Installing a Roof Rack on a 2011-2012 Honda Odyssey

by Michael on July 29, 2012 · 2 comments

I recently installed a cargo rack (roof rails + cross bars) on our 2012 Honda Odyssey. I thought about having it done at the dealer, but their price was ridiculous. Thus, I decided to do it myself. What follows are some notes on the installation.

The main motivation was that we want to be able to mount a cargo box (Yakima SkyBox 21) on top of our Odyssey to free up some space when traveling. We have four kids, so interior space is at a premium on long road trips.

Since this is a straightforward install, and because Honda has provided decent instructions (below), I’m not going to give you the blow-by-blow details. Instead, I’ll hit the highlights and offer some tips that will hopefully make things easier.

Honda Odyssey Roof Rails Installation Instructions: link
Honda Odyssey Cross Bars Installation Instructions: link

Note: The 2011 & 2012 models (and instructions) are essentially identical.

Buying the parts

For starters… The roof rails list for $210 from Honda. You can find them online for around $150 but they are quite long and shipping is quite expensive. Thus, I decided to order them from Amazon where they were available for $200 (no sales tax + free Super Saver Shipping).

As for crossbars, I considered third-party bars. However, the Yakima and Thule bars that I looked at are considerably more expensive than the Honda OEM cross bars and the round bars make a ton of noise if you leave them on when not in use. Yes, you can install a fairing to cut down on the wind noise, but that’s a pain.

Of course, you could opt for the Yakima WhispBars or the Thule Aeroblade bars but these are even more costly. The Honda cross bars list for $163, though you can get them for $140-$150 shipped if you look around. Here again, we ordered from Amazon which (including the free shipping) was very competitive on price.

Note: Amazon’s prices fluctuate so they may or may not have the best deal on any given day. That being said, they’re quite convenient, and their prices are usually competitive.

Tools needed for the job

The recommended tools include:

  • some trim tools (for removing the trim pieces)
  • needle-nose pliers (for grabbing off the retainer clips)
  • a tape measure (for measuring the trims pieces)
  • a Sharpie (for marking the trim pieces before cutting)
  • an air saw (for cutting the trim pieces)
  • a file (for smoothing the cuts; not really necessary)
  • a pair of Torx drivers (T-15 and T-30)
  • a roll of masking tape (to protect the paint when snapping on the rail covers)

The air saw is really optional as you could easily get away with a hack saw. And the air saw requires an air compressor (which I already own, so that’s not an issue). And you could probably get away without proper trim tools, but…

Since I was saving so much by doing it myself, I decided to pick up an air saw and some trim tools (I had everything else on hand). Even with these purchases, I saved a ton vs. having the dealer do the work and I’ll have these tools in the future.

I went with an Ingersoll Rand 429 Heavy Duty Air Reciprocating Saw for $79.00 (plus free shipping). This is a pretty nice saw, though the user manual was useless. Fortunately, it was easy enough to figure out so I was up and running within a few minutes. If I didn’t own an air compressor, I would’ve just used a hack saw.

For the trim tools, I picked up this set from Astro Pneumatic. This set includes a lot more than you’ll need but, again, I’ll have these for future projects. As noted above, I already had everything else so I didn’t need to buy anything more.

Tips for the install

First and foremost, I recommend that you take your time…

Nothing about this install is particularly hard, but you need to be careful not to make dumb mistakes. Take care not to crack the rear molding covers — look carefully and you’ll see how to release them with minimal effort. Measure and mark the trim pieces and then re-measure before cutting. Etc.

Once you have the trim pieces cut and set back in place, I suggest spreading some towels along the length of the roof so you can lay the rails on the roof alongside the gutter without risking paint damage. The same goes for the cross bars when you’re laying them across the roof (after the rails have been installed).

Also note that, when the instructions say to remove any sealant from the base of the stud bolts before installing the Torx nuts, they’re not kidding. This stuff can really get in the way so be sure that you’ve scraped it offer before proceeding.

The only real difficulty that I ran into was that one of the stud bolts had what appeared to be a drop of solder (or something similar) on it so it was very difficult to thread the Torx nut. I eventually got it in but it was hard to tighten. It would’ve been nice to have had a washer to put under it to snug things up, but I made do.

As I was putting things together I used a bit of Loc-Tite thread locker on the stud bolts and Torx screws. I’m hoping that this will stop things from loosening up over time. Only time will tell.

And finally… I highly recommend using the masking tape when snapping on the center rail covers. While you can probably do this without damaging the paint, the tape is a good insurance policy and it only take a few seconds to apply/remove.

Closing thoughts

All in all, I’m very happy with the addition of the Honda roof rack to our Odyssey. It looks great, the cross bars are dead silent even at highway speeds, and it handles our Yakima SkyBox cargo box beautifully — no rear hatch interference!

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