Can You Put A Kayak On A Car Without A Roof Rack? An Ultimate Guide

Have a roof rack on your automobile, and you are ready to go with your kayak everywhere. But what if you don’t have one? Can you put a kayak on a car without a roof rack?

Traveling with kayaks is not an easy task. However, you can always find the solution in any case. If you have no idea, we will be glad to help.

can you put a kayak on a car without a roof rack

In this article, you can discover step-by-step instructions and extra tips to transport with your car. Let’s check! 

Can You Put A Kayak On A Car Without A Roof Rack? 

Yes, you can. You need pool noodles or any other soft polyurethane tube as long as they have a hole in the core to replace the rack. 

They are available at supermarkets, hardware stores, and outdoor retailers.

The pool noodles should be thick, sturdy, and wide enough to cover the width of your car’s roof.

Then, they can give a flexible and robust base for supporting the kayak while preventing accidental damage to the vehicle’s roof.

Additionally, you need straps with cam buckles or ratchets to wrap around things and then tighten them to secure them.

can you put a kayak on a car without a roof rack
Pool noodles can replace roof racks.

After gathering all the essential tools, you can transport your kayak to your car with the pool noodles by following these steps: 

Step 1: Secure the pool noodles

Check that the pool noodles are the appropriate length for your car. You’ll have to cut the noodles to fit if there is a lot protruding. 

Depending on your car’s roof size, lay a pool noodle every three feet or so. Make sure to put one in the middle and one at each of the back and front. 

When the pool noodles are in position, pull one pair of your ratchet straps through the loop in the middle of the noodles and through your vehicle’s interior through the doors before tightening them. 

Step 2: Place the kayak on the pool noodles

Lay your kayak on top of your car once the pool noodles are in place. Since kayaks are bulky and difficult to handle, you should ask your friend for help. 

The kayak should now be upright with the cockpit facing down.

Put the kayak onto your car’s hood with one person at each end to let it sit in the middle on the pool noodle.

Step 3: Tie the kayak with straps

Once the kayak is in its position, secure it. You need to open the doors of the car and pass your ratchet straps over your kayak’s front end.

Then, use the ratchet strap for holding the straps in place after attaching them inside your car.

Remember to tighten the straps as you run them through your car to stop them from wailing loudly while driving.

Repeat with the kayak’s back end. Please remember that if you tighten the ropes too much, you risk damaging both your vehicle’s roof and the kayak’s hull.

Install the buckles in an easy-to-access position so you can adjust them on the fly. The buckles are highly helpful when you drive in a cold climate as you need to adjust the loosened straps during your trip.  

can you put a kayak on a car without a roof rack
Use ratchet straps to tie.

Step 4: Secure the stern and bow 

The kayak can’t move from side to side because of the straps holding it in place, but you now need to stop it from sliding forward and backward.

If you urgently need to brake, your kayak won’t slip off the roof with proper security. 

So, insert another set of straps through the kayak’s front toggles, also called its carry handles, to firmly secure it.

Then, use a carabiner or fastening hook to fasten them to the tie-down hooks below your car.

You can apply the same method to the rear with the rate handles and the towing hook to tighten the straps.  

Extra Tips For Transporting A Kayak Without A Roof Rack 

Follow the instructions above, and you can secure your kayak on your car without the rack properly. The following tips will help you do it better. 

Do not overtighten

Don’t pull the straps too tightly. Your kayak may tilt if the straps put too much stress on it, particularly if you have a plastic hull. 

Long-term bending of your kayak can harm the hull and affect its performance while moving on the water.

Deal with the weather

Don’t pull the straps too tightly. Your kayak may tilt if the straps put too much stress on it, particularly if you have a plastic hull.

Long-term bending of your kayak can harm the hull and affect its performance while moving on the water.

Humidity and heat can ruin the straps. Hence, check your ratchet straps for any weakening before traveling if you drive from a warmer to a colder region or if you have left them out in the rain for a long period. 

Handle the frayed straps

Ratchet straps have nylon ends that might fray over time, making it very difficult to thread them through the buckles.

You can solve this problem by carefully laying the frayed tip of the strap over an open flame while applying some pressure without letting it touch your skin.

The straps will be much easier to tighten because it is reasonably simple to force the melted nylon into form. 

Other Methods Of Transporting A Kayak Without A Roof Rack 

If you can’t pool noodles, these alternatives can work well. 

Foam blocks

Foam blocks are a simple and affordable alternative to setting the kayak on your car roof and tying it down is to use foam blocks.

You require two medium-sized blocks, one placed at your kayak’s bow and the other at the stern.

The foam blocks should have a V-shape or curve that can surround the kayak. This protection prevents your gear from sliding. 

The blocks come in different sizes and styles. The bigger they are, the better. You need more surface area for the best fit. 

Kayak trailer

Trailers for kayaks have grown in popularity lately. People adore not having to raise the boat above their heads.

Instead, it’s always lower than your waist height when using the trailer. 

The kayak trailer offers two benefits:

  • You don’t have to worry about your kayak damaging your car or falling off the roof. 
  • The enhanced aerodynamics improve your gas mileage. 

PVC pipes

PVC pipes are flexible tools because they can work for different purposes. They will also help you transport your kayak. 

You can use the pipe as a temporary kayak roof rack by placing it perpendicularly across the crossbars and securing it with U-bolts.

Read more: Shoulder Pain After Kayaking: Why and How to Prevent It

How to Transport Two Kayaks Without a Roof Rack? 

The methods we have discussed above for transporting one kayak can also work with two kayaks.

The difference is that you will add one more kayak. The guide will change depending on how you place the kayaks. 

Here are the best ways to deal with two kayaks at the same time:

  • Pool noodles: Set the noodles in the same way as described earlier. 

Then, lay two kayaks side by side if the roof is wide. Otherwise, stack one kayak on the other with two more noodles cut to size. 

  • Foam block: For big cars, buy foam blocks and lay them side by side.

If the blocks have a V shape, load the kayak on its side for more room on the roof. 

  • Kayak trailer: The trailer offers the option of loading two kayaks effortlessly. It depends on what type of trailer you choose.


If you don’t have a roof rack on your car, you can still put your kayak. You can use pool noodles, foam blocks, kayak trailers, or PVC pipes.

These tools will secure your gear safely and prevent it from sliding off or damaging your car. 

You can apply the same method if you have to transport two kayaks. Remember to do it cautiously so your car and kayaks will be safe. 

Hopefully, our guide has helped with your kayak transportation.

Thank you for reading! 

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