Cherokee Roof Rack Install Guide - JeepForum.com

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post #1 of 60 Old 02-10-2016, 01:35 PM Thread Starter
mike134
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Cherokee Roof Rack Install Guide

There was a really great article on the forum about using a Ford Explorer roof rack on the Wrangler YJ hard top. However, all of the picture links are broken. Many others have suggested using a Jeep Cherokee rack on the hard top. I went this route since it looks very stock and it is quite easy. Note that the roof is probably not capable of holding very much weight, however this is very likely a better (cheaper) option than purchasing the Yakima hard top rack from Quadratec and probably about just as strong since the rack is not the weak point. I would even go so far as to lift the top off the jeep with the rack. If you imagine one person carrying the rack (from the inside), this should be a MORE distributed force than lifting it. I will likely use a winch and pulley to remove the top from the rack come summer (update to follow in a few months ).

Gather 10 1/4"-20 stainless steel cap head bolts (allen wrench type)
10 1/4"-20 stainless steel nuts
10 1/4" Neoprene washers (as wide as you can get, mine came from the home depot)
10 1/4" washers, As wide as you can get, Match with the neoprene washer size (home depot)
silicone sealant

1.) Go to the local Pick and Pull or Pull a Part. Any luggage rack is $22.50. I chose a Jeep Cherokee with the short version rack (see rustisexpected's comment below. The rack should stop at the 'B Pillar'), it really makes the rack look stock on a wrangler! There are 10 size T25 torx bits to remove. Bring a torx wrench, hammer, PB blaster, and hack saw. If you can get most of them out, you can slip the hacksaw blade under the rack and saw through the remaining bolt or two. See picture:

photos_jeep_cherokee_1998_1.jpg

2.) I dry fit this to my Jeep in the parking lot of the P&P to see if it would fit. It just barely makes it. I didn't want to bolt to the curved section of the roof, so I took 2 inches off from each side of the cross bars. The cross bars attach to the towers with a plastic connector inserted into the channel. Remove two torx bolts from the bottom of each and they pop right off. Cut two inches from each side. Redrill the torx bolt holes in the same position (measured from the edge) as the original. See two pictures attached. Reinstall the side connectors by inserting them into the cross bar channels.

img_1550.jpg
img_1570.jpg

3.) reassemble roof rack with the cross bars set at their maximum forward/back distance (there is a button on the side to move them). Ensure they are locked in the same notch on left and right tracks. Place on roof. I aligned the very rear of the roof rack tracks (that run parallel with the vehicle) touching the seam of the hard top (pictured). I then measured from the very top of the windows with a fabric tape measure. On both sides of the vehicle, Lightly mark off distances, 8 inch, 8.25, 8.5, 8.75, 9, etc with a pencil (you are essentially drawing a ruler onto the hard top). Center the rack until both sides Left/Right hit the same number (There is play in the cross bar connectors. Ensure that the rails are pushed as close together as possible when aligning). Do this in the front and again in the back. Then recheck to make sure the front hasn't moved, then back, and repeat until you are positive. For example, I had to go back and forth about 20 times to find that 8.25" from the window molding was good for the rear of my roof, your mileage may vary. When you find the correct location, trace a DARK line with pencil along where the rail sits. You don't have to draw the line the entire length, but do it in the front and back on both sides.

img_1551.jpg

4.) Drill your hole. I used 1/4-20 black annodized stainless steel bolts. I therefore used the clearance chart which said to use a .2660" drill bit. I tried marking the holes, using a punch, then a pilot drill, but this didn't work well. Instead, use the full .2660 bit (very sharp) and with the rack in place, drill through the existing rack hole into the roof. Stop just before penetrating through the fiberglass. Lift the rack, blow on the hole. Fiberglass will fly everywhere (except into the vehicle). Then finish the hole off. Drill the four corners first. Then insert bolts to hold the rack in place. Finish the other 6 holes with the rack bolted in the corners.

5.) Next remove the bolts that hold the rack in place. Lift the rack vertically on one side and jamb some rags underneath to hold it elevated. Insert all of the bolts into the rack holes. Run a bead of silicone sealant around each hole while the rack rail is elevated. Reseat the rack making sure all the bolts enter their corresponding bolt holes. Retighten bolts. Neoprene washers and washers should be on the underside of the roof.
img_1552.jpg

6.) Enjoy a stock looking roof rack. Note: do not overload the top:
img_1543.jpg


With Yakima Powderhound ski rack attached:
img_1575.jpg


UPDATE Jan 1, 2017:
I wrote an update below as a reply, but just decided to move it up to the top for new readers.

The roof rack is still going great. I've run it back and forth from CLE to NY quite a few times with skis on top. No leaks found yet.

BruinJeeper asked about the strength of the rack. Basically, the main rails are SOLID. The biggest issue with these XJ racks is that the tower to cross bar connections are weak. This is really typical of stock roof racks and I think this is by design so you don't overload your roof. I originally intended to grab the rack by the cross bars with my heavy duty garage canoe pulley system to lift the top on/off, but the cross bars seem too flimsy for that. However, for uses like a ski rack, bike rack, canoe, the rack has shown no signs of stress especially in downward compression. If you plan to lift the top with the roof rack, you can probably grab from the main rails with some ingenuity, or you could probably grab from the towers.

Removeable crossbars: You want to break the plastic clip on the plastic end pieces at the rear of the main rails. These were originally held on the XJ rack by a bolt AND a plastic clip. If you hold these on with just the bolt, then you can remove the rear most bolt on each rail, slide the plastic end piece off and then slide the rails off the back of the jeep. reinstall bolts. I don't know why removable cross bars was not part of the original design of this rack, but it works great. Save gas mileage, save the headache of installing/uninstalling the stupid ski adapters with 1500 allen bolts.

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post #2 of 60 Old 02-10-2016, 05:09 PM
YJdothat
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Nice write up. I made a hoist to remove/store my top in the summer and this rack option seems it will keep the top from hanging too low. Nice!


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post #3 of 60 Old 02-10-2016, 07:30 PM
rustisexpected
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Nice write up Mike.

It might be worth adding that there are two different sized roof racks on the XJ's. The one pictured stops at the B pillar and is the ideal version to fit our tops. There is also a version that runs the full length of the roof ending at the A pillar. Not a big deal, it can be cut down, but then the plastic end caps no longer will work.

If you check out my build I went one step further and used the hardware protruding into the cabin to secure a headliner.

Rusty's build thread - http://www.jeepforum.com/forum/f22/project-jermey-1806881/
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post #4 of 60 Old 02-11-2016, 07:58 AM
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Very cool. Thanks for the detail!

Added to the to do Hardtop list when it comes off this Spring.

Stop whining about the 'ride' - If your YJ ain't wrangling your soul free, then might I suggest you buy a stationwagon... at least you can fit all your bull**** in the back.
~YJOTM MAY '16~
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post #5 of 60 Old 02-11-2016, 09:45 AM Thread Starter
mike134
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rustisexpected View Post
Nice write up Mike.

It might be worth adding that there are two different sized roof racks on the XJ's. The one pictured stops at the B pillar and is the ideal version to fit our tops. There is also a version that runs the full length of the roof ending at the A pillar. Not a big deal, it can be cut down, but then the plastic end caps no longer will work.

If you check out my build I went one step further and used the hardware protruding into the cabin to secure a headliner.
That's some good info! I just got lucky then, because I could only find one XJ on the lot (they said they had 7).

Those plastic clips really make it look nice, I was thinking about how I would correct it if I had to cut it length wise when I removed it from the XJ. I think I could just drill a new hole through the rail/end clip/roof to keep it attached. In the stock form, it is held in place by a christmas tree clip and a torx bolt into the roof. I did not reuse the Christmas tree bolt since it is inaccessible, forever (attached from underneath the rail). Using just the bolt to secure it allows me to remove the end clip and pull the cross bars off if I want to. A feature that isn't possible with the original design.
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post #6 of 60 Old 02-11-2016, 02:45 PM
mark23
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That is a great hard top mod, might have to add that to the list.

1995 Desert Tan YJ 2.5L
OME 2.5 (36R's front and rear) with MORE 5/8 shackles and 33x10.50 KM2's

1988 YJ 4.2L Mud Beast
3/4ton axles, 36" TSL's.

Previous Jeeps; 00 XJ 3.5 RE lift, 05 TJ Rubicon 2 RE BB lift
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post #7 of 60 Old 04-13-2016, 06:31 AM
booya1967
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Good info. I just pulled a rack off a 4runner, and doing this to my YJ

1990 YJ Red with Black Hard top, work in progress.......
2006 TJ Silver with Black soft top
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post #8 of 60 Old 12-31-2016, 02:48 PM Thread Starter
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I had a request today by pm asking for a picture of the inside of the hard top to help align the bolts in their proper location. It was mentioned that attaching more towards the curved edge would increase strength, and I do agree with that. But I really wanted some very very wide rubber washers on the bottom to help minimize pressure points. So I think I sacrificed overall strength for local strength. Essentially, not wanting to straddle a wide washer on a curved surface or go anywhere near that seam that I didn't know anything about.

Picture: you are looking at the driver's side rear nuts/bolts. It is a bolt through the rack, through the roof, sealed with silicone, then through the largest rubber washer I could find, then the matching stainless (galvanized?) steel washer.
Name:  inside.jpg
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As an update, the roof rack is still going strong. still looks like it was put in at the factory in 1989, exactly what I was going for! I have also added Washer to D-ring hardware between the metal washer and nuts shown in the picture. This allows the use of a cargo net on the inside of the roof. I like to throw my (not soaking) damp fishing equipment up there. I'll get some pics of that next time I drive.


Hard Top Removal: I was hoping that I could lift the hard top on/off by pulling from the cross members which is very easy to grab with a pulley (I already have a pulley system above the jeep for my heavy old timey canoe). But I didn't feel as though the cross bars were strong enough this summer. Basically, you need to hook onto the main rails, which is more complicated. If you can bribe your friends to help by cooking up some burgers and stocking the fridge with a 12 pack of decent beer, do that instead. Then you get a party out of it as well. If you are lifting the hard top on/off yourself, go ahead and grab with a pulley from the main rails, but not the cross bars! these bars are strong in the downward direction, not the upward direction. Huge design flaw from jeep (I think).
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post #9 of 60 Old 01-01-2017, 06:45 AM
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Thanks for the update sir. I also have this thread bookmarked and an XJ rack ready to install. I'm interested in the netting pics as I think that's a pretty good storage solution. Here's my setup before I painted the hardtop black. The tack is just sitting on top, not installed.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 14Sport View Post
Until you know exactly what is underneath the, well, not really sure what to call them...mistakes...it's hard to come up with a plan of action.
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post #10 of 60 Old 01-01-2017, 08:53 AM
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Yep, thanks for the pic update. I'm planning to go closer to the side, centering in the flat section just on the other side of the seam. I was also thinking of using a 1" x 1/8" aluminum bar from Home Depot to run front to back instead of individual washers (sort of like piece at the tub bolts).
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post #11 of 60 Old 01-01-2017, 09:59 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CajunHiker View Post
Yep, thanks for the pic update. I'm planning to go closer to the side, centering in the flat section just on the other side of the seam. I was also thinking of using a 1" x 1/8" aluminum bar from Home Depot to run front to back instead of individual washers (sort of like piece at the tub bolts).
That's a pretty good idea! Could use 2 lengths of angle and make a shallow storage shelf or modular attachment points for a cargo net like Mike did. I think I may steal this idea.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 14Sport View Post
Until you know exactly what is underneath the, well, not really sure what to call them...mistakes...it's hard to come up with a plan of action.
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post #12 of 60 Old 01-01-2017, 11:25 AM Thread Starter
mike134
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I do like the aluminum bar idea. I think someone else had mentioned this as well. I was worried that if the roof wasn't exactly flat between the bolts that it wouldn't work out too well, since I didn't have any scrap bars I didn't want to buy new ones and have them not fit, let me know how it goes and I may switch over as well

I also really like the shallow shelf idea. What about some C channel oriented with the channel openings pointed inward, then maybe it could be a drawer! Lining a drawer up with the back window might be too much to ask for though.

The cargo net looks a bit awkward with the roll cage there, because the bolts aren't in the ideal spot above the cage, but it's not bad. It needs some adjustment to make it look good. I'm working on the steering wheel wrap now, I'll get some pictures of both when I get a chance.
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post #13 of 60 Old 01-02-2017, 10:44 PM
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i was pretty stoked on doing this (still am)... but my cherokee donor owner told me he did not have the cross bars and only had the slide track the day before i was scheduled to pick it up...


...bummer

the hunt is back on

EDIT: Found a Pontiac Montana SV6 rack for quite cheap...complete assembly... no cuts will be required either and it appears to be lower profile which works for my context. Not to clutter this thread - i'll start my own once I grab it and get it on... I will be using the method in this thread as it was very well done. For anyone interested... in my research i found one from a Ford Explorer will work well as well with a cut of the tracks. So when you're picking up an 8.8, ask for the roof tracks and load bars as a toss in
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Stop whining about the 'ride' - If your YJ ain't wrangling your soul free, then might I suggest you buy a stationwagon... at least you can fit all your bull**** in the back.
~YJOTM MAY '16~
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post #14 of 60 Old 01-02-2017, 11:17 PM
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I thought it would look retarded. I was wrong. I like it!
What color is your top? I like it too.
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post #15 of 60 Old 01-03-2017, 08:05 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chrisnvegas View Post
I thought it would look retarded. I was wrong. I like it!
What color is your top? I like it too.
Top was just a brownish/grey ripple paint i think. It kind of sucks because i cant retouch it because i have no idea.
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