Thursday, March 11, 2010

Buying a luggage box for your car

Choosing a Roof Luggage Box for your car  - Steve Minshall
There is a huge choice of luggage boxes for carrying gear on the roof of your vehicle. Also known as roof pods, roof boots, capsules and sometimes by the brand name Thule boxes, they come in a bewildering range of styles and sizes not to mention prices. In this blog we will try and help you navigate your way through the choices to help you work out which boxes best suit your needs and budget.
At Shop1Auto in Sydney we can supply over 25 varieties of luggage boxes from Thule, Rhino, Yakima nd Rola. Prices range from $399 for a small, cheap and cheerful, Chinese, mass produced box all the way up to $1750 for the ultimate Thule Excellence roof box. So how have these manufacturers taken what is essentially a large suitcase on your roof and created such a diversity of products. Well there are several considerations when choosing a roof box which can be divided into the following:
  • Size and shape
  • Orientation of opening
  • Weight capacity
  • Ease of fitment
  • Compatibility with roof racks
  • Style
  • Warranty

Common features of Thule, Rhino, Yakima and Rola luggage boxes
When you choose any of the roof pods we supply from Thule, Rhino or Rola you will find some consistent features as a minimum. The boxes will have some sort of attachment system supplied with them and any holes needed for attachment will be pre-drilled. The top shell moulding will have some degree of UV resistant cap so that the box doesn’t become brittle after the first week in the sun. All the boxes have a number of locking points operated by a central key lock. The side supports are sprung loaded to assist with both opening and closing. The basic moulded construction is the same for all boxes as typically they are vacuum formed over a mould from 2 sheets of plastic such as ABS or ABS/ASA.

Size and shape
  • What do you want to carry?
  • What size box will fit your car?
  • Do you want to carry additional gear like bikes/surf boards at the same time?
The first consideration with a roof rack luggage box is what do you want to put in it? Your basic choices for boxes is wide but short, long and thin or wide and long, ie big! If you want to carry bulky gear like camping equipment then the most economical way of getting volume is to go for a shorter wide box. Then for skis or if you also want to carry additional gear alongside you can get a long thin box. Finally you can get boxes that are both long and wide which will cover all uses.
The recommendation would be to get the largest box that fits your budget but your vehicle may put some limitations on what box you can carry. Surprisingly this does not necessarily equate to the size of the car but is more to do with where the roof racks are on the roof and if you have a lift up rear door that will conflict with the luggage box. Even some large 4WD do not have much space between the roof racks and the position of the rear door in its upright position. As a general rule if you want to carry something long like skis but have a lift up tail gate you should go for the shortest box that will take the load.
The volume of luggage boxes is measured in litres. Typical figures are around the 370ltr for a small box, 450 to 480ltr is the most popular range for general luggage then large boxes can be as much as 650ltrs for the massive Thule Motion 900. To give the sizes some perspective you can consider that a late model Commodore has boot size of around 600ltrs.
The shape of the box has a great bearing on the looks and style of a luggage box but this can introduce compromises. For example the Thule Dynamic range is really aerodynamic, sleek and low profile but this comes at the expense of internal height. On the other hand the Rhino Windrider 450 is very popular as an economical way of getting a large volume. However, it does look a bit of a brick and even its mother thinks it’s ugly. 

Weight Capacity
Also to consider along with the space available in the box is the weight rating. Within the Thule, Rhino, Rola ranges you can find 50kg and 75kg rated boxes. Generally the 50kg units rely upon the shape of the moulding to give them their strength and structure. The 75kg rated boxes have some sort of metal reinforcing to boost the carrying weight. Obviously a 75kg rated box is more useful than a 50kg rated box but something to consider when deciding on the additional expense is the rating of your roof racks. If you allow 15kg for the weight of your box then your roof racks themselves need to be rated to at least 65kg before you start to get any benefit from this extra box rating. 
Orientation of opening
Luggage boxes come in the following configurations:
  • Open drivers side
  • Open passenger side
  • Open both sides
  • Open from the rear
The dual side opening boxes offer the optimum practicality especially for taller vehicles because you do not have to reach right across the roof to get items that may be in the back of the box and also it greatly simplifies the tightening of the attachment mechanism that secures the box to the roof racks. Most single side boxes are now available with more practical curb side opening although Thule also have some boxes that open on the driver’s site which can suit some peoples circumstances. Rear opening boxes are generally smaller units, be aware that the lock is usually in the centre on a rear opening box which is ok if you can reach from the back of the vehicle but can be a stretch on sedan.
Ease of fitment
Currently you can choose between the Thule ‘Power-grip’ and ‘Fast-grip’ claws or a more basic u-bolt attachment. The Thule system is very effective as the 4 claws slide along a channel so that you do not need to line up any holes in the box with your cross bars. To tighten you simply wind 4 knobs inside the box and your done. U-bolts hold the box very securely but are more fiddly to attach and also with up to 20 components there are lots of bits to lose in between uses
Compatibility with Roof Racks

There are two issues with your roof rack cross bars that may effect the choice of a luggage box. Firstly is the position on the roof and secondly the width of the cross bar profile. Many roof racks have a specific location on the roof dictated by the roof rack manufacturer or there may be dedicated mounting points incorporated into the car roof. This can cause issues when trying to line up u-bolt holes on the cheaper boxes.
The second consideration is the cross sectional width of the roof racks. The wider the roof rack the less flexibility you have with positioning of u-bolt style mountings. Also some boxes are not compatible with the modern wing style cross sections designed by Prorack. For example their Whispbar roof racks which are also currently used by several car manufacturers as Original Equipment roof racks branded as Holden, Mazda or Honda for example. These are best suited to the Thule claw mounting systems which are able to accommodate the width.
Thule have really pushed for style with their top end boxes. The Thule Excellence with its gloss finish and two-tone colouring looks outstanding and the Thule Dynamic range also looks great but they do come at a premium price. Cheaper boxes are usually a flat grey or black colour while the more expensive boxes are treated to an attractive glossy skin. This is introduced at the Thule Motion and Yakima Sky Box Pro range with boxes various boxes available in Silver, Black and Anthracite gloss finishes.
Ask about warranty, some boxes have 3 years and some have 5 years and Yakima have a remarkable lifetime warranty on their Sky Box Pro range.
So finally you have boxes ranging from $399 to $1750. Decide what features are important to you, size, weight rating, orientation of opening, ease of fitting and looks. Then take a look at our website at for the specs of different models and current pricing. It is then worth talking to a roof rack specialist like Shop 1 Auto to see if there may be any issues with your particular car or to recommend a suitable roof rack system if you need this as well.
What do I use when I go camping and skiing? An old Thule Atlantis 780.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Tow bar for Volvo XC90 fitting in Sydney

The Volvo XC90 makes an excellent tow vehicle and when fitted with the Hayman Reese quick release tow hitch it is rated up to 2250kg max trailer weight. A notch is cut into the bumper to allow the receiver box to pass through while hiding the rest of the installation behind it. The towbar securely attaches to the XC90's chassis rails with three 12mm bolts each side giving a strong towing platform. Finally the electric hook up to run trailer lighting takes a bit of care on this vehicle and requires a control unit to protect the vehicles ECU and prevent interference with the vehicles bulb failure detection system.

2011 UPDATE: Hayman Reese have now developed a vehicle specific wiring loom for this vehicle which simply plugs into the light circuits and incorporates an ECU distribution box to protect the cars electronics.


See our towbar finder for current fitted price.  You should allow about 3 hours for fitting. Give us a call at the shop on (02) 9817 1475 to schedule an install or pop in and see us (map).

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

VW Caddy roof racks in Sydney


The VW Caddy van is a popular trade vehicle now. It has anchor points in the roof to attach roof racks but unfortunately they are quite close together. This is not very helpful when many tradesmen want to carry long loads such as ladders. To help with this at Shop1auto we have developed a system using Rhino roof racks with a track system. This involves fitting a permanent alloy track extrusion to the roof. This allows the load to be spread along the roof and allows for the cross bars to be positioned further apart to help with long loads. The vehicle shown is also fitted with a conduit carrier which would be very impractical if just the existing mounting points were used. Fitting takes a couple of hours. Call in to the store if you want to discuss this fitting or give us a call to schedule a fitting.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Towbar fitting to BMW X5

Today we fitted a towbar to a series 2, BMW X5 which we are now seeing quite a few of coming through. It is actually an easier tow hitch to install than the earlier BMW X5 but is still a good 3 hours. The tow bar we use for this vehicle is a Hayman Reese 2700kg rated hitch with a wiring loom manufactured by Hayman Reese in Australia for vehicles with sensitive electrics.

The towbar fits up behind the bumper and is bolted across the rear of vehicle onto the mountings at the chassis rail ends as shown in photo.

With the bar fitted the bumper is notched with 100mm wide by 145mm deep slot to clear the bar which leaves a neat finish with just the hitch box showing.
The job is completed with an electrical hook up, for which we use a special loom that isolates any trailer faults from the vehicle to prevent damage to the cars sensitive electronics. This runs the trailer lights directly from the battery with just a tiny trigger signal coming from the vehicle circuits.

To compare this fitting with a BMW dealer installation you are making compromises. The quality of the tow bar itself is as good as it gets. However, a BMW loom with its associated reprogramming of the computer should interface with the vehicle's stability control systems. However, I suspect it is going to be more than double the cost. Our fitting, coupled with a sensible approach to driving  when towing suits many customers just fine.

See our towbar finder for current fitted priced
Allow 4 hours, call for a booking on 02 9817 1475 or come and see us.

Tow bar fitting to BMW X5 (E53) Series 1

The series 1 BMW X5 was sold in Australia from 04/2001 to 04/2007. The Hayman Reese tow bar fitting for this vehicle is a bigger install than the later model and we allow about 4 hours to complete. There is a fair amount of dismantling involved with bumper removed, the mufflers dropped, heat shields removed and a whole load of plastic panelling in the boot. The towbar arms fit inside the chassis rails each side which gives a very strong attachment producing a towbar rating of 2700kg max trailer.
Again we use a Hayman Reese distribution box to look after the trailer lighting circuits while protecting the vehicles electronics.

See our towbar finder for current fitted priced
Please call the shop on 02 9817 1475 to check current pricing, book an install or ask any questions you may have. Or come in and see us (map)

Friday, January 8, 2010

Come see our new shop!

We are now in our new shop. After 5 years in in our little old shop in Gladesville we are now in and established in the new shop. We still have stuff to do, the frontage is still missing signage and the show room and workshop will be constantly evolving but we're in and trading. We commisioned the lovely Rebecca from Becsmart murals to paint the side of the building and she spent a week perched on scaffold to produce a great outback scene for us. Thanks to Mick and his team from Sydney Shopfitters who fiited out the show room to a high standard with no fuss. And also thanks to the other Mick from Micks Pressure Cleaning for getting rid of over 30 years of grime. Finally thanks to the boys who work for Shop1auto for doing their part and not forgetting my Dad who came out of retirement to take up the paint brushes and for accepting payment in KFCs and Subway sandwiches.

So we are in and with the extra space we have taken on more stock. I believe we now carry one of the most extensive ranges of roof rack products in Australia. We now stock over 400 fitting kits so if we do not have a roof rack in stock for your vehicle their will not be many shops that do.