Roof rack weight limit; are you overloaded?

Did you know the roof on your 4WD has a weight limit, and there’s a roof rack weight limit? I’ve lost count of the number of badly overloaded roof’s that I’ve seen while travelling around WA.

Not only is it putting your vehicle and passengers at risk, it can void your insurance and cause serious problems in the event of an accident, or even be the cause of an accident in the first place.

4WD roof capacity
How’s your roof feeling?

How do you know if your roof racks are overloaded?

There are two things you need to consider when looking at the amount of weight on your roof racks.

Roof capacity
What does the manufacturer say you can carry?

4WD Roof Load Limits

When a 4WD is designed and built, the manufacturer gives it a maximum roof loading rating. This is the maximum amount of weight you can apply to the roof of your 4WD, and includes both the roof rack itself and anything on the roof rack.

If you want to know what your 4WD is designed to carry, have a look in your owners manual or contact your vehicle manufacturer.

Most 4WD’s can do up to 100kg, with a few at 150kg and very few higher. The 200 series Landcruiser roof load rating is 200kg, for example.

However, it goes beyond this; you will have an on road rating, and an off road roof rack rating, which is usually 50 – 75% of the rated on road capacity.

The reason is simple; when you are off road, you put more stress on everything, so it is de-rated.

If you are looking for the Toyota Hilux Roof Load Capacity (or any other brand) you’ll get it from Redbook, in your owners manual or by ringing your vehicle manufacturer with your VIN handy.

Roof rack weight
Are your roof racks suitable?

Roof rack weight limit and specifications

There’s a roof rack weight limit for every single rack and set of bars sold, along with a set of conditions for their use. I’ve seen roof racks designed to carry 60kg, but it clearly says not suitable for off road use.

Not very good when its mounted to a 4WD! Roof rack load limits are generally reflected in the way they mount to the roof and distribute the load.

So long as you are within the roof rack weight limit and vehicle manufacturers specifications, you won’t have an issue. Be sure again, to check the on road and off road weight ratings, and stick within them!

Solar panels mount
What’s your roof rack rated to?

What does your roof rack weigh?

Something that is often overlooked is the weight of your roof rack itself. We installed a Powerful 4×4 full length steel cage roof rack on a mates Patrol a few years back, and weighed it at at around 60kg.

Heavy roof rack
A big, heavy steel roof rack weighing a whopping 66kg

When you can only carry 100kg on the roof, fitting a 60kg rack to only be able to carry 40kg seems a bit pointless (and that’s not even considering the de-rating for off road use).

For this reason, I always recommend a quality built aluminium roof rack; they are substantially lighter and just as strong.

That same Patrol had the steel rack removed not long ago, and replaced with a top quality Tracklander aluminium one that weighed under 1/3 of the steel one.

This is why I’ll never buy a full size steel roof rack again.

Already, people are really starting to see the importance of overall 4WD weight. Anything you can do to reduce the weight on your 4WD will benefit you.

Roof Rack on a 200 series
How heavy is your rack?

What happens if your roof is overloaded?

Excess strain on your 4WD and roof rack

Next time you are bouncing your way along a tough 4WD track, spare a thought for how your roof and the roof rack feels!

If you are a passenger in a 4WD, try and hold your arms out and keep them there while you are bouncing around. It’s almost impossible, and your roof cops it way worse than that.

100kg on the roof equates to a massive amount of force every time you bounce up, down and side to side. The roof will take this all day, every day, providing you are within the rated capacities.

Go over it though, and expect to see damage in time to the roof of your vehicle and the roof racks.

I spoke to someone recently who did the Canning Stock Route with a lot of weight up the top, and they could physically see the A pillars flexing under the stress. Eventually something has to break!

80 Series Cruiser
Our 80 series came with a giant toolbox on the roof racks!

Higher centre of gravity

Centre of gravity is super important when it comes to a 4WDing. When you are travelling on rough tracks, side angles are dangerous. A bump just beyond what your vehicle will handle can lay it on its side, and when you have over 100kg on the roof that happens so much easier.

The more weight you have up high, the higher your centre of gravity, and the worse the vehicle will handle.

If you’ve driven the same 4WD with a decent amount of weight up top and then removed it all, you will see it very clearly in the corners and general driving, even in the city.

Roof rack centre of gravity
Got centre of gravity issues?

Insurance and legal issues

Regardless of who you have 4WD Insurance with, every policy requires the vehicle to be in a roadworthy state.

If you have more weight on the roof than what your vehicle manufacturer has set, your vehicle is not roadworthy and the insurance company has a valid reason to deny or reduce your claim.

Yep, lets say you have 150kg on a roof rack and roll your 4WD on the edge of a sand dune. Your insurance company has every right to say ‘sorry mate, you were overloaded’.

This is the same for chassis damage through overloading. Is it really worth the risk?

Rolled 4WD recovery
When it all goes very badly wrong, who has to pay?

Beyond that, you have a ‘moral’ responsibility to drive a legal vehicle. If you are outside of this and you injure or kill someone, what do you think is going to happen?

The blame always goes to someone, and if you caused the death of someone through your negligence (by overloading your roof racks) you could be in a terrible situation.

There are 32 ways to make your 4WD illegal, and overloading the roof racks is one of them!

The less weight up top the better

Whilst roof racks might be an easy place to store gear, the less weight up top the better. Your car will handle better, have less chance of rolling over and have less strain put on the roof.

Roof racks are the ideal storage area for light weight, bulky items like solar panels, Maxtrax, camp chairs, tables, tents, portable toilets, fishing rods and swags.

Light weight roof racks
The top of our 80 Series Roof Racks.

What should you look for in a roof rack?

Weight distribution and mounting points

There is a vast difference in quality between roof racks on 4WD’s. You can pretty clearly see evidence of this based on the way a roof rack is mounted to the vehicle, how the weight is distributed and how well its clamped down.

Several years ago we hit a nasty hole on a track out the back of Dwellingup in a 4WD with a cheap set of roof racks bolted on, and the force slid the whole arrangement forward about 200mm along the gutters.

Asides from a lot of paint removed from the gutters and a bit of damaged pride, life continued.

However, you’ll see that the better quality racks clamp down extremely well; they are intended to carry the weight safely both on and off road.

One of the better designs I’ve seen is to have a length of flat bar running down the inside of your gutters.

Instead of the weight of your roof racks being spread over 2 – 5 mounts, it is evenly spread along the whole length of the gutter. Combine that with good quality clamps and you have a great roof rack.

Flat bar roof rack
Flat bar running the length of the gutter

Tie down attachment points

It’s important to have plenty of places to attach ratchet and occy straps. There’s nothing worse than having to struggle with hooks that don’t fit over the support bars just to safely store your gear.

I find having a cage version all the way around fantastic, as it stops things moving forward and side to side. Whether its just strong mesh, or little hooks in convenient locations, its worth paying attention to.

Low to the roof

If seen some roof racks that have the bottom some 150 – 200mm off the roof of your 4WD. That is absolutely ridiculous in so many ways. Our 80 series racks are within 60mm, and the closer the better (except it is almost impossible to wash the roof!).

You’ll have less wind drag (so better fuel economy), less noise, a lower centre of gravity, more chance of fitting under car parks and trees and an easier time getting things down!

Roof rack roof gap
How high off the roof is your roof rack?

Spreading the load

A lot of 4WD’s have a huge amount of weight on the rear axle, and much less on the front. This is particularly the case with dual cabs, who start at a big disadvantage when it comes to load position relative to the rear axle.

If you have a vehicle that is heavily loaded on the rear, consider having the roof racks further forward. On a dual cab Ute this often means on the cab instead of the canopy. This spreads the load, and reduces the chances of a bent ute chassis.

When considering a canopy for your 4WD, weight distribution is one of the most important things you should be thinking about.

If you want to know more about getting the perfect Ute canopy for your requirements, check this out; Buying a 4WD Ute Canopy; the ultimate guide.

Dual cab roof rack
Think carefully about how you spread the weight

Quality welds and finish

Sure, you can buy a full size steel roof rack for under $300, but do you trust it? Steel that has been poorly painted will rust, and that ends up on the panels of your vehicle.

I have a mate who is up for just under a grand to have his roof repaired from a poor quality steel rack that dripped rusty water onto his roof.

Look at the welds too; they should be smooth, have decent penetration (not look like the weld is sitting on top of the metal) and no holes or abnormalities.

Any of the better known manufacturers (ARB, Tracklander, Rhino Rack etc) are good to look at, to see how things are done properly.

Static vs Dynamic weight

I’ll quickly mention this, as it comes up regularly when discussing roof top tents. If you aren’t moving, the weight on your roof is static.

Perhaps you, your partner and the roof top tent weigh 210kg, but your vehicle is only rated to 100kg. The rating given by the vehicle manufacturer is a dynamic rating, which means its meant for when you are bouncing around on a 4WD track.

If you are just climbing up and down and sleeping in the tent you won’t have an issue, unless you are well over double the dynamic rating.

Dual roof racks
When you are stopped, the roof capacity is substantially higher

What roof rack do you have, and what do you carry?

I’m keen to know what racks you guys run, and what you use them for. Also, if you’ve got any tips or questions, leave a comment below!

Ute mounted tent
How’s your roof loading?

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  1. Hey Garry,

    The manufacturer of the roof rack will give a load rating, when installed as per their instructions. I doubt that you could argue that fitting more cross beams would increase the rating.

    A good roof rack will have a similar maximum rating to the roof rating, so you probably won’t gain much

    All the best

  2. Hi wondering about adding extra bars. Does this increase the load carrying capacity of the roof rack? Not exceeding the maximum roof loading rating.

  3. Hi Jayden,

    I would say your thinking is correct, but the only way to find out for sure is to contact the OEM. In your case, Mitsubishi; they should be able to help you out, as they can come from the factory with their canopy

    Either way, lots of weight up top isn’t a good thing.

    All the best mate

  4. Great article and it’s opened my eyes, I now point at 4wd’s on the road and go “overloaded”. So, I’ve just bought a triton and I’m going to put a canopy and roof rack on it, was going to chuck the roof rack on the canopy as it can take a heavier load than the 80kg roof of the vehicle, BUT I’ve read a couple things lately that have stated it doesn’t matter if your canopy roof can hold 200kg, if the vehicle is only rated to hold a max 80kg then this means you can only hold 80kg whether its on the roof or the canopy roof, because, it’s not just about weight it’s also about raising the car’s centre of gravity and more weight above the height of the roof/s = greater dynamic weight and swaying and increases rollover likelyhood ect….. any thoughts or your understanding? Really need to work this out before I buy.

  5. Great guide to learn more about roof racks. Thanks a lot for sharing!

  6. Hey Nabil,

    Interesting; lets see what Mitsubishi have to say.

    All the best

  7. Hi Aaron,

    Thanks for the response. I checked the car’s actual manual and it actually says 80 KG. But still doesn’t mention static load capacity. I called Mitsubishi today and customer care said they’ll get back to me. I’ll let you know what they say. Keep up the good work.


  8. Hi Nabil,

    You can get lighter roof top tents than 65kg. I would say you’d get away with it no problems unless you were doing nasty roads, but if it ever came off and hurt someone it could be problematic for you.

    I’d be very surprised if you had an issue with 200kg on the roof while stationary, but it would pay to check with Mitsubishi to see what they think. Not sure if there’s a Facebook group or forums for those vehicles either; surely you aren’t the first person to do this with an Outlander.

    All the best

  9. Hello,

    Thanks for the wonderfully useful article. My wife and I just bought a 2019 Outlander with the turbo diesel engine. The intention is to tour Australia and do a bit of light off-roading where possible. We’ve been seriously considering a roof top tent, however upon reading your article I checked the roof load capacity in the owner’s manual and it says 50kg. Even the light roof top tents are about 65kg.

    Assuming 50kg capacity is the dynamic, that means that even at a 100 kg static I still can’t put me 85 kg and my wife 50kg + the tent 65kg on top of the car. That can’t be right can it? It’s a big car. I’m surprised the limit is that low.

    What do you think? Is it even worth considering?


  10. Hey Toby,

    The 80kg will be a dynamic roof loading – when the vehicle isn’t moving you will be able to add more weight than that. Consider how much extra force 80kg of weight bouncing up and down would apply to the roof. Give Mitsubishi a call to confirm, but if its like most 4WD’s you can easily mount a roof top tent and have two adults in it, as long as you aren’t driving around!

    Take care

  11. Hi there,

    i’v currently got an Outlander with roof rails and am looking to install a rooftop tent. In the manual it says roof load capacity 80kg – is it possible to install descent roof racks and have a tent loaded up? (plus body weight obviously?) seen numerous online of the same model and with a tent but cant get to the bottom of an answer.


  12. There is a lot of confusion out there, so let me simplify it. The dynamic load limit is usually the one quoted by the supplier. This is the maximum load while driving. I won’t bore you with the maths, but the static load, or the load when you are standing still, is roughly 10x this. So for example, a Hilux has a dynamic load limit of around 68kg (static load roughly 680kg), and therefore you can have your wife and 2 fat kids up there in your rooftop tent at night with you quite comfortably. But when moving, the forces applied are considerably larger due to inertia etc., hence the massive difference.

  13. Hey mate,

    Good on you for taking the time to look into it. What are you planning on putting on the roof rack? Holden should be able to give you an answer, and if they don’t, I would assume 100kg. 60kg per pair seems right, but that might not be for off road use.

    Unfortunately models that aren’t common run into all sorts of weird and wonderful issues like this, but I’m sure you’ll come to a resolution soon

    Take care

  14. Alexandra GAZIGLIA says:

    Hi there,

    Just looking at fitting my 4WD with a roof tent, thanks for the explanations, it is helpful.
    It’s just a pain that I can’t find anywhere the owner’s manual for my Holden Frontera from 1999 and with 2 doors. I contacted Holden, hopefully they will get back to me!
    Also it’s is currently fitted with a set of Rola rack rated at 60kg (which I assume it’s per pair), it should be the heaviest I can get knowing that not much brand are making the specific roof rack for this model (it has fixed mounting points and I believe I can fit a set of 3 cause it has a removable plastic canopy at the back so they supplied 3 different mounting points position).
    I wasn’t expecting to have so much issue due to the unusual model.


  15. Hey Graeme,

    Most 4WD’s are limited to 100kg on the roof. A few are 150kg and I believe the 200’s are 200kg. Give Toyota a call, give them your VIN and they will be able to tell you.

    Remember that the load capacity includes everything on the roof; gear plus any racks etc you mount up there.

    I would strongly advise not putting that much weight up there as it will hugely affect the handling and safety

    Take care mate

  16. Interested in your comment “… and very few at 200kg (the new 200 Series Land Cruiser for example)”.
    Can you please expand on this. I’ve just bought a new (Sep’18) LC200 GXL with roof rails & trying to get info re roof rail carrying capacity. Thanks

  17. Hey mate,

    Query it with ARB – even ring their head office if you need to. I reckon they might have their static/dynamic wording mixed up. I’m not really sure, asides from Outback Joe’s post as to how you calculate the difference, but it would be a lot


  18. Hey Aaron, ARB Ascent canopy with Rhinorack VA bars? . Told me 100kg static load. It’s on a 2016 Hilux.


  19. Hey There, just installed a new canopy and have been told the static weight is 100kg, so am I right to assume that the dynamic would be 50kg or even less??



  20. Hey Balin,

    If they are the genuine roof racks, find out what they are rated to. It’s best to keep the tent as low as possible; avoid having extra railing unless absolutely necessary


  21. Hi, very helpful to read your article. I have a Prado 150 – 2012 and I’m planing to buy a roof top tent weigh about 65kg. My Prado already has a roof railing but not the bars, do you think I should just get a normal roof bars or that wouldn’t support 65 kg dynamic and around 210 kg static?

    Need your advice,