How to Build – SUV Ladder Roof Rack

Quick article on a project that I did for a customer. He wanted to be able to haul ladders, etc. on the roof of his Ford Excursion. This Excursion was a great platform to add some more substantial cross-bars to, but I believe the same would apply to almost any SUV with an existing roof rack. The Excursion already had a roof rack with two tracks, one going down each side with slide-able nuts and some eyelet/wing nuts to hold the crossbars down. The factory cross bars weren’t beefy enough to handle daily hauling, so we took to building some bigger ones!

I got carried away while I was building these and forgot to take in-progress pictures so I’ll show the final product and tell you about how I did it instead.

The customer wanted some beefy crossbars with tie down points for ladders, but he also wanted the tie down ends to be able to lay flat so he didn’t have to lift the ladder up an extra 4″ over them. So we came up with a square tube design that had tie downs/end pieces that could be removed or turned 90* and reinserted. These end pieces are held in by detent/spring ball quick release pins from the hardware store. They are easy to remove/re-install and require no tools.


The first thing I set about was to make feet-plates that bolted to the existing roof rack tracks. This just consisted of cutting four ~3″ long by ~2″ wide pieces of 3/16″ steel and drilling them with holes for the bolts making sure to leave enough room for the bolt heads which Ford had integrated a tie-down point into. We ended up re-using the original Ford bolts with tie down point, but if you wanted it to be more secure, you could use bolts and lock washers.

What you plan on hauling with the rack will largely determine what size steel the rack is built out of. The larger tubing on the rack in this article is 1.5″ square tubing but you could use larger or smaller on your project. 1.5″ seemed to be a good compromise, not too large and heavy but sturdy enough for some considerable abuse.


This picture shows the end pieces. When in the up position they help hold ladders and cargo on the roof and provide a tie down hole. When in the down position, they are out of the way to interfere with trees, garages, etc.


Side view


Overall View




Ready to haul stuff! Just make sure you give any rack that will go on top of your vehicle a very good coat of paint to avoid rust marks on the paint of your vehicle. If you notice chipped paint on your roof rack, touch it up quickly, so it doesn’t rust stain the rest of your vehicle.

There you have it! A simple roof rack modification that significantly improves the usefulness of this SUV. No worrying about having to fit long boards/ladders inside of the vehicle where they could hurt occupants or having to bring along a trailer just to go to the hardware store. DIY Metal Fabrication can save a lot of money by bringing more versatility to vehicles and products that you already own. Work smarter not harder!


Think the above project is to difficult? Don’t have a welder? You can still buy great products that you can mount to your vehicle yourself in DIY fashion. Check out products like this 49.75″ Roof Rack Cross Bars fit Side Rails available on Amazon.

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