21 December 2009

DIY: tie down anchors for modern cars

Like most kayakes I travel to destinations where I paddle.
Probably very few paddlers are lucky enough to live close to the water so launching the boat does not involve transporting it.
Even fewer, if not launching from home, are willing to catch public transport to get to their paddling destination with their own kayak (actually I know only of Dubside that does it).
So, like majority of sea kayakers, I transport my boats with my own vehicle.

When I was shopping for a new car one of my priorities was that it would have decent roof racks.
I primarily intended to car top mountain bikes.
Only later on I found that to safely transport sea kayaks I would need to tied down the bow.
My car, being a relatively efficient vehicle that does not guzzle insulting amounts of gasoline, it's shaped to offer less wind resistance.
With that comes a front end that is rather round and with no anchor points, unlike some chunky urban warrior vehicles :-)
I have a few spots under the car where I could attach a rope but that would rub right across the plastic bumper and probably wear off the paint.
Fortunately one day I saw somebody else with the perfect solution: an anchor point that was off the car's under hood ("bonnet" in Australia).

Holden (Opel) Zafira's front end with webbing for tie down.
All I needed was a simple section of flat webbing and a washer.
The strap is 5" long, folded in half to create a loop.
I used a nail, heated up on a flame, to poke a hole through the webbing of the strap and the same time seal the hole and preventing fraying of the fibres.
Most times the bolts that mount the mudguards to the body of the car might be just in the perfect location for an tie-down anchor point.
In my car the hood is very "slopy" and I need a very forward anchor point: I drilled a hole closer to the end of the hood .
I used stainless steel hardware so I would not have corrosion problems later on.

The webbing loop can be tucked away under the hood when not in use.
My friend Greg Schwarz however has made a more sophisticated anchor point.
He fabricated a bracket of stainless steel that has been shaped and polished to match the car's look.

Once I had a closer look at the bracket I realized that a lot of work went into it.
It's shaped so it will fit under the hood and has a welded rib for strength.

Like anything else that Greg does his anchor point is obviously deluxe!

Anchoring a bow of a sea kayak is often overlooked and not many people do it.
I usually don't bother anchoring mine unless I envision driving the car on the freeway.
My roof rack is drilled to the body of the car (factory) and the chance of that failing is extremely remote.
However, aftermarket roof racks that are held against a car by simple brackets and don't have a solid bolt anchoring them to the roof are way more prone to be dislodged at high speed and in strong cross winds.

PS 31JAN10
The above article has been reproduced with permission at Adventure Kayak Magazine


  1. Excellent! I'm copying the steel one.

  2. Thanks for this! Put two loops on my Jeep Liberty to haul two canoes into Northern Saskatchewan. Worked great!

  3. First one is a horrible idea. Cheap poly webbing with a screw and washer though a non-structural piece of automotive sheet metal. Hit a bump and you're likely to rip it right off. At minimum you should be using a standard bolt location as the bolts are backed with a weld-nut that has some strength. Webbing has no strength with a hole and washer type affair. You're relying on the sealed end so it does not unravel! Instead it should be looped. The way Greg did it is proper. You can buy proper webbing anchors that are made for this purpose and certified for a lot more than a 10mm fender bolt.

    1. hmm, partially valid observation.
      The webbing is indeed a bit suss ( I have replace that since) but the anchor spot has merit: it's not just a sheet metal screw but a bolt with a nut. Ripping that one out would require more force than any tie-down rope could offer (short of a large steel cable) so that would not be your weakest link. But ultimately the whole thing is just a BACK-UP security measure, not the primary retaining method. The straps across the kayak onto the roof rack bars are the ones that take the load, these are just security measures in case the primary straps (or rack) fail. I think I will notice that something is amiss if the main straps are loose/gone and stop the vehicle and check before hitting that "bump".
      I have seen the commercial offerings and unfortunately they don't look any more sturdy than my set up; but hey, if it's commercial it must be better, right? ;-)
      If you are going to go fully kosher, Dyneema straps would be desirable.

      So, what do you use?


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