If you are reading this, then you probably love going on adventures in your 4Runner and would love to be able to store gear easier on the roof, but you just can’t justify paying $800-$2000 for a roof rack. That’s where we were… We are are handy family and love some DIY projects, so we figured it would be fun to share our home built roof rack design for the 5th Gen Toyota 4Runner that cost us roughly $190 in materials (and plenty of elbow grease, as always)
- 1in x 2in, 16 gauge rectangular steel tubing – $40
- 1-5/8-in x 13/16-in Half Slot Channel Strut (Qty 8) – $130
- 2in x 2in L channel – $5
- 2in x 1/8in thick steel strap – $5
- 3/8 x 3/4 x 1-Inch tall spacers – $10
Note: These were local hardware store prices, so shop around …but if you can’t find the spacers, amazon sells them, but a bit more pricey.
We decided to use the steel tubing because it is easy to work with, has a good form factor and is actually pretty light for its strength. The steel rack weighed in at 55lbs, which is only 5 lbs heavier than equivalent aluminum 80/20 racks. The other key reason for picking steel, was to be able to weld the strut channel to it. The slotted strut channel make mounting equipment or using tie down straps super nice and easy, it is the biggest selling point really.
Okay, lets get into the good stuff. Here is a drawing we put together that should give you all the dimension you need to build a rack yourself with just an angle grinder (vertical chop saw is very helpful though) and a welder. If you would like a higher resolution PDF, just just send us an email through the contact page.
Cut all of the pieces to their correct lengths, and lay everything out before tacking in place. Make sure everything is square by measuring the diagonals corner to corner. You can choose how high you want to cross bars to be, but we set ours to be 1/4in below the top of the frame. This way it is still relatively flat for large items, yet has a bit of a border so that if we ever strap tubs up there they have an extra layer of protection with the perimeter border to keep them from sliding off.
Once the rack is all tacked together, place it on the roof, and shim it to your desired height. We made it so that the top of the strut cross bars was 1/4 of an inch above the tip of the rear antenna, this made the overall rack 3in tall over the center of the roofline. We also recommend using a level to make the rack parallel to the running boards which are in line with the frame.
Once you have the height set, bolt on the mounts using the OEM bolts and the 1in spacers. The middle and rear mounts can be positioned so that they are contacting the edges of the frame, and are easy to tack in place on the car (using a fire blanket or similar to avoid damaging the paint. Position the front mount so that the small foot rests on the weather stripping. Then either lift the rack 1/8th of an inch, or press down as hard as you can while you tack it in place, this will make the front mount apply pressure to the weather stripping and provide a bit more support (this is exactly how all the big dollar no drill racks do it).
If you want to make a light bar mount, we have provided those on the drawing as well; just scale them up 4x, print out on paper, and tap the paper to the 2in strap steel for cutting.
We used a 38in 210W LED bar, and so far it has been working out great, you can space these out to use whatever width light bar you feel like running.
Once all your welding is done, you can just spray paint the rack for several dollars, but we opted to spray it with truck bed liner. The Rustoleum Truck Bed liner works really well and has a perfect finish for this, one recommendation is to NOT use the cans we tried that are “4X FASTER” as they have a very wide spray pattern which is perfect for large flat surfaces, but wasteful when spraying narrow tubes. Just get two cans of these, and you’ll be happy.
The bed liner finish is perfectly textured to be grippy, but is not going to tear up your hands or gear. It is also durable and seems to be holding up to the Arizona sun very well.
Finally, once you have the rack positioned on the spacers for the final fitment, run a bead of silicone RTV sealer around the spacer, just to help keep water out of the mounting hole threads.
And there you have it, a very durable, very useful, and very affordable home made diy roof rack for your 5th gen 4Runner. We have used ours for many trips now and don’t have a single complaint, Even the wind noise is very minimal (the positioning of the light bar actually helps divert air and avoids any whistling of air between the roof and the rack.
Plenty of room for gear with convenient tie down holes.
Makes strapping down large paddle boards super easy and secure.