Custom Roof Crossbars for a Low Profile Rack

Discussion in 'Fabrication' started by Jim McClain, Apr 13, 2017.

  1. Jim McClain

    Jim McClain Full Access Member

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    I want to add a Rola Roof Rack to my KJ so I can carry some of my oxygen tanks up there instead of inside the cabin (can you imagine the damage a couple of those can do flying around loose in a roll-over). So, I have ordered the materials and followed the instructions in a "How To: Roof Rack Crossbars on the Cheap" article. The hardest part was getting the rails bent slightly on each end. The roof isn't completely flat, so a little bend keeps the rails from making contact with the roof through vibration or added weight, or possibly making my KJ sound like an out of tune harmonica driving down the road with the air rushing through that tiny gap between rial and roof.

    My first thought was a machine shop. I've used a local shop for other metal work here and I did see a pipe bender mounted to his shop floor. But he said he didn't have the size die I needed for my 1" (ID) fence rail. I called some local electricians and one guy said he could do it today, if I bring it to a town 22 miles away. I did that and then he said he couldn't do it because he didn't have the right size die (needs a 1¼", which also works for my 1⅜" OD pipe). Bummer. I didn't really need a 44 mile trip in the rain today.

    When I got home, I called more electricians, but everyone was working, so I had to leave a bunch of messages. About 5:30PM a guy calls back and we discussed what I wanted to do. He said he thought he had a 1¼" EMT bender. I asked him to make sure, he said he was holding it in his hands. He said I could come over right now and he'd take care of me - 16 miles away.

    I drove there and was greeted by 2 big dogs, one real friendly, one not so much. Richard, the electrician, was standing in the open doorway of his shop. We talked about it, I had him do a test run on a piece of scrap I had (I cut a 10' pipe to lengths already and brought the scrap with me). Success! He bent all 4 ends. He seemed to be waving off a charge when I asked how much, but I saw online that these benders go for nearly 200 bucks, so it's not a cheap tool and he is a pro who prob'ly gets 60 or 70 bucks an hour or more (that's what I got when I worked by the hour 11 years ago). I handed him a twenty and asked if that was fair. He said yes and I was on my way home.

    Yeah, kind of expensive for some roof rack rails, all told, but worth it to me to have a much lower profile rack that I should be able to easily reach for my oxygen tanks and anything else I might stow up there.

    I don't have any photos yet. All I had up 'til today was just a few parts and the bending was done under an awning that would have forced me out in the rain to shoot. But I'll get some progress shots. That topic I posted a link to has good photos too.
     
  2. uss2defiant

    uss2defiant Full Access Member

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    that's a reason why I went with IMC conduit w/ mine. no need to bend. no significant bend either with the cargo roof box w/ cargo in it. I did have wind noise issue which was mitigated easily by wrapping some nylon rope around the front cross bar.
     
    Last edited: Apr 14, 2017
  3. Jim McClain

    Jim McClain Full Access Member

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    Intermediate Metal Conduit (IMC) doesn't really have anything to do with whether or not you bend the modified cross rails. It's still a pipe, whether you use IMC, EMT (Electrical Metallic Conduit) or RMC (Rigid Metal Conduit). You can bend any of those, if you choose to. I chose to follow the how-to I linked to and his reasons for bending and the shared experiences of others in that discussion were all I needed to opt for bending.

    I haven't assembled the rails yet (waiting for better weather to coat them with a black wrinkle finish), so I don't know if they will produce noise. I do plan to plug the ends though, as suggested in that topic. I s'pose I could do a test run before I coat them, but it has been raining for days and I'm not into wet work. ;)

    Do you have any photos you can share? I bet the wrapped rope looks cool. How easy is it to keep clean though?
     
  4. uss2defiant

    uss2defiant Full Access Member

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    sorry I meant to mention that w/ electrical conduit there are more options of OD to use versus chain link fence posts from the local hardware store. Also IMC is beefier than EMT.

    I did use a different clamp versus the more expensive clamps that you bought.
    Mechanically from how it's clamped with the bolt and the rigidity of the T-clamps. It was fine.

    http://www.jeepkj.com/forum/f202/how-low-profile-cross-bars-52251/index3.html

    I didn't paint mine. yet. didn't have any plastidip lying around. Doesn't bother me since it was more for function. I needed it up for the cargo box for a boyscout campout.

    I don't have a picture of the front crossbar wrapped w/ rope yet. I'll try to get one up tomorrow.
    So far, it hasn't needed any cleaning. It's just secured down with electrical tape on both ends. I've seen some pictures of other people using a bungee cord but since I used nylon, it stays relatively clean.

    Man, I hope you have a way to easily load and unload your O2 tanks w/ your jeep lifted as well.
    I saw a picture on this forum with a step that was fabricated to be mounted on the tire.
    Might be a solution for you.

    http://www.jeepkj.com/forum/535872-post118.html
     
    Last edited: Apr 14, 2017
  5. Jim McClain

    Jim McClain Full Access Member

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    Thanks for the clarification.

    Good article you posted a link to in that post. There's a powder coat shop in Reno I used to go to for my custom computers and my Segway. I had almost forgotten about them. I might just get my custom rails and hardware powder coated. It would probably be more durable than acrylic latex paint when it comes to possibly taking the cargo basket off and putting it back on innumerable times.

    That's a bit much for my taste. I bet there's lighter weight solutions than that. But I also think it will be accessible just by opening the rear passenger door and stepping on the door sill. I won't have to reach all the way across the basket, if my proposed mod for that works out. I'm thinking of using some 4" PVC pipe caps...

    [​IMG]

    ...that the base of my o2 tanks will slide into and then some quick-release diving tank clamps to secure the top portion of the tanks down near the side of the basket, right above the rear passenger door. I'm not sure how to make it all work, but I will figure it out. I want to put two size E tanks up there. I carry 3 inside the KJ now, one in use and the other 2 are spares.

    What an old guy has to do to have fun in his Jeep, hu? :gr_grin:
     
  6. jettyspicer

    jettyspicer New Member

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    I made my cross bars from chain link pipe and t connections from Lowes. After I cut the 2 pcs of pipe to the proper length, I marked the center and then wacked them at the center against a tree in my yard. Came out with the perfect bend. I then cleaned them with soap and water and then white vinegar. Then I put 4 coats of Rustoleam spray bed liner on them. Installed them and put foam pipe insulation over them. Look great.
     
  7. tommudd

    tommudd Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Never could figure out why you had to bend them.
    I had one inch gas pipe into between the rails ( with all thread running through it and out the other side of the rail ) and still had room between the roof and the pipe. No bend. Also the rack right down even with the side rails, not up in the air.
    Looked so good sold the whole setup to another LOST member :gr_grin: when I went with RL rack.
    If I remember right Jayme ( yellocoyte ) didn't bend hers either.
     
    Last edited: Apr 14, 2017
  8. rockdart

    rockdart Full Access Member

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    Maybe you could go fully PVC pipe and slide the tanks in there horizontally. Properly connected to the basket, the reach could be a piece of cake. An end cap that is easy off/on, but secure, might take some engineering.

    I dont think Grolsch make beer bottles that big that you could use the hardware off of...:happy175:

    A cap strap should be doable though.
     
  9. uss2defiant

    uss2defiant Full Access Member

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    [​IMG]
     
  10. Jim McClain

    Jim McClain Full Access Member

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    I know. That how-to I linked to had lots of people saying they didn't bend the pipes either, but some said there was vibration, sagging and more noise. That wasn't the problem for all of them, just some. But when I look at the photos of the different projects, I prefer the look of the bent ones and added security knowing I won't have any of the potential problems. Who knows, I may change my mind if the bends make it too difficult to get my o2 tanks up and down from there.

    Horizontally, between 2 basket rails for each tank is what I have in mind. But the tank still has to be lifted up and over the side rails of the basket. You can't do that when the PVC pipe is strapped down to the cargo basket. I am going to remove a little material from the caps I showed a photo of so that a tank can be tilted up a bit to slide it out.
     
  11. uss2defiant

    uss2defiant Full Access Member

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    I'm not sure how flexible you are but i'd think that a lifted jeep would make it difficult for you to deal with cargo on the roof rack.
    With my sagging oem suspension, it was a little challenging to deal with taking things in and out of my cargo box.

    Maybe have a few oversized PVC pipes mounted at the top going left to right. That way you can slide your tanks in and out of them.
     
  12. Jim McClain

    Jim McClain Full Access Member

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    That was already suggested, I think:

    And my reply:

    The caps I showed will be attached firmly to the basket rails and will hold the bottom of the tanks down, while the dive tank straps will hold the top portion of the tanks down, until I flip the quick-release lever and lift one out.
     
  13. uss2defiant

    uss2defiant Full Access Member

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    ahhh.... missed that.

    sounds like you are mounting a roof basket as well?
     
  14. Jim McClain

    Jim McClain Full Access Member

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    Yes, the one I mentioned in my first post, a Rola Roof Rack - they call it a Rola Roof Mounted Cargo Basket.
     
  15. uss2defiant

    uss2defiant Full Access Member

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    ooo.
    have you thought of mounting your tanks like so?
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
  16. Jim McClain

    Jim McClain Full Access Member

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    Those pics are too small to make out very well, but my tanks are different.

    [​IMG]

    The tank measures 4⅜" diameter and about 29" tall (some tanks have taller necks than others). The tanks can last me almost 3 hours at 4 lpm or 3¾ hrs at 3 lpm if I'm not very active (I need to be on 4 when I am wheelin'). So, 3 tanks can mean 9 hours or more of comfortable driving. I also carry smaller tanks strapped into an 8-pack crate in the back of the Jeep, each good for about a half hour (the tank specs say just over an hour, but I've never gotten more than 35 minutes). This gives me a total of 7-15 hours, depending on the setting.

    My plan is to lay the 2 E tanks between 2 rails of the basket, across the width of the Jeep. I have yet to determine exactly how the PVC cap and the dive tank strap will be attached to the basket. I'll figure that out when I have more of the parts.

    My first goal is to get the cross rails finished. I want it to look almost like it came from the factory that way. Then I install the basket. I'll make modifications to that too, based on reported issues, like water seeping into the rail connections. I admit that my vanity plays a role in just about everything. I mod for aesthetics as well as function. Function always plays a primary role, but I still want it to look good and last for a very long time. Cost is not my highest priority. If it were, I wouldn't be doing much of anything to the KJ. I don't have an unlimited income, but I am willing to wait until I have enough for quality materials and parts. But I'm also not willing to spend several hundred dollars on roof rails when I think I can make lower profile rails for less.
     
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2017
  17. HoosierJeeper

    HoosierJeeper Gold Supporter/Admin Staff Member Administrator

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    For some reason round cross bars are noisier than square ones...my square ones are silent pretty much. My old round ones I could hear. But mine also sit on top of the factory rails, so if you want the ultimate in low profile mine wouldn't be the ticket. Mine have to sit that high so ski and snowboard bindings will clear the roof.
     
  18. rockdart

    rockdart Full Access Member

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    Have you considered, like in the pictures, to have the carrier tubes connected to - but external to - the basket? Not sure how big your basket will be relative to width...the external tubes would probably add 10-12" (external diameter + end cap).
     
  19. jettyspicer

    jettyspicer New Member

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    I was also looking for a roof rack and was considering the Rola Roof Rack. The negative reviews about the rust getting onto your roof kind of turned me off as my Liberty is white. I found an unbranded one on Amazon and e bay that is a one piece(no joints) 50" X 41", with a wind fairing and all the connections are welded solid, so there should be no water intrusion or rust leaking out. I have purchased the one from e bay because it was $20 less than Amazon and they are exactly the same.
     
  20. uss2defiant

    uss2defiant Full Access Member

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    Jim, say if you mount your roof rack closer to the rear, do you think you can slide tanks on and off it easier?
    say if the rear part of the rack was modified so there's a hinge at the bottom, like a tail gate.