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Yakima tracks / roof rack installation - a success

27302 Views 47 Replies 19 Participants Last post by  wckrause
I have successfully installed Yakima tracks (permanent installation) and roof rack (railrider towers and crossbars) on my base MDX. I now have a versatile and fully adjustable alternative to the factory base carrier that allows me to use all of my Yakima accessories to carry bikes, skis, etc.

Because the crossbars are adjustable on the tracks, I was able to position them further back compared to the fixed Acura base carrier which greatly reduced roof rack wind noise.

If anyone is interested in this type of installation, let me know and I will provide the details.
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Can you provide us with pictures? I'm considering aftermarket roofracks too.
Please let me know any details on install, either here or by mail at [email protected].

I installed the factory rack, but moved the back rack to the rear (spaced about 45 inches apart). That way, I can use to carry a Kayak, but may be too far for skis. Your approach sounds great. Main questions, could you use the original "studs" in MDX or did you have to drill?

Roof Rack Modification

Dear mcclendons

I'm very interested in your post. I await delivery of my 02, where the factory racks are even closer together than the 01. So close in fact that they look useless for carrying my windsurfers.

There is no way I want the Thule clamp on type.

What is involved in moving the factory racks, do you have to drill into the roof, or is there a hidden track ? Details please

I'd also like to see the Yakima details, even if its just a URL link to the yakima web site showing the specific mounts


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I would def. be interested in seeing some pictures and instructions as well. price would be nice to. thanks in advance.
Yakima tracks/roof rack installation

The original grooves and factory bolts could not be used. Yakima tracks are wider than the factory grooves and use different type of attachments, so I had to drill new holes in the roof to attach Yakima tracks.

Although I have successfully performed this type of installation on my previous SUV (Pathfinder), I was a little hesitant about drilling the roof of the MDX because Yakima does not have fit specifications for it at this time. Some careful research was needed to ensure that I would not cause any damage to my MDX.

Prep work:
I first obtained wiring diagrams from the dealer that showed where the wiring harnesses for the sunroof and dome lights run through the roof. I also looked at a page in 2001 MDX brochure showing the schematic of the MDX body structure and roof braces. In addition, I peeled back the flexible trim around the sunroof and looked under the headliner to see what the roof structure looks like under the headliner. All of the above steps allowed me to determine if there were any obvious obstacles to this type of installation. There did not seem to be any.

Installation process:
I placed 42" Yakima tracks on each side of the roof, just on the inside of factory grooves. I used masking tape to carefully measure and layout the position of each track. I then marked hole location and drilled six holes for each track. Plus-nut hardware was then inserted into each hole and tightened using a special tool provided in the package. The plus-nuts are compressed on the inside of the roof, and the tracks can then be attached to them using supplied screws.

Final steps:
Once the tracks were installed, I attached Yakima railriders and cross bars to the tracks. This setup allows the use of all Yakima accessories/attachments as well as attachments from other manufacturers.

Additional notes:
- The tool supplied by Yakima to tighten the plus-nuts is not very good. It is very brittle, for some reason. Mine broke (snapped at threads) twice, so I had to go back to the retailer where I bought the tracks to get the replacement tool on two separate occasions. I was able to finish the job with the second replacement tool.
- While I used 42" tracks, 54" tracks are also available if you need your cross bars to be spread apart farther than approximately 40".
- If you prefer Thule racks over Yakima and/or already have Thule cross bars (square) and accessories/attachments, I believe Thule also makes towers similar to Yakima's railriders that are compatible with Yakima tracks.

I will post some pictures as soon as I get a chance to take them.
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Good deal!

Definitely post pics, i would like to see this setup. Even though I know for a fact that I would have it installed for me since I am too chicken :p **** to drill into the

I am expecting a 02 X and would like to perform this install....look forward to seeing your pics

My problem was much like yours, did not want the clamp ons I could find so I bought the Acura one. When I pulled the covers off the Acura roof and set the racks on, I was amazed at close they were on an 01. No way was it going to carry a 2 person Kayak. Weight is about 65 pounds, but length is about the MDX. So an issue here.

Since you asked what I did......I first give a disclaimer. This is not the way Acura said to install the back rack, nor can I guarantee no problems......but I belive it is more than strong enough and far stronger than my old explorer rack! For use carrying reasonable loads I can't see any problems. I do hope to find some tracks that will fit the grooves though down the road. In other words, do not sue me.........

When I pulled the covers from the two "gutters" on the roof, I saw the four expected studs sticking up for mounting of the rack. Each stud is medium sized, and well welded into roof. I ALSO noticed single studs at the front of the trough and at the very back. I then noticed that the base of the rack is sturdy metal, and rested very well into trough. An idea hit, could I move the back rack to the back studs (and just tighten with one stud per side vs two). On first try, I saw that the rack is too wide, as the troughs go closer together as they go back. I unscrewed the end of the rack off, cut 1 inch from the cross member, and put back together. Perfect fit in the troughs now. I bolted the front rack as described, then did the back rack with just the one stud. Final step was cutting the trough cover to fit. It is one long piece on MDX, and the instructions give cut lengths fro the "factory" install. Since my lengths were different, I measured leaving enough of the covers to fit slightly under the rack bases. Installed the covers, bolted the bases down as described, and pulled on the racks. Back one feels as sturdy as front. Bottom line, no modification to the car (no roof holes). If I pull the racks off or go to original locations, the only new part is the trough cover.

Looks original, no drilling to car, and seems very sturdy. Considering the length of my Kayak, allot safer than trying to use the rack too close together. But once again, my thoughts and my taking the chance with no factory install..........Picture below to give idea of spacing. Good for boards, may be a little long for Skis, have not tried yet.
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Sorry, here is the PIC


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Your solution for carrying long loads (like kayaks) on a modified factory roof rack appears to be usable, provided the rear cross bar is secure enough and assuming you do not need any extra attachments to secure the kayak to the factory cross bars. Unfortunately, it looks like it will not work for carrying bikes and/or skis.

Are those sportwing moldings on your GG MDX or are they Acura moldings from Tim? I ordered mine from Tim recently, and your picture gives me an idea of what they will look like on my Granite Green MDX.

You are probably right about the bike/ski issue on the rack. I belive the skis might make it....a bike rack??????? But for a kayak it is a great spacing and the back rack is as far back as it can be. those were my two main issues. I was just unsure about drilling through the roof, and knew the original rack spacing was a joke. I am hoping someone will come out with tracks that fit the original gutters, until then.... One question on you mount though, what is used to keep the drilled holes from leaking? Would assume they have rubber "gaskets" for the bolts, but in case I have to go that way.....

My door guards are the sportwings. When I ordered mine, there was no sure date on the GG availability, and I did not wait until I had big dents. Am very happy with them, but would be nice if there were a little more tailored at the front (like the Acura ones). very minor gripe though.
...One question on you mount though, what is used to keep the drilled holes from leaking? Would assume they have rubber "gaskets" for the bolts...

The size of the drilled hole is the same as the plus-nut that you insert into it. You are also correct in that there are rubber washers inserted on the plus-nuts. In addition, silicone included in the package is used prior to inserting the plus-nuts into the holes to ensure that there are no leaks.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I have done the same type of installation on my previous SUV (Pathfinder). I have been using this setup with no problems whatsoever for the last 7+ years to carry bikes, skis, and other miscellaneous loads.
As promised, Yakima roof rack pictures - 1

Picture 1 of 3 - roof rack overview


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As promised, Yakima roof rack pictures - 2

Picture 2 of 3 - roof rack closer view


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As promised, Yakima roof rack pictures - 3

Picture 3 of 3 - roof rack detail


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Wow, great job on this, mgmdx! I don't need a solution until the spring (hello, Yakima or Thule, please come up with a factory adapter!!) but this install is brilliant. If nothing changes before then, I may follow your instructions. Thanks.
I have installed these same Yakima tracks on my previous truck cap. This solution worked great for adjusting the Yakima load bars back and forth to allow for different load types.

After looking at your pictures I can see that you chose the shorter tracks. I was hoping that you had the longer tracks that would accommodate enough forward slide for a large roof box carrier like the Yakima Mountaineer. I want to do some measuring to see if I can mount longer tracks so I can mount a large roof box more forward on my MDX and still open the rear hatch without hitting the rear wind spoiler.
Longer (54") Yakima tracks are available


As I mentioned in one of the above posts, longer 54" tracks are also available from Yakima if you need your bars to be spread apart further than approximately 40".

Because 42" tracks are sufficient for me, I did not investigate possible obstacles in the MDX roof for installing longer tracks. Although the installation procedure is similar, additional investigation and prep work is required to ensure that there are no problems (since front portion of longer tracks will run parallel to the sunroof).

If you do decide to install longer tracks, be sure to peel back the flexible headliner molding around the sunroof and pull down the headliner to verify that the drilling and attachment for the longer tracks will not interfere with the sunroof mechanism or other wiring.

Also, if you slide the tracks further back on the roof (closer than approximately 9" from the back edge of the MDX), be sure to verify that the drilling and attachment for the track will not interfere with the 3rd row seat belt mechanism which recoils into the pillars close to the roof.

Good luck.
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Thule does have a factory adapter

I installed the Thule 889 Rack Pack about 5 mos. ago on my Touring MDX and it works great, I will post photos shortly,
but it basically has a front bar that mounts above the front roof rack bar (quite easily). Then the Bike rails attach to that bar and attach to the rear roof rack rail. It goes on quite simply.
I recommend , they have great prices, also, check out
Thanks, cr,

I think I remember a post about this. Thanks for the reminder. I think I checked the Thule site before and it indicated that this would not work with the MDX. Now the site indicates that it does work.:p

I guess my only questions are 1) do you think this solution is just as solid/stable as a typical setup? and 2) does the attaching clip connect in such a way that the trays cannot be removed from the factory rack without keys (or at least abnormal tools)? Thanks, I would love to see the pics when you have a chance.
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