Can I transport a ping pong table on top of a minivan?
July 28, 2010 8:19 AM   Subscribe

Can I transport a ping pong table on top of a minivan?

Hi; this afternoon (thanks to craigslist) I've arranged to take a look at a beat-up old ping pong table ($50) which I might buy to put in the unfinished basement of our vacation cottage. The table folds in the middle and is the standard size.

I'm trying to figure out whether I can just strap the table on top of the luggage rack on our Dodge Grand Caravan minivan, or whether it's necessary to rent a 10 foot U-Haul truck to move it. I'm in a rural Wisconsin, and the table is in the next town over, about 20 miles away.

Any thoughts?
posted by landlubber to Travel & Transportation (11 answers total)
Definitely. Wrap it in a sheet and tie it down with some canoe straps or a ton of rope and bungie cords. Stay off the highway if you're really nervous about it.
posted by Think_Long at 8:24 AM on July 28, 2010

My experience with anything large, stiff, and flat on a roof will try extremely hard to become airborne. Like when you hold your flattened hand out of a moving car's window and it gets pushed up by the onrushing air..., times a billion.

In theory, if it's latched down well enough and you go slow, it will work. But do you really want to be the person that causes a ping pong table to fly up and then down into the vehicle behind you (or passing you) causing damage or much much worse? No, I thought not.

I'd look into a "man and a van" by the hour to drive it to the new place.
posted by qwip at 8:26 AM on July 28, 2010

The only way you should consider this is with ratchet style tie-downs -- as qwip warns, it will try very hard to act like a wing. Rope will shift and bungee cords absolutely will not hold. Even then you might want to consider how likely it is to rip the luggage rack right off the roof of your car. If it's just screwed into the sheet metal it might not hold.

Home Depot rents trucks and vans by the hour and I've used that a couple of times; probably cheaper than the Uhaul for a quick run like this.
posted by localroger at 8:37 AM on July 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

Remember that air resistance has a component with rises with the velocity and another component which rises with the square of velocity. If you must do this, attach some kind of sloped wind break at the front of the roof, or put the table on in a wedge formation, such that the front of the table is very, very close to the roof and the back of the table is higher up.

I do not know if duct tape on your paint job is a good idea, but a tape barrier between the roof and the table could prevent air from getting under the table and trying to lift it off. A "wedge" attachment of the table would, with that in mind, force the table down onto the roof.

Drive slowly, in any case.
posted by adipocere at 8:38 AM on July 28, 2010

Attach it well and drive slowly, it will be fine. Of course it may just fit inside the minivan - a folded ping pong table isn't actually that huge.
posted by ecurtz at 8:43 AM on July 28, 2010

Ratchet straps, drive slow, stay off the freeways. On the way home from work yesterday, I passed a minivan in the breakdown lane that had a mattress halfway hanging off its roof. They had attached it with some skinny rope and a couple of bungie cords. Don't do that - disaster was narrowly avoided!
posted by rtha at 8:46 AM on July 28, 2010

A folded ping pong table is 4.5' by 5'. I'm pretty confident that you can fit it in the back of your Caravan if you take out the seats and put it in at an angle. Otherwise, you'll be fine with tight straps (tight enough that you can't move the table at all).
posted by ssg at 9:06 AM on July 28, 2010

I tried it once with a table top about that size. Even at slow speeds the table wanted to be airborne until the forces bent the formidable hooks on the bungees, the bungees then whipped around over the car until the hooks hit my rear window like a shotgun blast covering my kids with pebbled glass. I then had to calm my family, look like an idiot and call for a truck from the highway.

Call for the truck first.
posted by lpsguy at 9:42 AM on July 28, 2010

a Grand Caravan?? holy hell those things are HUGE inside if you remove the rear seats. They'll take a 4x8' sheet of plywood lying down!!

seriously, just take out the rear seats/captain's chairs (it's easy) and put the damn thing inside. Dodge minivans are positively cavernous inside, bigger than some small pickups. I have driven 5-6 bike racers, their bikes, and all their gear INSIDE a Grand Caravan, to races that were several hours away, with no squishing or discomfort.
posted by lonefrontranger at 10:05 AM on July 28, 2010

Given that most ping pong tables are made of particleboard, the table itself may not survive the loads placed on it when attached to the roof, especially if anything gets wet. I've had trouble with screws popping out of the particle board just from stress by playing on it. I transported a similar one inside our van without much trouble though. Good luck.
posted by pappy at 10:40 AM on July 28, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks everyone. It turned out that the seller was desperate enough to get rid of his table that he offered to let us borrow his pickup truck (which was good since I think the thing would have been pretty untransportable otherwise).
posted by landlubber at 1:02 PM on July 29, 2010

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