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The complete guide to roof Bars and roof racks for work vans

Since you are already here reading this, I probably don’t need to spend long explaining the virtues of roof bars or roof racks. For all those items which are too large to fit inside your van, be it ladders, pipes or other long items, sheet materials, furniture, or anything else that is just too big for the back of the van, the obvious practical solution is to secure the load on top.

In this article, we hope to give you a general ‘everything you need to know about van roof racks and roof bars’ guide with more detail available in some specific areas in other articles.

We’ll talk about the difference between van roof bars and roof racks, cover some general information about accessories which can help with a variety of load types, and briefly cover how you can make sure that you get the right type of roof system for your van.

In regular conversation, the terms ‘roof bars’ or ‘roof racks’ are often interchangeable although the difference is indicated in the name.

What is a roof bar?

Rhino roof bars



Roof bars will usually consist of two, three or more separate parallel cross bars across the width of the vehicle. Roof bars offer a lightweight solution to transporting items, and when paired with appropriate accessories, do most things a roof rack can for much less money.

While there are cheap budget roof bars available, these are only suitable for occasional use such as taking an old piece of furniture for recycling or collecting materials. If you intend to use your roof bars regularly you will probably want to choose a system which is strong and durable enough for professional use. Vanarack offer a range of top-quality roof bar systems from leading manufacturers Rhino Products and Van Guard Accessories at great prices with a roof bar system to suit all budgets.

Important considerations will include choosing lightweight yet strong aluminium rather than heavy steel, this will help maximise your payload whilst an aerodynamic profile offers low drag for better fuel economy and reduced wind noise.

Another issue is whether the roof bar system has the appropriate accessories to help you make the most of your bars, from adjustable load stops and ratchet straps to help contain loads or a rear load roller to help with loading. You can find details of complementary accessories that fit your chosen product within the details area for any item. Here you will also find specification like dimensions, and the all-important maximum weight per bar which varies across the ranges we offer.

What is a roof rack?

Rhino roof rack

A roof rack is made up of multiple evenly spaced cross bars & raised side rails creating a large support area to transport materials whilst a full-width rear load roller will help with loading.

Due to a roof rack having multiple cross bars and raised side rails this makes it versatile for a wide range of applications, especially suited to carrying 8 x 4 sheet materials and heavier items which can be easily secured with a pair of ratchet straps.

A roof rack will usually cost more than bars although it may be that it saves you needing certain additional accessories such as load stops & load roller, broadly speaking, a roof rack is probably the ultimate solution to most roof loading challenges.

Vanarack offers 3 ranges of roof rack from Rhino Products & Van Guard Accessories, available for most vans & varying in the way they are constructed and fitted but all offering the same great load carrying capabilities.

Important points to consider, as with roof bars, are weight and streamlining. Aluminium rather than steel will save weight, and therefore fuel, and an aerodynamic profile will save on fuel, and reduce noise as well.

As with roof bars, there are details of appropriate accessories on the specification pages of all our roof racks, as well as details of load capacity dimensions and much more.  

How do I know what roof rack or roof bars fit my van?

The most important factor of all is making sure the roof bars or roof rack you choose will fit to your make and model of van. After all, no matter how versatile the system is, it’s of no use to you if you can’t fit the bars on your roof

Different van makes, and models have different types of roof designs, there is no “one-size-fits-all” solution to fitting roof racks and roof bars. Your van may have raised roof rails or metal rain guttering, it may have a hi-roof made of fiberglass or a metal roof with recessed threaded fixing points.

Most popular work vans on the market today do however come prepared to allow safe easy fitting of roof racks & roof bars to the factory locations, in very rare cases the vehicle manufacturer may have failed to provide any obvious fixing altogether, and may require careful drilling of the roof panel to obtain a fixing,

How are you supposed to work out which roof bars and roof racks will fit your van’s roof, and which will end up giving you a massive headache?

Fortunately, the answer to that question is very simple. Arguably one of the best features of buying from Vanarack is that you start by selecting your make and model of van from the easy to use menu, and then you will be shown only the roof rack or roof bars systems which are suitable for your vehicle.


Choose your van

With full specifications on each product you can check important details such as the load capacity (which is also subject of course, to your vehicle’s overall load capacity) and perhaps most importantly, any accessories that you might need to go with the system.

We’ve all seen those videos of people who have failed to strap items on securely. It may even seem hilarious to watch as a sheet of plywood catches the wind and flies off but, of course, there’s nothing funny about it when it happens to you.

So, you can find everything from straps and stops, to ladder mounts and pipe tubes, so you can be sure you have what you need to get the job done safely and professionally.

For more details on the safe loading of your van roof rack or roof bars, and in particular with regard to maximum weights, there is a more detailed article below.

How to install Van Guard ULTI Bars

The New SafeStow4® provides you with safe, secure and effortless ladder storage and handling.

Read our Quick Fire Guide To Help You Decide

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