Roof storage security
August 22, 2011 8:09 PM   Subscribe

Multi-part questions about the security of the roof-top luggage box I just installed on my car.

I just installed a roof storage box on the car in advance of an upcoming trip. My questions are these:

1. I've heard there are thieves who specialize in these and carry master keys. Googling didn't find anything. How worried am I about this in places like Bay Area, California, and Portland, Oregon?

2. My Googling for #1 did turn up a *lot* of results about the rack itself getting stolen, though those stories seemed to be almost exclusively about people who had bicycle troughs on the racks. Am I worried about this? If I leave the box on 24-7, does that make it less likely someone will have a go at the rack?

3. The feet where the rack attaches to the car have these hex nuts to tighten the assembly on, and the hex keys conveniently live inside the foot assembly so you don't loose them. This seems like a helping hand to thieves. Is there any reason at all I wouldn't remove the keys from the feet and store them separately?

4. Is it too ridiculous to contemplate leaving the box on full time? The only reasons I'd consider it are (a) storage of the box, and (b) possibly making it harder to steal the racks. The manual says to not drive over 40mph with less than 50lb in the box, so if it does live on there all the time, I'm good with a 50lb bag of playground sand in there, yeah?
posted by colin_l to Travel & Transportation (5 answers total)
Unless your car is really low, having this on your roof all the time will limit what garages and stuff you go into. You will get less gas mileage, and it will probably be a little noisy on the highway.

I have a different rack system (yakima), and they sell locks so that none of the parts are removable without a key. I don't know how circumventable it is, but I've had them on my car for long periods of time, in the city, without any problems. My freaking WHEEL, however, got stolen out of my driveway once. So you know it's not just because I'm in a good neighborhood (yes now I use locking lug nuts).
posted by aubilenon at 8:34 PM on August 22, 2011

You will take an enormous hit on your fuel economy with that box up there. I've seen upwards of a 10-15% loss in mileage with just a roof rack on and wind deflector; No bikes, no box, nothing extra.

I used to be a sales rep in the outdoor industry, so I rotated a Packasport top case on the two vehicles I used to cover my territories with. I typically saw a 20-30% loss in fuel economy with either vehicle. Leave it at home when you're not using it.

As for security, I never had any problems, and my territories covered the SF Bay (Including Oakland) area down to Bakersfield, up to Vancouver including all of Oregon and Washington states. I split two different lock sets for my Yakima racks across the two cars just to make things more difficult. I never had a problem in three years of being a rep and all the other times I had a rack and a box on a vehicle. To be sure, if someone wants your stuff bad enough they'll get it, make no doubt about it. Just never park anyplace where its the most interesting vehicle around and you should be safe.

I haven't heard of the key setup you're describing. Who is the manufacturer? Granted, I haven't been in the market for new racks for years (Yakima was one of the lines I repped) and probably won't be anytime soon. If it is indeed the keys to the locks definitely put them on the same key ring with your car keys. Don't leave them in the car and definitely not on the rack. Better yet leave all copies except for the one on your key chain at home.
posted by chosemerveilleux at 8:40 PM on August 22, 2011

Response by poster: chosemerveilleux - sorry if I wasn't clear, the keys I'm talking about are hex keys, not key-keys.

The feet and bars are all Thule. here's a good picture of the hex key tightening the bolt. When it's all in place, the key slides inside the bolt and the cover drops down from the top. That's the bit where I'm wondering why I wouldn't store the hex key separately.
posted by colin_l at 8:54 PM on August 22, 2011

Best answer: Isn't there a lockable cover that goes over that? Sorry, its been almost twenty years since I owned a Thule rack, but it would seem that while the hex key mechanism secures the feet to the vehicle, something secures the hex key mechanism from the rest of the world, preferably a keyed lockable cover?

I guess if the hex key can be removed without compromising the the setup, and can't be locked in place securely I would remove it. But trust me when I say that any thief above a crackhead looking to get at your bike or whatever is in your box won't even look at the feet; 30 seconds with a handheld torch or a sawzall and your load bars will cut like butter. I have seen that happen at a mountain bike race in Big Bear. Someone hit a half dozen cars that way-never touched the foot mounts for the racks. All you can do is lock it up and not think too hard about it. the locks will keep honest people honest. Hopefully someone else's stuff will keep the dishonest folks away from yours.
posted by chosemerveilleux at 9:25 PM on August 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yeah, it doesn't even need to be a guy with a sawzall.

My son got very interested in picking locks a couple years ago, around age 9 or 10. He saved up and bought the cheapest set of lock picks he could find, carried them around, practiced on things when he had permission. One day, on a group camping trip, another family realized that they'd left the keys to their rooftop box back at home, 2 hours away, and their tent was inside it, and it was almost dark.... My son offered to pick it for them, and got it open almost instantly. We were all aghast at how easy it was.

In other words, any typical rack system lock can be opened within a minute by a child with cheap tools. They're there for your peace of mind and not much else.
posted by richyoung at 11:58 PM on August 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

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