Jeep JK Rubicon Recycled Roof Rack

May. 16, 2012 By Jim Brightly, KF7SCT
All packed and ready for a weekend at the river, the recycled roof rack and Bestop rear luggage rack combined to allow room for two passengers in the rear seat. And, since the rack doesn’t start until the B pillar, it still allows the Jeep to go lidless over the cockpit.

No matter how big your Jeep is; no matter how much stuff you can pack into it; you’ll always want more. It’s a fact of life: If you can fit the kitchen sink in, you’ll want the bathroom sink, too! Let’s face it, we like our comfort!

This was on my mind while I was working on our Master ‘Kee project—I’d been worried about towing a trailer over the Rubicon Trail in July (which I’ve done for the past three trips)—and I’d been trying to figure out a way to leave the trailer at home. We could leave our dogs in a kennel for a week (which would probably double our costs and we’d also miss them) or we could come up with another idea. While thinking about this, I walked by a scrapped Cherokee in Precision Auto’s back lot and glanced at the XJ’s roof rack. It was literally like a light bulb flashing on! “That rack will fit my Rubi,” I thought.

This is what the Cherokee’s OEM roof rack looks like on the donor Jeep. This undamaged roof rack was among the three we used to make up two good ones.

Once we got the racks back to the garage we separated all the components to clean and paint them.

Since we live in Arizona, the sun had made the racks difficult to separate.

I quickly grabbed a pen, paper, and measuring tape and scurried out to my JK. Hurriedly sketching out a rough diagram of the JK’s roof, not including the removable front panels (or “lids” as we call them), I measured the box. Rushing back to the XJ, I measured the roof rack. It would fit!

The rack wasn’t a full-length unit—it only covered two-thirds of the Cherokee’s roof, starting at the B pillar (the post behind the driver’s head). But it was a Cherokee XJ model’s original equipment (OEM) roof rack, and it fits a JK Unlimited like the rack was made for it.

The end caps slipped loose after a plastic push tab was removed. This is where you’d cut down a rack to fit a two-door JK.

After the end cap is removed, the sliders can be removed as well.

Clean and inspect all components and then allow them to dry completely.

Since two of us are prepping our JK Rubicon Unlimited Jeeps for the Rubicon Trail (and we both have similar concerns about space—we’re doing the trail in both directions, so we’ll be camping two or three nights and we’ll need the extra room for supplies), we worked on both roofs at the same time. We purchased three Cherokee roof racks—two on wrecked Cherokees and one from an undamaged XJ for $75—and made up two good ones out of the interchangeable parts from all three. In fact, if you go to a scrap yard for a roof rack to use, I’d suggest you buy two to make up one (and then you can also keep the spare parts, just in case). Author’s note: The following instructions will also work with a two-door JK; you’ll just have to cut down the side rails, which is easily done.

We used an old sheet and wood blocks to support the components for painting.

We used flat black enamel, but you may want to use a different color.\

These are two well-used Jeeps, so we needed to thoroughly clean the tops before beginning the installation.

When you remove the rack from the Cherokee, save the screws, you’ll use them again later. They are torx head and metric threads, so you’ll have to take one with you when you purchase the additional hardware to make sure of the size and thread (I found everything we needed at the local Ace Hardware). Plus, you need two additional screws 1 inch long for the center-mounting hole (the JK has a stiffening cross brace molded into the underside of the roof that makes the original screws too short). We used a combination silicone-like sealer, neoprene washers, and T-nuts to be sure no moisture comes through the roof. With the additional hardware and silicone-like sealer, we still averaged less than $50 each for the two roof racks.

Author’s note: To be safe, do not exceed approximately 75 pounds of baggage on the JK’s hardtop. In addition, we only pack soft goods on the roof.

While the tops were drying, we began to re-assemble the roof racks.

After using dry silicone lubricating spray liberally, the two sliders were slid into place easily.

The end caps go back on once the sliders are on their rails.

Although not shown here, the two cross pieces are held to the sliders with Phillips screws, and they are slightly adjustable to width. The slider rails fit against the outside roof stiffeners perfectly.

Thinking of an “X”, measure from corner to corner—all four corners—to make sure the rack is square. It doesn’t matter what the measurements are, only that the two distances are the same.

We drilled one hole in the roof through each rail, temporarily finger-tightened the screws, and then drilled the other either holes (there are ten altogether). Don’t forget, the two center holes (shown here) require the longer screws.

We used silicone sealer in the holes to seal out moisture (after painting the holes with undercoating paint to seal the fiberglass).

The T-nut will come up through the hole to attach to the original torx screw from the donor vehicle. The neoprene washer also seals out moisture.

To be doubly safe, we also applied silicone sealer to the T-nut before inserting it in the hole.

We’re almost there, just tightening up all the screws before grabbing a cold drink.

This is just to show how we planned on loading the roof rack on the way to our camping spot. Removing the top is not necessary; it’s just easier. Newsletter
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