As old man winter settles in, we find ourselves looking for activities to get us through the low temperatures and white fluffy snow on the ground. To make the most of the long, cold winter months many make their way toward the mountain tops with skis, snowboards, toboggans, and other various snow sports gear atop their vehicles.

Unfortunately, for these drivers, there’s more to worry about on their journey to the slopes than icy roads and inclement weather. According to a recent study by the American Automobile Association (AAA) over a 4 year period, almost 200,000 crashes, 39,000 injuries and more than 500 deaths were caused by objects falling from another vehicle or object. These accidents may have occurred, in part, from improper installation of or poor quality roof racks. Thankfully, many of these accidents can be avoided with proper care and precaution.

The most widely accepted test mode for roof racks is ISO: 11154. Products are tested on a SLED which simulates the impact of a vehicle crash. The roof rack is loaded with a set amount of weight and is accelerated to a minimum of 8 G’s and a minimum speed of 10 mph which mimics a low-speed city crash. Tests can be re run at various speeds and amounts of acceleration to simulate crashes of different magnitudes.

This winter season, Calspan, an independent testing facility based in Buffalo, NY, wants to help you avoid becoming a statistic.

Like most products, not all devices are created equal. Fortunately, there are standard test procedures that manufacturers can voluntarily put their products through to help you, the consumer, make the most educated decisions when purchasing a roof rack for your vehicle. Choosing to use a rack that has passed crash test standards allows you to put yourself and others on the road out of harm’s way in the unlikely event of a vehicle accident. Products that pass the standard are least likely to become a projectile on the road.

The most common standardized roof rack crash test explores what happens to the rack and its contents if a vehicle accident occurs. Testing a product allows manufacturers to collect data, allowing to help them build the safest version of their product.

Calspan’s lab is approved to run these tests and has experienced everything from catastrophic failures to extremely robust systems. During the test, a roof rack system is attached to Calspan’s Hyge SLED systemwhich simulates a vehicle crash impact and monitors various data points on the product. The most widely accepted test uses impact speeds of 10-mph, however, this test can be run repeatedly at various speeds, weights, and forces.

Calspan’s recommendations for ensuring safe travel while using a roof rack system:

  1. Check your vehicle manual to make sure that the roof is rated to handle the load you are about to add to the system. Don’t forget to include the weight of the rack and the approximate weight of the cargo you’d like to secure.
  2. When purchasing a roof rack, check to see if the product has been tested to meet any safety standards. Typically, you can find this information on the manufacturer’s website.
  3. Don’t exceed any weight limits for the roof or the roof rack system.
  4. If you need to stack your cargo, place heavier items on the bottom and keep lighter objects towards the top to help balance and distribute the load.
  5. Before leaving your driveway, know how tall the added cargo makes your vehicle. This will help you avoid entering tricky situations where your clearance is limited, like in a parking ramp.
  6. After driving with your system connected to your vehicle, be sure to check all bolts and connections to ensure nothing has loosened up over the first few miles of use.
  7. Drive with caution! The added weight on top of the vehicle will alter the center of gravity of the vehicle, your car may drive differently around turns, cornering, braking, and accelerating.

Calspan is the go-to resource for roof rack manufacturers crash testing needs.  Their capable lab has the proper test equipment and infrastructure to mount any type of roof rack product (basket, cargo carrier, ski rack, bike rack, etc.) to its SLED system to simulate a crash.  To learn more about SLED Testing or Vehicle Crash Testing, please visit or contact us.

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Company News Mobility & Safety