Yakima Rack Writeup
The intent of this post is to once-and-for-all document everything needed for one of the several solutions available to us for a nice-looking but more importantly functional roof rack for our late-model Troopers. I didn't want a clamp-on solution since they mount at the doorframes and in my opinion sit too far forward on the vehicle. If you need something removable, though, then look no further. For those of you that don't already know, there happen to be three sets of threaded holes on each side of the roof on the Trooper, underneath the black plastic molding which covers the rain gutters. These holes can be used to mount a roof rack if you get your hands on the right parts.
Before settling on my final solution, I first considered a couple different "one-stop-shop" options. I called the dealer to ask about the "Ski Rack" that is mentioned in the Trooper accessory brochure. They'd never heard of it. I happened to see a '98 at a used car lot with such a rack and I stopped and looked it over. It's a specialty Yakima rack, made only for skis, which uses flimsy metal brackets which bolt directly to the existing holes in the roof. I'd heard that this rack would only hold 50lbs and after seeing it, I believe it.
I also considered the permanent racks that JC Whitney offers. Between their website and their catalog, I found two models which looked promising. They ran $80 to $130. It was at this time that I finally popped off the molding on the roof of my Trooper to check out the exact location of the holes. The holes are set at an angle down and outwards towards the ground. They would not, then, work for a bolt-on aftermarket rack. So that was out, mainly because I didn't want to drill holes in the roof but also because after spending money on the rack it would not immediately accept Yakima or Thule accessories. More $$$$.
Finally, I decided to print out all the posts from people on the forum who'd bought the Trooper-specific brackets from Overlander and then mated them to Thule or Yakima crossbars to create a permanent rack which would then accept all the branded accessories. I poured over the old posts for several days, called a few places, and came up with the following:
I chose to use Yakima and Overlander parts, because the primary use for me will be to carry mountain bikes. Note that you can save some money by doing what Robert did and using Thule hardware with the Overlander brackets. See his very thorough write-up at:
Robert's method saves you $20 and results in an even lower-profile rack. This is because Thule crossbars are rectangular and can be bolted directly to the Overlander brackets without an "adapter" (the Shear Blocks in this case). I chose Yakima over Thule because I thought I might prefer the way it looked with the Shear Blocks in the mix rather than with the crossbars bolted directly to the Overlander brackets. To each his own! Many thanks go out to everyone on the board who did this before and posted their findings, especially Robert, Stacy, and Mark. Getting on with it....
|(1) Set Yakima Shear Blocks P/N 8810006
|| $ 8.00
|(1) Set Yakima Shear Block Bases P/N 8810007
|| $ 7.00
| UPS Ground shipping on above
|| $ 5.00
|(1) Set Overlander Trooper mount brackets P/N SBTR100
| UPS Ground shipping on above
|| $ 8.00
|(1) Set of 2 Yakima 58" Crossbars P/N 0409
|(1) Set of 4 Yakima Crossbar Endcaps P/N 7026
|| $ 4.99
|(4) 3/8"X.75 Allen head (or stainless steel hex-head) bolts
|| $ 1.34
|(4) 3/8" stainless steel washers
|(4) 3/8" stainless steel lock washers
|| $ .97
|(8) 6mm X 25mm stainless
steel hex head bolts
|| $ 1.70
|(8) 1/4" stainless steel washers (6mm weren't broad enough)
|| $ 1.34
|(8) 6mm stainless steel lock washers
|| $ 1.94
|(4) 9/16" black rubber grommets (each sliced in half)
|| $ 2.99
|(1) Can of gas grill spray paint (I painted the Shear Blocks)
|| $ 2.99
That's it for the basic rack. The Yakima Shear blocks are the two topmost pieces of Yakima's 1A rain gutter brackets. The blocks themselves are bright machined aluminum (no finish), while the bases are black molded nylon. They receive the round Yakima crossbars. To view them, go to:
I've also provided a picture (1). You will have to call Yakima customer service directly at (888) 925-0703 or go to a local Yakima REI to order these parts. I purchased the crossbars and endcaps locally, because the price is the same online and they never seem to be on sale. As for the remaining parts, the use of stainless steel hardware should be a no-brainer.
The Overlander brackets will mount to the threaded holes in the roof of the Trooper with two 6mmX25mm bolts. To view the brackets, go
Page and scroll down. The Shear Blocks will bolt directly to the Overlander brackets with a single 3/8" bolt (and a little modification).
There are 3 sets of holes on each side of the Trooper roof. The first set is directly above the front driver & passenger door window switches. The middle set is above the split in the windows of the rear passenger doors. The last set is above the rear cargo area windows (thanks to Robert for that info). If you'll be carrying a canoe or a ladder, you may wish to use the front and rear mounting points. Note that in that case the spread between the bars would be too great for certain Yakima accessories (the bike rack and cargo boxes come to mind). I used the middle and rear locations since I won't be doing that. If you're really high-speed you can get two sets of everything like Robert did and have three crossbars!
The first step for me after getting the parts together was painting the Shear Blocks. I sanded them with 320 wet/dry paper and painted them with two coats of flat black grill paint. See picture
(2). It's a good color match which should be quite durable.. If you do this it's a good idea to round the sharp edges. This will help the paint adhere better and lessen the chance of scratches when you assemble everything.
The next step is to enlarge the 5/16" hole in the Overlander brackets to accept a 3/8" bolt. I used a Dremel tool with the cone shaped grinding wheel for this. BE CAREFUL to go slow if you use a Dremel or you'll load up the motor too much and wear out the transmission (like I did). If you use a drill, be careful not to wear away the finish on the Overlander block by rubbing it with the chuck. After that's done you can test-fit the whole assembly. See picture
(4). I used the 3/8" Allen head bolt with a 3/8" lock washer and 3/8" flat washer to bolt the Shear Blocks to the Overlander brackets. A caveat: if you use an Allen head bolt as I did, there is very little room to get an Allen wrench in there to tighten it once it's on the roof. It also will be more prone to rust than a standard stainless hex-head bolt. I chose an Allen-head bolt mainly because it was black. The .75" bolt should be exactly the right length to clamp down the crossbar without dimpling it. Once you have all 4 assemblies ready, it's time to "hit the roof."
The instructions that come with the Overlander brackets are sufficient for removing the molding strips. Use a plastic putty knife or similar tool to gently pry the strip up from the center. Once you can get your fingers under it, just use your hands to gently work your way to along to each end. If your light is good the painted-over-tape which covers the holes is easy to spot. I chose to cut a small opening for each hole with an
X-Acto knife rather than score around and pull up the entire piece of tape.. I assume it will create a sort of gasket effect.
Your next step is to test-fit the first bracket to the roof. Use the 6mmX25mm bolt followed by a 6mm lock washer and 1/4" flat washer. This is where the first (and only) problem cropped up for me. Unfortunately, when tightened down the Overlander brackets are nowhere near vertical. I went ahead and mounted the remaining three brackets and they were all out of plumb by varying degrees. In my opinion this is due to unevenness in the weld along the bottom of the rain gutter, since the angles all seem to match on the Overlander brackets. Robert mentions this in his write-up and seems to indicate that if the brackets are tightened down to the crossbar first and then tightened to the roof that they will end up straight. I spent a day pondering how to line them up, assuming that the round Yakima crossbars would not be as rigid as the rectangular Thule crossbars which Robert used. I did not test this. I thought about trying to bend them but the Overlander brackets are hardened steel and won't bend very well,plus because of the unevenness of the roof the angle would have to be different for each bracket. Ugh. I also don't have access to any jigs to try and bend the brackets anyway. The next day I decided to go and buy some rubber grommets and use them between the Overlander bracket and the roof, figuring that they would give me enough play to bring the brackets back to level.
Anyway, with the Overlander brackets on the roof, now is the time to trim the molding. Line up the molding next to the mounted Overlander brackets and use a sharp knife to slit 1/8" into the rubber on each side of the Overlander brackets. Next, take the strip down from the roof and get out your
Dremel. This takes some trial and error. I started with the right rear bracket location in case the first attempt was messy. Next, using the cutoff wheel on the
Dremel, line up the two slits you made previously, and notch the metal lip on the underside of the molding in the same place. Then, grind the lip away between those two points. I found that if you hold the cutting wheel perpendicular to the molding strip and cut right on the inside edge that you then have the correct amount taken out to make it around the Overlander bracket. See picture
(5). To cut the rubber, you should use a knife. Be careful not to melt the rubber if you do use the
Dremel. After that, notch the metal from the edge you just cut to the center crease. See picture
. You don't have to go all the way through because you're only going to bend this tab up enough to clear the bolt heads on the Overlander bracket. I used a pair of linesman's pliers to do this. Just be careful not to squeeze too hard and mar the rubber. See picture
(7). You only need to bend enough to separate the cut you make. Once that's done, you've got a good starting point. Go back up on the roof and try it out. Once you have a good fit, duplicate the cut at the other three places. You'll be a pro by the fourth notch. DON'T reinstall the molding yet because you'll need access to the bolts. You may wish to file the jagged edge from the flap you cut, as well.
Next, because I was using the grommets, I removed the Overlander brackets from the roof. Cut the 9/16" grommets down the middle and slip one on each bolt, rounded side down, between the bracket and the roof. Put threadlocker on the bolts and remount the brackets but don't tighten them down yet. They should be loose enough that you can straighten them by hand. Slide the Shear blocks on to each end of the rear crossbar, set the assembly on the Overlander brackets, and then loosely bolt them together. Next, make sure that the crossbar overhangs the roof evenly on each side. The overhang from the end of the crossbar to the Shear Block should be approximately 6.5".
Now to tighten it down: The intent here is to first tighten the crossbar and Shear Blocks down to the Overlander brackets, make sure everything is even, and then snug the Overlander brackets to the roof. The end result is that the Overlander brackets should be vertical to the roof with no bowing of the crossbar. You will have to be the judge of how it looks and how tight to make it. I tightened the Overlander brackets only until the lock washer flattened out. Be careful because if you go too far you will destroy the rubber grommet. Now do the same for the front crossbar and install the
endcaps. Once that is complete you can replace the molding, and you are done! Be patient reinstalling the molding. As long as the notch you've cut is wide enough to go around the Overlander bracket, you are in good shape. I found that you can tap in the part of the molding closest to the bracket with a hammer and block of wood.
That should be enough to get it seated evenly and the flap which you cut out will deflect enough to just rest on top of the two bolt-heads protruding from the Overlander bracket. See picture
(8) for the final result.
Total cost for me for the basic rack was about $130 including tax and shipping. That is actually a good bit cheaper than buying a set of Yakima QTowers and crossbars. More money for other stuff! In addition to the basic rack, I purchased a Yakima Copperhead bike rack ($80.00), a wheelfork ($25.00), and a 50" fairing ($40.00). My wife demanded the fairing after one ride at 70mph. She was a lot happier after I installed it. I had expected a little wind noise from the rack and was not displeased but after the installing the fairing it's basically silent. In my opinion it's a requirement.
The overall height of my stock '98 with the rack is now 75". The crossbar spread is 31.5", and there is 2.75" of clearance between the bottom of the crossbar and the middle of the roof at its highest point. Overall I'm very happy with the utility of the rack and the way it looks. BTW our favorite SUV with a mountain bike mounted upright on the roof comes in at a little under 10 feet, so be warned. This is low enough for most gas stations, iffy for most fast food
drive-thrus, and out of the question for most drive-up ATMs. You can have fun with your wife on the highway, though, by wondering out loud "if you'll make it" under that overpass up ahead that's coming up fast. Seriously, if you carry a bike and also garage your Trooper, figure out some way to remind yourself NOT to pull into the garage after that long, tiring, expensive vacation with the family. I have second-hand experience with the damage to bike, house, and car that can occur when that happens.
SOME THINGS TO THINK ABOUT
1) Will the grommets hold up? I dunno. Only time will tell. If you do a similar rack you may wish to try this method without using them to see if the Overlander brackets straighten out anyway, or if they still lean but you don't care about it. I just wanted to finish the project.
2) Will the Overlander brackets rust where you enlarged the hole? Yes, the metal will rust. I did not take any precautions to prevent that and will have to keep an eye on it. No rust streaks for me, thank-you!
3) Is it too tall for bikes? Just about. I'm 6'1" and have to stand on a chair to get my bike on and off. I plan on picking up a 2-foot stool or stepladder in the near future to keep in the back just for that purpose. If you want to know why I didn't just get a hitch mount, it's because after spending the $$$ on a hitch and a rack, I still wouldn't have a way to tie anything (e.g. a 10-ft Christmas tree) to the roof.
4) Do you really need the threadlocker? Well, I didn't even use any; I just included it because I thought that YOU should.
5) IS it worth it to bother with an Allen head bolt? If you still want to use it, you could sacrifice an Allen wrench to the Trooper gods by cutting off an inch or so and then putting a wrench on it to tighten down the bracket when it's on the roof. Just a suggestion.
Well, I hope someone finds this write-up useful. If anyone does the same thing, please post it to the forum and let us know how it went. If you used a different method of tackling the crookedness of the brackets, I'd like to hear it.