How to fit a car roof box or bike rack and avoid a £5000 fine
Whether it's a road trip, camping holiday or a family bike ride - a roof box or cycle rack can give you extra space and comfort.
But drivers could risk a fine of up to £5,000 this summer, or points on their licence, if such items are not fitted properly to their car.
With UK-based days out and holidays set to sky-rocket this summer, as coronavirus restrictions prevent the majority of air travel, here's some top tips for transporting your load legally:
Check the size
There are a few things to be sure of when fitting a roof rack and perhaps the biggest one is its size. The Highway Code states loads must be secure and 'must not stick out dangerously'.
Alongside ensuring the load above your head fits the weight limits of the car you own, it is also crucial to ensure you don't buy something too big for the vehicle you'll be travelling in.
The edges of the rack must not hang over the sides of your vehicle and too much at the back will not only be in the way for other motorists but, on a practical note, will also prevent you opening your boot too.
Alongside posing a distraction and being dangerous to other road users you may also create some unwanted balance issues in travelling with something above you that is far too large for your car. Penalties for either dangerous or careless driving can run into thousands of pounds, and also risks points on your licence, so it's important to get right.
If travelling at high speeds it's important to remember the airflow generated will lift the front of your rack - another reason for ensuring the front of your box is not too far up and away from the edge of the car's roof.
Motorists must be sure roof boxes are fitted securely at the front to avoid any unnecessary movement during a journey. This will also ensure a clear and undisrupted line of sight for the driver and avoid you finding yourself in trouble with the law.
Drivers wishing to transport two wheels using four have a few different options to consider - including a trailgate rack or a roof-fitted bike rack. If opting for the tailgate version and your bikes are large and heavy, play close attention as to whether your car can safely bear that type of weight at the back.
A roof fitted bike rack will allow you to travel with a number of cycles but you will need to ensure, just like a roof box, that you meet the weight guidelines of your vehicle. It’s also important to remember a roof cycle rack will add height and can impact on fuel consumption as it creates a drag - both issues to consider when planning a trip.
A highly-recommended method for transporting bikes is a tow-ball and bike carrier system, which attaches to the back of your vehicle, giving you an efficient method for carrying a number of bikes.
Don't cover up
When fitting anything to your car to carry as an extra load you must ensure your number plate and brake lights remain visible.
Drivers can be fined up to £1,000 for driving with an incorrectly displayed number plate. You can buy number plates to fit to the back of racks if covering your existing plate, particularly with bikes, is unavoidable.
Covering brake lights is also considered to be a major safety risk, which could risk a charge for dangerous driving - particularly if you were to be involved in an accident. Fines for this can rise to a massive £5,000, plus up to nine penalty points, and in extreme cases, motorists could also find they face a temporary driving ban.
Are you insured?
Equipment such as bike racks or roof boxes, says comparison site Uswitch, could be classed as a modification and therefore might not be covered by your existing car insurance policy. Before setting off with any additional load be sure to check with your insurer and take out a supplementary policy if necessary.
Joel Kempson from Uswitch explained: "Using roof boxes and bike racks are a great way of transporting heavy loads, we just need to make sure drivers are aware of the laws and safety concerns around using them.
"It is your responsibility to ensure the weight of your rack is suitable for your vehicle, and that what you are transporting is securely fastened in. The rack should not hinder you while driving, so make sure your vision is not obstructed in any way and everything is secured. It is also important not to impact other drivers around you, so make sure nothing is sticking out in a dangerous manner. We also recommend you take out supplementary insurance if you are not already covered by your existing policy.”
You can check Uswitch's full guide, including some guidance on how to calculate the weight limits, here.