How do I securely fasten a mattress to the roof of a small car?
August 1, 2006 4:11 PM   Subscribe

How do I securely fasten a mattress to the roof of a small car?

I'm helping a friend of mine move, and I'm looking for the best way to secure a full-size (double) mattress to the roof of her car.

I did read this previous AskMe thread, but I'm hoping for a little more advice on the logistics of actually attaching the thing to the roof.

We will be driving the mattress through the city, not on the freeway. Her car is a smallish two-door model and the roof is not very big; one of the things I'm most worried about is the mattress listing forward and covering up the windshield.

Part of me thinks this is too dangerous to attempt, but my friend is too cheap to pay for a van (and too poor, the mattress is about the largest thing she owns), and I think that by driving slowly and carefully along back streets I can minimize the risk to myself and others.
posted by whir to Travel & Transportation (21 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Do you know how to tie knots? Specifically, hitches?

You'll need this knowledge, and some good-quality non-elastic rope, like that pictured on the pile hitch page.

Do you have a roof rack on the car? If not, you'll have to tie to the bar dividing the front and rear doors. Either way, start by tying a good knot here, leaving most of your rope free.

Then, wrap your rope forward over the middle front of the mattress. The rope continues over and down the front middle (now dangling right above the rearview mirror). Pull this very tight and tie a new hitch to the opposite frame/bar of the car. Now you've secured the mattress from slipping forward. Do the same thing for the back end.

Now, put some strapping from about where your hand would grab if you reached out of the drivers' door and palmed the roof, to the opposite side - crossing over the top of the mattress. Do the same at the rear third of the mattress.
posted by odinsdream at 4:18 PM on August 1, 2006

Buy two of these, and you'll find yourself using them over and over again. They allow you to effortlessly attach things to your room so tightly they will NEVER come off.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 4:18 PM on August 1, 2006

Also, I am a moron and didn't read the 2-door part of your question.
posted by odinsdream at 4:19 PM on August 1, 2006

Rent a small truck for the afternoon.

Seriously, $20 seems cheap compared to the aggravation and potential risks of strapping stuff to the roof. I bet you'll cut time in half too because you can make fewer trips.
posted by ilsa at 4:30 PM on August 1, 2006 [1 favorite]

ilsa: I have to thank you for showing me an official US Military website that includes the phrase "plucked from the numbskull layer of the gene pool." I would never have guessed that such a thing even existed.
posted by CrayDrygu at 5:00 PM on August 1, 2006

stupidsexyflanders is right on the money. Once that mattress is positioned and tied down, it WON'T move.
posted by snsranch at 5:15 PM on August 1, 2006

Kevin Kelly's most recent Cool Tools has some cool tie down thingies. Actually, they have new ones about every week.

heavy duty cam straps

Probably overkill, but still not too expensive.
posted by mecran01 at 5:34 PM on August 1, 2006

Oh you are more than welcome, Cray! =)

Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words, and frankly that site has many many thousand-word pictures.
posted by ilsa at 5:51 PM on August 1, 2006

I always use an overabundance of rope. It never looks good and its certainly not efficient but the more places its tied down the less places it can come undone.
posted by pwally at 6:10 PM on August 1, 2006

If you can be quick about it go to the nearest Home Depot and rent the pick up for $19.00 for an hour, and not only move the mattress, but some other large stuff.

Either that or slap it on the roof, open the drivers side window and hold it on with the palm of your hand. I've seen it work at highway speeds.
posted by Gungho at 6:26 PM on August 1, 2006

About ten years ago, my wife had this exact same problem. We lived far out in the country, and the nearest store with decent prices ( furniture stores in small towns can be hilariously expensive) was about 2 hours away.

By Interstate.

So the wife and I took our 2-door Mazda MX6 ( a small car, to say the least) and drove to town.

We put it on the roof, tied it over the mattress and through the open windows and through the car itself about 50 times. Basically, we tied the mattress on - and tied the doors shut. Then we crawled in "Dukes of Hazard" style and drove home.

Of course, all the way home, we put our hands out the windows and held it down, like that would help. Anyway, we made it.

On a lighter note, my brother-in-law bought a huge television/entertainment center a few years ago. Paid somewhere around 5,000 for it. Instead of paying 25 bucks for guaranteed delivery, he simply put it in the back of his truck and drove off. At a speed of about 65 miles an hour, he looked back to see the entire box lift up, flip over, and smash all over the road.

Moral of the story - use lots of rope, and tie that sucker down good. Wind currents can be tricky.
posted by bradth27 at 7:18 PM on August 1, 2006 [1 favorite]

And when I say "attach things to your room," of course, I don't mean to minimize the powerful advantages of gravity over ratchet straps for such a task. For keeping things on a roof, though, get strappy.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 7:19 PM on August 1, 2006

I've tied, separately, a loveseat and a large tv table to the top of a four door Honda Civic. Use lots of rope. Slow and steady. You'll be fine.
posted by muddgirl at 7:58 PM on August 1, 2006

I did this last year when moving a few miles across town. I went to the store and bought one of these bungie cord things. I think it was called a spider or something like that. Basically it had multiple bungie cords that all came together on the same ring in the middle. Look for it in the automotive section of a big box store; it held my mattress and kitchen table on top of my Accord while i stuffed my desk in the back.

FWIW, I moved these items in the middle of the night and drove sloooow. But I could have probably drove normally, everything was actually really secure. I think it may have just been the potential embarrassment factor of the whole thing.
posted by tev at 7:59 PM on August 1, 2006

I recently saw four men riding in a four door sedan with an arm through the windows each holding onto a corner of a mattress on the roof. Of course they lost their grip when the car stopped at an intersection.

Not helpful to your situation, except perhaps as an example of what not to do.
posted by randomstriker at 2:13 AM on August 2, 2006

This will work much better if you use a car with a dedicated roof rack with a fairing (like this). Tie the mattress as securely as you can, just behind the fairing. That will help make sure air flows over, and not under, the mattress, keeping it much more securely fastened to the roof of the car.

If you don't have such a rack, you could probably construct your own fairing out of some plywood or something. The key is just to put something solid and angled in front of the mattress to create a situation where air just naturally wants to flow up and over.
posted by dseaton at 4:46 AM on August 2, 2006

Rent a truck. The cost of a loss is far less than the investment in a truck.
posted by plinth at 7:09 AM on August 2, 2006

Screws and glue. Seriously, second the heavy duty cam straps. No knot tying involved, just open the doors, throw it over the mattress and tighten it up until the mattress doesn't move when you push/pull hard on it. You'll be fine.
posted by electroboy at 10:07 AM on August 2, 2006

As Odinsdream highlighted, do not use elastic rope or bungee cords, even fancy ones like the ones tev describes. You can stretch and hook a bungee cord to the point that you think there's no more give, but then once you start driving, the wind WILL make the bungee cord stretch more than you thought possible. (once you start driving at more than, say, 20 miles an hour, the mattress becomes a huge sail. A huge, unsecured sail sliding around on top of your car as it rumbles over triboro bridge). Once that happens, count yourself lucky if you can still catch the mattress with your arm sticking out the window before it slides off your car onto the next lane of traffic.

I speak from experience.
posted by hhc5 at 12:27 PM on August 2, 2006

Hi all... Thanks for the advice. As some quick responses: the car doesn't have a roof-rack, and with my friend not willing to shell out for a truck rental, the chances of her getting one just for this purpose is pretty low. About the truck rental, part of the reason she's reluctant is that she's already moved basically everything except the mattress in her car; the mattress is about the only thing left. At any rate, we will likely attempt this little adventure tonight or tomorrow - I am doing one-handed pushups in the meantime to make sure my right arm is strong enough to hold it on the roof. I'll post back with the results.
posted by whir at 1:23 PM on August 2, 2006

I thought that was what the buttons were for...

Whatever you choose to do, make sure it does *not* involve any portion of your anatomy. We don't want to see an AxMe next week that starts "I need suggestions for clothing that conceals the fact that I lost an arm last week...".

I know you said she hasn't much money, but depending on how far you have to move it, note that in some markets, Home Despot rents F350 stake bed pickups for, like $20 an hour.
posted by baylink at 3:53 PM on August 2, 2006

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