7 Steps to Install a Kayak Rack for Jeep Wrangler

steps to install a kayak rack for jeep wrangler

Kayaking is an exciting and adventurous water sport that requires proper equipment and accessories for a safe and enjoyable experience. If you own a Jeep Wrangler and want to transport your kayak safely, you need a kayak rack. Installing a kayak rack on your Jeep Wrangler may seem daunting, but it is a straightforward process that can be done in 7 easy steps.

To help you install your kayak rack for your Jeep Wrangler, we have compiled a step-by-step guide that covers everything you need to know. From preparing the roof of your vehicle to attaching the crossbars and mounts, our guide will walk you through the entire process. Whether you are a seasoned kayaker or a beginner, our guide will help you transport your kayak safely and securely on your Jeep Wrangler.

Step 1: Choose the Right Kayak Rack

Before installing a kayak rack for a Jeep Wrangler, choosing the right kayak rack that suits your needs is essential. Various types of kayak racks are available in the market, and choosing the right one can be overwhelming. Here are some factors to consider when choosing a kayak rack:

Type of Kayak Rack

There are mainly two types of kayak racks: J-cradles and saddles. J-cradles hold the kayak on its side, while saddles hold the kayak flat on the rack. J-cradles are ideal for longer kayaks, while saddles are best suited for shorter kayaks.

Roof Type

The type of roof on your Jeep Wrangler will determine the type of kayak rack you can install. If your Jeep has a hardtop, you can install any kayak rack. However, if your Jeep has a soft top, you need to choose a kayak rack that is compatible with a soft top.

Kayak Size and Weight

The size and weight of your kayak will determine the type of kayak rack you need. If you have a heavy kayak, you need a kayak rack that can support the weight of your kayak. Additionally, if you have a longer kayak, you need a kayak rack that can accommodate the length of your kayak.

Number of Kayaks

If you plan to transport more than one kayak, you need a kayak rack that can hold multiple kayaks. Some kayak racks can hold up to four kayaks, while others can hold only two.

Step 2: Gather the Necessary Tools and Materials

Before starting the installation process, gathering all the necessary tools and materials is essential. Here are the items you’ll need:


  • Tape measure
  • Socket wrench set
  • Drill
  • Drill bits
  • Screwdriver
  • Pencil
  • Level


  • Kayak rack kit
  • Mounting hardware
  • Silicone sealant
  • Cleaning solution
  • Microfiber cloth

Make sure you have all the tools and materials before starting the installation process. It will save you time and help you avoid unnecessary trips to the hardware store.

The kayak rack kit will come with instructions on how to install it on your Jeep Wrangler. Make sure to read the instructions carefully before starting the installation process. It’s also important to note that the dimensions and setup of your Jeep Wrangler may differ from the instructions provided with the kayak rack kit.

Using a tape measure, measure the space where you want to install the kayak rack. Make sure the measurements match the dimensions provided in the instructions. Use a pencil to mark the spots where you’ll drill the holes.

Clean the area where you’ll install the kayak rack with a cleaning solution and a microfiber cloth. This will help remove any dirt or debris interfering with the installation process.

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Step 3: Remove the Soft Top or Hard Top

To install a kayak rack on a Jeep Wrangler, it is necessary to remove the soft top or hard top. The process for removing the top will vary depending on the top installed on the Jeep. Here are the general steps to follow:

  1. For a soft top, unzip the windows and remove them from the top. Then, release the latches on the front of the top and fold it back. Secure the top using the straps provided by the manufacturer.
  2. For a hard top, remove the rear window and liftgate. Then, use a socket wrench to remove the bolts that hold the top in place. Carefully lift the top off of the Jeep and store it in a safe location.

It is important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for removing the top to avoid damaging the Jeep or the top itself. In addition, it is important to have a safe and secure place to store the top while the kayak rack is installed.

Once the top is removed, the next step is to install the kayak rack on the Jeep. This process will vary depending on the type of kayak rack being installed. It is important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully to ensure the rack is installed properly and securely.

Step 4: Install the Rack Mounting Brackets

To install the rack mounting brackets for the kayak rack on a Jeep Wrangler, follow these steps:

  1. Locate the mounting holes on the roof of the Jeep Wrangler. These holes are usually covered by plastic plugs that can be removed with a flathead screwdriver or a pry tool.
  2. Align the mounting brackets with the holes on the roof. Make sure that the brackets are centered and level before proceeding.
  3. Insert the screws provided with the rack into the mounting holes and tighten them using a wrench or a screwdriver. Be careful not to overtighten the screws, as this can damage the roof of the Jeep Wrangler.
  4. Repeat the process for the roof’s other side, ensuring the brackets are aligned and level.
  5. Once both brackets are installed, attach the crossbars to the brackets using the screws provided with the rack. Tighten the screws until the crossbars are securely attached to the brackets.
  6. Finally, check the installation to ensure everything is secure and tight. Give the crossbars a gentle tug to ensure they are firmly attached to the brackets.

Step 5: Attach the Crossbars

Once the foot mounts have been securely installed, attaching the crossbars is time. This step may vary depending on the construction of your chosen roof rack system. Some systems may require the crossbars to be affixed before attaching them to the foot mount.

Attaching the crossbars to the foot mount is easy for rack systems with a square-shaped mount. However, you may need additional hardware for other systems to secure the crossbars to the foot mount.

It’s important to ensure the crossbars are level and evenly spaced before attaching them to the foot mount. This will help ensure your kayak is securely fastened to the roof rack and prevent unnecessary movement during transport.

Once the crossbars are attached to the foot mount, it’s important to check that they are securely fastened. You can gently tug them to ensure they don’t move or wobble.

Step 6: Install the Kayak Carrier

Once the crossbars have been secured, it’s time to install the kayak carrier onto the roof of the Jeep Wrangler. The following steps will guide you through the process:

  1. Attach the kayak carrier to the crossbars: Most kayak carriers have a clamp or bracket system that attaches to the crossbars. Ensure the carrier is centered and level before tightening the clamps or brackets.
  2. Secure the kayak carrier: Once it is attached to the crossbars, secure it with bolts or screws. Tighten them firmly to prevent any wobbling or movement during transport.
  3. Adjust the carrier: Depending on the size and shape of your kayak, you may need to adjust the carrier to ensure a snug fit. Most carriers have adjustable arms or straps that can be moved to fit different kayak shapes.
  4. Load the kayak: With the carrier securely in place, carefully lift the kayak onto the roof of the Jeep Wrangler and position it onto the carrier. Please ensure the kayak is centered and level before securing it with the carrier’s straps or tie-downs.
  5. Double-check everything: Before hitting the road, double-check that the kayak and carrier are securely fastened and that there is no wobbling or movement. It’s also a good idea to periodically check the straps or tie-downs during transport to ensure they remain tight.

Step 7: Test the Kayak Rack for Stability

After installing the kayak rack, it is crucial to test its stability before hitting the road. Here are a few steps to follow to ensure the kayak rack is stable and secure:

  1. Check the tightness of the straps: Ensure that the straps are tight and secure around the kayak. Loose straps can cause the kayak to shift during transportation, which can be dangerous.
  2. Shake the kayak: Give the kayak a gentle shake to see if it moves or wobbles. If the kayak moves, adjust the straps and try again.
  3. Test the kayak rack on a short drive: Take a short drive around the block to ensure the kayak rack is stable during transportation. Listen for any unusual noises or movements.
  4. Check the kayak and rack after the drive: After the short drive, check the kayak and rack for any signs of movement or damage. If everything looks good, the kayak rack is ready for use.


Installing a kayak rack on your Jeep Wrangler can be straightforward if you follow the right steps. It’s crucial to have the appropriate equipment, including a suitable roof rack system and the right kayak transporter.

By taking the time to prep your roof and choosing the right gear, you can ensure your kayaks’ safe and secure transportation. With a well-installed kayak rack, you’ll be ready to explore new waterways and confidently enjoy the outdoors. So, get out there, embrace the adventure, and make the most of your time on the water.

Related FAQs

Can a Kayak Rack be Installed on a Soft Top Jeep Wrangler?

Yes, a kayak rack can be installed on a soft-top Jeep Wrangler. However, it is important to ensure that the rack is compatible with the soft top and does not cause any damage to it. DIY options like PVC pipes can be used to create a budget-friendly kayak rack for soft-top Jeep Wranglers.

How Many Kayaks Can Be Transported on a Jeep Wrangler?

The number of kayaks that can be transported on a Jeep Wrangler depends on the size of the kayak and the type of rack being used. Most racks are designed to carry one or two kayaks at a time. It is important to check the rack’s weight capacity and the Jeep Wrangler to ensure that it can safely carry the kayaks.

Can a Kayak Rack be Installed on a Jeep Wrangler with a Roof Rack?

Yes, a kayak rack with a roof rack can be installed on a Jeep Wrangler. However, it is important to ensure that the kayak rack is compatible with the roof rack and that the kayak’s weight does not exceed the weight capacity of the roof rack.

How to Secure the Kayaks on the Rack?

Kayaks can be secured on the rack using straps or tie-downs. It is important to ensure that the kayaks are securely fastened to the rack to prevent them from shifting during transport. Using bow and stern tie-downs is also recommended to prevent the kayaks from moving forward or backward.

How to Choose the Right Kayak Rack for a Jeep Wrangler?

When choosing a kayak rack for a Jeep Wrangler, it is important to consider the type of kayaks being transported, the weight capacity of the rack and the Jeep Wrangler’s compatibility with the roof or soft top. It is also important to consider the ease of installation and removal, as well as the durability and quality of the rack.

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