Beginners Guide: How To Drive With A Roof Box Safely

Cars are useful for getting us from place to place, but they’re not always ideally suited to transporting our things along with us. Whether you’re going on a family camping trip or you’re moving house, it’s possible that the space your car has in its boot alone just simply isn’t enough. That’s when external storage comes in handy; you could get a trailer, but that’s probably going to be too big… so how about a roof box instead? They’re compact and convenient but some drivers might be unsure of how to use them safely. We’re here to explain.

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A roof box fitted to a vehicle that's parked in front of a body of water

Who Can Use A Roof Box On Their Car?

Any car with a large hard roof can have a roof box fitted, so convertibles and tiny vehicles like Smart cars will be ruled out of most, if not all variations of this storage unit. The catch is though, that even cars that can have a roof box fitted must first have a roof rack installed. This device ensures that the box can be stuck to the top of the car with no worry about it falling off while you’re on the road.

Can My Car Carry A Roof Box?

If your car can be fitted with a roof rack (sometimes simply called roof bars) then yes, you can carry a roof box too. There are racks on the market that are considered ‘universal’ which means that they can typically fit onto cars of varying sizes, which will give drivers of all kinds of vehicles the opportunity to store some extra cargo above their heads on their journeys.

Are There Weight Or Size Restrictions For Roof Boxes?

Every roof box, regardless of manufacturer or model will have a weight limit. There’s no catch-all measurement though, as the maximum weight that your roof box can carry will differ based on its size and capacity. Large boxes will be sturdier (although they themselves will probably also be heavier) and as such will be able to carry more weight safely.

Typically, you’ll be looking at a weight limit of somewhere between 50kg and 75kg, but as we said, it differs by brand – some specialised heavy duty boxes may be able to take more, whereas others could be designed specifically for smaller cars and could be even less. Always pay attention to the specifications of your particular roof box and never try to drive your vehicle with an overloaded roof box.

Do You Need To Adjust Your Speed When Using A Roof Box On Your Car?

In a word, no. There are some speed limit recommendations for carrying a roof box, but the generally accepted maximum is actually 70 mph which, as we’re sure we don’t need to tell you, shouldn’t be exceeded on British roads anyway!

Prominent roof box manufacturer Thule believes their products can withstand speeds of up to 80 mph, so if you ever find yourself going this fast on your way home from a camping trip – perhaps down Germany’s limitless Autobahn – then we hope you’ve outfitted your vehicle with this brand’s gear.

What You Need To Consider When Driving With A Roof Box

Before you even leave your driveway, it’s important that you’re aware of a few things that need to be taken into consideration when driving with a roof box:

  • Know Your Limits – Whether that’s speed limits or weight restrictions, it’s crucial to your own safety and the safety of other road users that you do not overload your vehicle’s roof box or drive recklessly when it’s in use. The performance of your car, including its handling and braking abilities, will be altered by excessive weight stored on your roof.
  • Pack It Properly – The stuff you store in your roof box is going to move around in transit. Ideally, you want to fill it with cargo that’s going to fit snugly into the box to prevent it from sliding around. A half-filled box could be disastrous if you’ve only stored random loose items inside it; expect to see some breakages when you open it up at your destination. You should also store the heaviest items inside your car, rather than in the box. Weight distribution is important and you don’t want to make your vehicle top-heavy, especially if it’s already a little bit unstable on its wheels like the notorious Mercedes A-Class from 1997.
  • Lock It Down – One of the biggest fears most drivers have when it comes to driving with a roof box involves the storage container not being secured properly, coming loose and flying off into the path of another vehicle. Therefore, you must ensure that you’ve correctly installed your roof box before you drive with it on your car. You should also check that the box itself is locked so that its contents remain secure. You wouldn’t want your dirty laundry scattered all over the M6 now, would you?

How To Attach A Roof Box Safely

First things first, you’ll need a set of roof bars installed on your car so that the box can fit securely onto them. These are entirely different to roof boxes so installing them will follow a different method, but they are essential before you can get a box attached to your vehicle’s roof.

It’s possible that each model of roof box will be attached to your car in a slightly different way, so please make sure you read the instruction manual that comes with the product. With the bars installed, you can lift the box onto the roof of the car and position it so that the holes on the box through which the bolts go line up with the holes on each bar.

Once you’re sure that the box is straight, level and centred on the roof of your vehicle, you can bolt it onto the bars and keep it in place. Don’t forget to keep the locking tool with you on your journey in case it needs tightening, or in case you want to remove the box at your destination. 

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