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Old 09-24-2009, 04:55 PM   #1
jsavage
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Default Custom Roof Rack Installation w/Instructions - Second Generation!





This is my second custom roof rack installation design for Subaru sedans. The first can be found here:

http://forums.nasioc.com/forums/showthread.php?t=882744

The first generation custom rack install used yakima parts and had a few issues which I wanted to resolve:

1) Racks sat a little high off the roof
2) Installation and removal of the racks was not easy enough and had a high potential for paint damage.
3) Aesthetics could be improved.

This second generation of rack installation I believe solves these issues, and the final product surpassed my expectations. If you are someone who owns a Subaru and enjoys the ability to carry sporting equipment on your roof, I highly recommend this installation method over the rack manufacturers suggested installation or my first generation custom rack installation.

For those people that noticed this design on the street and begged for installation instructions, sorry this took so long!!

Disclaimer: The installation method I used (to drill and tap the rack mounting brackets in place) requires basic metal working skills, however, if not performed with great detail and care WILL RESULT IN RACK FAILURE. This rack installation method is over-engineered and will last as long as your vehicle when installed correctly. After I posted this method, other members joined in the discussion and found a fairly easy way to remove the mounting brackets completely. Using this method you don't need to rely on a tapped hole being the point of failure and a bolt could be threaded up from the bottom of the bracket. This method is GREATLY preferred. Therefore, please read through this thread for the best tricks and methods of this rack installation. Page 4 contains an easy to follow instruction for bracket removal.

NOTE: Many different rack systems can be used with this installation guide. Any system that can adapt to a single bolt mounting system and has a flat footing will work. I chose Thule tracker towers because they were the slimmest and sleekest design...

The method I used (tapping the brackets in their installed position) is as follows:

Installation Time: 1.5 Hours

Required Tools/Parts:
Tap (– 20NC)
Bottoming Tap (-20NC)
Hand Tap (T-handled tool to hold the taps)
Metal Drill Bits (#7, H, and Q)
4 X Button Socket Cap Screws Course (-20 X 5/8”)
Balled-End ” Allen Wrench T-handle

Rack Parts:
Thule Tracker II feet
Thule Tracker Kit 13 or 14 (TK 13 or 14). These come with a silicon/plastic/rubber foot pad unlike the standard kits. Not necessary, but it’s what I used b/c I thought I may need them. If you don’t use the foot pad, I think you may be better off because the edges of the foot pad may create an issue (they didn’t for me, but were close to interfering with the edge of the rain gutter) but it also may require you to get shorter Button Socket Cap Screws to accommodate shorter stand-off.
Thule Cross-Bars
4 X Thule locking cores
Accessories of your choice!

Step 1: Remove the weather stripping in the rain gutters. The best tool I found for this is a plastic bicycle tire lever, but a screw driver wrapped in tape to protect your paint also works. The furthest forward snap on the stripping is a pulled directly up to remove, then as you move back the snaps slide back along a track on the underside of the stripping. Use a tire lever to push these snaps back until they release from the studs welded into the rain gutter. See pics to get an idea of how this works. If you accidentally pull before the snap is fully off the stuff, the snaps will just pull from the weather stripping track, which isn’t so bad, but sometimes results in cracking the weak plastic snaps. Once you reach the rear window, just pull directly up to remove the weather stripping from the snaps, I’ve never had a problem with these back window snaps cracking.







Step 2: Notice the 4 riveted steel connection points in the rain gutter.

ONE MORE REMINDER: THE STEEL BRACKET CAN BE REMOVED FROM THE VEHICLE BY REMOVING THE HEADLINER INSIDE THE CAR AND ACCESSING THE NUTS WHICH SECURE THE BRACKET TO THE ROOF...DOING THE FOLLOWING WORK WITH THE BRACKET REMOVED IS RECOMMENDED TO ENSURE A QUALITY HOLE IS TAPPED...THIS METHOD ALSO ALLOWS YOU TO THREAD IN A BOLT FROM THE UNDERSIDE OF THE BRACKET AND USING A NUT TO SECURE THE TOWERS RATHER THAN BOLTING THROUGH THE TOWER INTO THE BRACKET. READ PAGE 4 AND THANKS TO CONTRIBUTING MEMBERS.

Each bracket has a small hole drilled into it from the factory. These will act as the pilot hole for our drilling. Grab your number 7 drill bit and an electric hand drill. Using very light pressure (the weight of the drill is almost enough), drill at fairly slow speed. Use cutting oil to aide in a clean cut. The key is to maintain a consistent slow speed (just under one revolution per second) when cutting steel. The metal chips should come off in small bands of steel, not tiny bits. Tiny bits usually indicated you have too fast a drill speed. If you’re applying too much pressure the bit will be cutting too much material and the drill will bog or bind. You want to avoid either. Let the drill do the work, not you, and keep the drill positioned perpendicular to the cutting surface. The pilot hole will guide the drill well, but you don’t want to ovalize the hole AT ALL. Straight in, straight out. Vacuum all metal debris in the gutter when finished.

Step 3: Tapping requires an understanding and a “feel” to do correctly. This is not an easy hole to tap due to how thin the material is we are tapping, it must be done close to perfectly to work and you only have one shot at it. If it’s your first time tapping a hole, hand this step off to someone experienced or practice on something else until you feel comfortable tapping by hand.
Using the standard tap (not the bottoming tap), carefully tap the hole using cutting oil until the tap bottoms out on the bottom of the gutter. The key to tapping is maintaining the tap perpendicular to the cutting surface….very key because the tap has a chamfer and can easily go in angled. Because we have such a small cutting depth we don’t have distance to fix mistakes in our initial tapping path. If the tap gets clogged with metal debris you can back it out slightly (maybe a turn) and then follow with clock-wise cutting, but you don’t want to do this unless you feel the tap really binding or the material may damage your threads. Also only attempt backing the tap when you are already well into (over a few full rotations) the cut. The tap is chamfered, so backing the tap out can ruin the threads if you don’t back out perfectly straight (the sooner in the cut, the more likelihood to back it out at an angle). Once you bottom out the tap, slowly and carefully bring the tap out. If the tap gets stuck by debris turn the tap clockwise a half turn and continue to back out. The hole will not be completely tapped at this point due to the chamfer in the tap. Follow up the standard tap with the bottoming tap to finish.

Test run a bolt through the hole. There should be minimal play in the bolt. If there is a lot of play you will want to remove the headliner and pull the bracket out and use a bolt method shown further in this thread. There will be a small amount of play in the bolt, so no need to freak...you can also continue with installation and do a simple street-side test to test the strength of your tapping job by pushing up on the crossbars once installed. An average individual could probably apply over ten times the force the rack will ever see in real life application by doing this static test.

Step 4: Mark on the body of the car (I used electrical tape shown below), the center of the hole we just made and re-install the weather stripping. No need to fully install the stripping as we will be removing it again. Install just up to where the rear window starts. Then mark on the weather stripping a mark that lines up with the electrical tape. Mark on the inside of the stripping as shown in the photo. Do not drill all the way as it may ruin the hole we just spent so long making perfect. Remove the weather stripping and drill a thru-hole in the location you just marked. It is a little difficult to drill due to the non-flat surface. Use a high speed cutting so it doesn’t bind…you are cutting rubber and aluminum, so fast speed cutting is best. I recommend using a larger drill bit so that it’s easy to find your tapped hole once you reinstall the stripping (think I used a letter Q bit).



Step 5: Install the weather stripping a final time. Test the holes you just drilled in the weather stripping. First, use a flashlight to ensure the two holes line up enough for installation. Then test by threading a bolt in by hand through the weather stripping, as it will be even harder once you include the foot.

Step 6: Using a letter H drill bit, drill through the center of each Thule foot and associated foot pad (if used). Install the bolt through the foot and pad to ensure there is enough bolt sticking out to engage the threaded hole, but not too much that the bolt will bottom out on the rain gutter. This can be easily measured by using a nail or similar and marking the length of bolt sticking out and seeing how deep the nail makes it into the drilled holes. Keep in mind that when tightening, the weather stripping will compress slightly (~ ”). The 5/8” bolts were the right length for me.

Step 7: Apply blue loc tite to the bolt threads and carefully install the four feet. It’s key to be careful here because you don’t want to strip the hole you drilled by attempting to install the bolt and it not engaging properly and stripping the threads. Use the tape installed on the body to help align the foot and use your judgment and feel of the bolt installation. This part IS difficult, so take your time and make sure everything looks and feels good before attempting to tighten these bolts down. You’ll feel when it engages, but sometimes it is difficult to know for sure if the bolts are threading in properly (another reason it's best to just remove the bracket).



Step 8: Put the towers onto the cross bars, keeping them loose on the towers. Align the towers to the feet and ensure they lock securely. Sometimes they feel locked, but are not fully engaged. Push up on the cross-bar to ensure engagement. Sometime tapping the tower repeatedly on the foot helps engagement. Once engaged, disengage the tower and tighten the tower onto the cross bar (as a security measure, it’s required to disengage to reach the bolt to secure the towers). I highly recommend the use of the locking cores on all four corners. Because it’s difficult to ensure full engagement of the towers (and it’s so easy to disengage these towers), for safety and security these locks are a must for this design. Two locks are probably sufficient, but all four are a good idea to prevent damage to the tapped holes if two were to become disengaged without knowing.

Install remaining accessories as needed and enjoy a rack system that is finally easy and safe to remove, looks great, and won’t damage your Subaru through use or installation and removal.

When I take my rack off I leave the feet on the car. They don’t bother me so much and I’m a little afraid to remove and reinstall these bolts many times as it may over time damage the threads that we tapped. This is another reason that the welded stud or thru-hole and nut option (described in Step 3) may be best. It’d allow you to completely remove the system with confidence and ease...but there still would be bolts sticking out of the rain gutters. If you feel comfortable removing and reinstalling your system you can just cover the hole in the weather stripping with a piece of electrical tape and never know you had a rack installed.

I’m sure these instructions could use some editing, so please keep me informed so I can help by editing it. This is not an easy job to do really well, but it’s also a lot faster than it sounds. Installation took me only 1.5 hrs. of very slow and careful work.
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Last edited by jsavage; 04-13-2011 at 04:34 PM. Reason: Added information about removing the bracket rather than tapping in place
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Old 09-24-2009, 05:26 PM   #2
ritky
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This looks a lot cleaner once installed. Too bad you have to buy the tracker feet.

<----- runs to ebay to check on the cost
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Old 09-24-2009, 08:09 PM   #3
wrxSTIcy
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nice ride. I like how it sits on the gutter adn the back bar looks a little further away for snowboard binding clearance!
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Old 09-25-2009, 10:32 AM   #4
jsavage
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Old 09-25-2009, 10:45 AM   #5
12sechatch
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bravo. I used your first write up as a jump off point for my rack install. I ended up using the older SST towers and clips however....same basic idea as your first set up though.

Nice work.
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Old 09-28-2009, 10:19 AM   #6
jsavage
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Thanks for the feedback. I think Yakima also has similar towers if you happen to have yakima crossbars already...but you'd have to check out the tower feet to make sure they could support drilling a hole and having clearance for a bolt and accessing the bolt with an allen.
Curious on the first install attempt and if the instructions were accurate...
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Old 09-28-2009, 04:39 PM   #7
ritky
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Is that a steelhead bike tray? How'd you fit it to the Thule square bars? I thought they only fit round yakima bars?
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Old 09-29-2009, 02:25 PM   #8
wrxSTIcy
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Good clearance for snowboard bindings? Whats the length from the 1st bar to the 2nd bar?
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Old 10-08-2009, 08:26 PM   #9
misterjoshua
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wrxSTIcy View Post
Good clearance for snowboard bindings? Whats the length from the 1st bar to the 2nd bar?
Was really looking to do this but it looks as if you can't clear snowboard bindings if facing the bindings down.

Edit: BEAUTIFUL car, BTW.

Last edited by misterjoshua; 10-08-2009 at 08:49 PM.
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Old 10-08-2009, 08:43 PM   #10
RossLH
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I used the first writeup, still have the Yakima rails on there. I just keep the rails on everywhere I go.
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Old 10-11-2009, 09:35 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wrxSTIcy View Post
Good clearance for snowboard bindings? Whats the length from the 1st bar to the 2nd bar?
Interested in both these measurements.

-Stephen
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Old 10-14-2009, 05:10 PM   #12
keegancdr
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hey what kind of intercooler is that? pm me?
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Old 11-10-2009, 03:20 PM   #13
jsavage
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I really apologize for this taking so long...

Distance between cross bars is 28 3/4" (this is the total clearance, not center to center...thus, center to center would be roughly 29 3/4")

Yes, it is a steelhead bike rack and they must have used to come adaptable to thule or yakima cause mine fits both...
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Old 11-10-2009, 05:20 PM   #14
arco
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Hey i think i actually bought your first rack from you iirc. Can you respond about the snowboard bindings being too low to mount the board on the rack without hitting the roof?

Time to put on the rack again soon and I wanna know if I should change it up before that time comes.
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Old 11-12-2009, 12:34 PM   #15
jsavage
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Not sure what you mean about "too low"... Can't you just flip the board so bindings face up? Or are you loading two boards base-to-base...?
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Old 11-14-2009, 07:00 PM   #16
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just got done doing this install on my 05 wrx i have a thule set up it was easy ... directions were clear not hard to unstand at all everything went exact as the directions said..

will post up my pics soon but thanks for the info man works flawless
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Old 11-14-2009, 07:09 PM   #17
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I keep going back and forth between equipping my car for "use" or getting an older Subaru for daily/winter duty. Do you know if this rack setup could hold the weight of 2 mountain bikes?
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Old 11-15-2009, 10:23 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AWD>FWD View Post
I keep going back and forth between equipping my car for "use" or getting an older Subaru for daily/winter duty. Do you know if this rack setup could hold the weight of 2 mountain bikes?
i have put both of mine on there and went mtn biking today no problems
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Old 11-15-2009, 11:41 PM   #19
arco
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jsavage View Post
Not sure what you mean about "too low"... Can't you just flip the board so bindings face up? Or are you loading two boards base-to-base...?
yeah i would be loaded the boards base to base to fit 4 boards on the fatcat 6
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Old 11-16-2009, 04:15 PM   #20
jsavage
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jmatto View Post
just got done doing this install on my 05 wrx i have a thule set up it was easy ... directions were clear not hard to unstand at all everything went exact as the directions said..

will post up my pics soon but thanks for the info man works flawless
Look forward to the pics. Glad you found the directions easy to follow...
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Old 11-16-2009, 09:38 PM   #21
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Are there instructions on how to remove those anchor points?

I'd like to weld studs to them and try this out.

Thanks!
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Old 12-01-2009, 02:29 PM   #22
jsavage
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The anchor points are riveted in from the factory...heavy rivets which would be a huge paint to drill out and somehow rivet back in.
If you want to try the welded stud method I suggest doing it in place. Just put lots of protection down to prevent paint damage and weld the studs on in place. Please post if you take that task on.
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Old 12-10-2009, 01:00 AM   #23
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Great wright up!!!!

You mentioned that the TK kit #12 and #13. Which one did you end up using?Anyone else use any other number?

What size fairing and load bars did you use?
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Old 12-15-2009, 11:56 PM   #24
krazy
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this would be interesting to try using the the yakima landing pads and control towers like the new STi has. i might just look into this. I believe you can remove those brackets though, the nuts are under the headliner. check the wagon roof rail delete threads and you'll see what I mean.
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Old 12-16-2009, 12:13 AM   #25
lakai5
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i had the rack that mounted on the side pillars of the car and it messed up my clearcoat..this would help alot
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