ties in his van and the roof rack is so solid that that can handle railroad ties on the roof

beefed up suspension as well , If you choose to make your own this may offer some ideas
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Re: Replacing factory rack with ladder rack

Postby throrope » September 5th 2011, 3:36am

Sorry I didn't get to this sooner.

We have Yakima's rail riders configured specifically for the Astro and bought to haul kayaks. The rail rider brackets mate with and clamp into the inboard channel and support their standard round cross bar that accepts all accessories. My buddy bought me uprights, but I found them inconvenient with only two kayaks. Never gave hauling four any hesitation. Their stirrup style holders keep paddles secure and safe. The racks also improve the clearance between the boat and roof.

I prefer laying the kayak right side up across the two cross bars, running one twelve or fifteen foot length of rope per boat with bowline loop on one end over the bow, under the two rails, over the stern, back under the two rails, through the bowline loop, pulling tight, secured with half hitch. I also pull a loop into the half hitch and then take the loose end around the roof support and back to the second loop for a second half hitch. I use the second hitch as an extra precaution and to take up the end so it won't flap in the wind. Since kayaks are wider in the middle, any movement tends to tighten the boat to the rack. Because the second half hitch doesn't see as much tension, it unties easily and pulling the loop out of the first hitch releases the boat in seconds. A trucker showed me and like him, I've never lost a load.

I see many with kayak saddles, but I've never bothered and never had an issue. We also have their ski racks that attach to the cross bars.

Hope this helps, good luck and keep us posted.
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Re: Replacing factory rack with ladder rack

Postby dbldbrb » September 18th 2011, 3:02am

Can anyone tell me what size bolts hold the stock roof rack on. I took mine off to touch up some rust and apparently lost them. I exhausted the various sizes at Advance and my local Lowe's but cannot seem to find the correct ones. The closest to working seem to be m5 80 but :screaming: they pop out with a bit of pressure from tie downs.My husband is going to have a hissy when he sees it if i cannot get it fixed.
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Re: Replacing factory rack with ladder rack

Postby throrope » September 18th 2011, 9:16pm

Our local Sears Hardware has a rack of mounted nuts and bolts of the ones they sell. When we lost a couple bolts on my neighbor's volvo, we took one to the rack, found a matching nut and then used the nut to find the matching bolt.

Good luck and keep us posted.
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Re: Replacing factory rack with ladder rack

Postby Lumpy » September 19th 2011, 4:29am

I think mine were 5mm. But I would do as thorope suggests. Pull one and take
it to Acearsomedepowes and use their little copparison rack thingie. What's in
mine may be different than yours and the next one and the next.

Even better would be to replace the rubber insert nut thingies. But that might(?) be
a lot more work. Mine were inserted from the outside. Others here on this board
say theirs were inserted from the inside. Getting to them from the inside could
be quite challenging.

My bolts were nearly all rusted and frozen. I was removing everything so I simply
cut them off and didn't care if they unscrewed or not. They're exposed to a lot
of environment up there. Expect the worst.


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Re: Replacing factory rack with ladder rack

Postby dbldbrb » September 23rd 2011, 6:11pm

throrope wrote:Our local Sears Hardware has a rack of mounted nuts and bolts of the ones they sell. When we lost a couple bolts on my neighbor's volvo, we took one to the rack, found a matching nut and then used the nut to find the matching bolt.

Good luck and keep us posted.

If i could get the van on the rack at Sears it might work.lol I lost the bolts when i removed it to repair damage done by dragging the canoe on and off the rack. I bought and exchanged about 12 packs of bolts at Lowe's and Advance.
I think they were getting tired of me.
I have a new question. Is the rubber grommet all that holds the rack onto the roof? I put a little pressure on trying to tie my canoe to the roof and these tiny little brass looking (ferrels ?) came out with the rubbers and now i have nothing to screw a bolt to. :screaming:
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Re: Replacing factory rack with ladder rack

Postby dbldbrb » September 23rd 2011, 6:17pm

sorry Lumpy, my PC is acting crazy too. I did not see your post as i was responding to the other. I do not want to pull the headliner out to fix this thing but i now have to find out how to reinsert the threaded ferrels and the rubber grommets that hold them in on the passenger side. Thank God my husband travels alot. But we are supposed to take a trip ion the van in a few weeks so i will MUST keep trying. :D
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Re: Replacing factory rack with ladder rack

Postby Lumpy » September 23rd 2011, 6:56pm

I just checked my old notes and hardware from my factory rack (now removed).
They are 6mm bolts. They are not all the same length. The rubber ferrules with
threaded inserts push in to the hole from the outside. Once you tighten the bolt
(also from the outside) it causes the rubber to "bulge" and form a seal on the
inside.

The bolts get really corroded because of where they're at, as do the inserts.
The rubber also tends to dry and crack and shrink, like any rubber exposed
to the elements. You can buy replacement rubber things and bolts at Ace H'ware
or any of the H'ware stores that have those big racks of screws and nuts and fittings.

On the majority of mine, I had to cut/grind the OEM bolt off. It became so "welded" to
the threaded insert that turning the bolt head just made the whole assembly rotate,
nothing would unscrew.

So buy a new bolt, a new insert and put some kind of anti-seize compound on it all
as you install it. Prolly a good idea to squirt some RTV or silicone into the hole as
well to help reduce water ingress.


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Re: Replacing factory rack with ladder rack

Postby theotherandy » September 27th 2011, 12:05am

If you're looking to haul 4 kayaks, have you considered a trailer instead? I'm sure it would be a little more hassle but it just seems to me like a lot to put up there.
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Re: Replacing factory rack with ladder rack

Postby Jasen » September 27th 2011, 12:12am

Or get differnt kayaks ;)

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