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Prefabricated roof racks can be super expensive – we have done the research! 

But what can you do if you need a roof rack but can’t afford one for your van? First, don’t panic! Keep reading this article to read about what we discovered when we did some research into alternative and more affordable solutions.

Unistut Van Roof Rack

Why Use Unistrut?

Before we go any further, let’s look into the multitude of benefits of using a strut system for your van.


One of the biggest benefits is that it is less expensive than other roof rack systems. You may be able to find racks that are cheaper again, but it is unlikely that they will have the same strength as most racks at the lower end of the price range tend to just have crossbars. 

Unistrut, on the other hand, comes with a complete frame and rail which will add some durability and strength to your rack. 

One other thing to bear in mind when discussing cost is any import fees that you need to pay to get hold of your desired roof rack system. Keep in mind that shipping costs, different currency values, and import fees will quickly rack up the price!


The strut channel that the roof rack comes with allows for a whole host of different connections. The only thing that will limit how you rack up your van is your imagination!

How Do You Set Up The Unistrut Van Roof?

When you first look at the Unistrut Van Roof, it is difficult to understand just what you are looking at! Follow these quick steps to properly attach your Unistrut Van Roof every time.

Promaster Factory Roof Rack Stud Mounts

The 136 Ram ProMaster is manufactured with stud mounts. There will be 6 in total. These are ideal for easy installation as this system is penetration-free.

You can even get creative with the multitude of other accessories ready to be mounted on your roof, thanks to the Roof Rack Mount Adapter.

Promaster Roof Rack Mount Adapters

  • Vantech Promaster Adaptor Kit: The stainless steel adaptor from Vantech is one of the most popular adapters at the moment. You can purchase them straight from Vantech or from other van upfitters – both online and in-store.
  • Unaka Gear Promaster Roof Rack Bracket: With a brand-new bracket design that has been built with DIYers in mind, the Unaka Gear Company Promaster Roof Rack Bracket is another solid mount adapter for the Unistrut rack. Milled with CNC and a black oxide coating finish, this is a great quality bracket that stands out in its price point.
  • DIYvan Impact Products: Impact Products or DIYvan has recently come out with a roof rack adapter for the Ram Promaster. It is CNC milled and made from fire and UV-resistant PVC. This bracket is available in black for a sleek and sophisticated finish.
  • KARGOMASTER 4089P Cargo Rack Mount Kit: Unlike other kits mentioned on this page, the KARGOMASTER Cargo Rack Kit is not universal. But it is still compatible with the Unistrut rack system! You can still use this kit with crossbar designs or your own DIY setup.
  • Weather Guard Promaster Channel Kit: Finally, we have the Weather Guard Promaster Channel Kit. This kit comes with the rails that run the length of your van, so you know that everything is included.

What To Think About When Including A Roof Rack To A Ram ProMaster

With any DIY or van upgrade, there are some things that need careful consideration to prevent disaster!

Here is a list of some of the things that we like to think about when installing a roof rack.

Weight Limits Or Maximum Load

Before you do anything, you need to make sure that you have read and understood the FCA Body Builder Instructions and ProMaster Design recommendations. These documents hold very important safety information including the maximum load and other weight limitations.

As a ballpark figure, the maximum load is 150 kg. This is around 330lb. Keep in mind that this weight also includes the weight of the roof rack and the maximum weight will stay the same, no matter what your wheelbase length is.


We are all victims of physics!

The addition of roof-mounted storage in the form of a roofrack will make some alterations to your van’s center of gravity. While this may not seem like a significant difference, there will be some changes to your vehicle’s handling.

Anyone who is aware that they have a Brake Late And Turn (BLAT) driving style should either think about changing their driving techniques or forgo roof-mounted storage altogether.

Whatever you decide to do, remember that you should always operate within the maximum load and weight limits of your vehicle.

How To Build A DIY Unistrut For Your ProMaster Van

Unistrut Van Roof Rack

Now we have gone through some of the more technical aspects of an Unistrut roof rack, just how do you build one?

Here is how we built ours. Before you begin your own DIY journey, we recommend that you conduct your own research to find out what is feasible and safe for you and your purposes.

Potential Issues

Before we started building, we thought about what design we would like to go for in building this roof rack. We then compiled a list of issues that we were likely to encounter.

  • Design: We wanted a low-profile design. So ideally we would have mounted the strut channel straight on top of the roof rack mounts. However, this meant that the crossbars were hitting the roof. To stop this from happening but to still keep the roof rack low-key, we created inch-wide spacers so that the rails were slightly lifted. This kept the bars clear of the roof without sticking up too much.
  • Maximum load: In order to get the most out of having a roof rack, we tried to keep the weight of the rack as low as possible so that it didn’t eat into the maximum load. We decided to use the narrowest gauge strut channel we could get hold of. In an ideal world, this strut would be made of aluminum, but these are not always possible to get to source.
  • Color: We are not saying that you should go for fashion over function, but we still wanted our rack to have a nice appearance! We created a professional looking finish by powder-coating the channel with a good color choice. We went for one that was the closest match to our van that we could find. We decided against spray-painting because it can be costly, time-consuming, with little drying time payoff.


  • Socket and wrench
  • Compact band saw
  • ⅜ inch fender washer
  • ⅜ inch bold
  • 5/16 inch carriage bolts – use two made from stainless steel if possible.
  • 5/16 inch stainless steel fender washer
  • Strut channel nuts – otherwise known as a smart nut
  • Sharpie paint pen

1. Gather all your materials and make sure that they are cut to your required size.

Generally, we recommend that you start with Unistrut’s basic channel. This is a standard strut channel, and we found that Lowe’s was the cheapest store for us, but you can get them from a number of different places. We bought four in total.

Two were not trimmed and kept to their original length and used for the side rails. We cut the other two for the crossbars so that they were 56 ½ inches long. We used a compact band saw to make this job super easy!

2. Powder coating

Find a color that is as close to a match to your van’s color as possible. This will keep your DIY project looking professional and sleek. It will also help any unsightly alterations to your van become camouflaged.

Don’t forget about the little details. We painted the brackets an accent color so that they stayed with the color scheme. 

3. Rail spacers

You can buy spacers, but we decided to build our own. We did this with fairly long 2-inch carriage bolts and some 1-inch pieces of 1-inch x 2.5 inches of aluminum tubing. 

4. Painting hardware

Painting your hardware is a quick and easy way to make sure that your finished project is finished to a high standard.

To make sure that the paint property adhered to the washers and bold heads, we scuffed them up with a rough pad to scuff over the surface. This got rid of enough shine that the paint set and dried properly. Spacers can be painted by following the same steps.

5. Assembly

Now it is time for everyone’s favorite bit – fitting everything together!

You really do need to have a quick read of the manual before you get going. This will help make sure that you don’t forget anything and following a set procedure is far easier than trying to work it out for yourself!

One thing we did notice is that the Vantech Roof Mount Adapter slots from the exterior at the bottom – that caused some head-scratching! We also found it easier to not tighten up the all the adapters for the roof mount before you are sure that everything is square.

Going round each screw in turn and gradually tightening worked best for us.

Smart Nuts: The Allstrut Smart Nuts are available from a number of different retailers and they are a lot easier to work with. Using these nuts definitely saved us a good chunk of time. We also found that the polyflange is truly unbreakable and did not scratch the freshly painted powder coating.

On the subject of paint protection, you do need to work quite carefully to avoid scratching up your new paint job.

We kept the Unistrut channels that were used as roof rack rails on the top of our van while we were installing, and we ended up scratching because the carriage bolts had rubbed on the roof. To avoid this, try using some a bit of foam gasket in the gap created by the bolts.

6. Touch up any areas

No matter how careful you are, it is inevitable that you will scratch up some or part of your rack and van while you are installing.

Clean up or mask these scratches quickly and easily with a Sharpie paint pen.

7. All done!

A DIY rack is not going to have the same sleek or tidy finish as a commercial set or one that is installed professionally. That said, our rack did not set us back $100s and looks pretty similar, even close up. 

Keep in mind that black brackets and a color that is close to your van’s color for the paint or powder coating will look the most professional when you are done.

What Should I Put On The Roof?

Now you have installed your roof rack, what exactly are you going to be putting on it? This is the perfect time to invest in some accessories – who doesn’t love roof-mounted extras?

A good rooftop box should be at the top of everyone’s list. Rooftop boxes are a great way to store things that you don’t need on a daily basis. On the roof, they are secure but out of your way.

You could also go for some water storage on your roof. Again, this would allow you to store more water outside the body of your van without it benign too far away and inconvenient.

If renewable energy is more your thing, why not look into photovoltaic or solar panels? You could wire up the panels to provide your van with hot water or electricity, depending on what type of panels you go for.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Unistrut?

Unistrut products have been around since 1924, but what are they? Unistrut, in the context of van roof racks, are the metal frames that are easily connected with a spring nut and bolt.

These frames, nuts, and bots are connected together to create a single slotted channel that does not need to be welded together.

Because it does not need to be welded, Unistrut frames are reusable and can be connected in an infinite number of ways. 

Can I Use Unistrut for my Roof Rack?

Because it is lightweight but strong, Unistrut is a great option to build a roof rack. It is connected via nuts and bolts and features a continuous slotted channel which makes installation and connecting everything up super easy.

Remember that you don’t need to weld or drill Unistrut at all, and it is easily adjustable. This makes it a great option for DIYers.

How Tight Should my Roof Rack Be?

It is rare for a manufacturer to give a specific torque specification for their roof rack.

This just means that the manufacturer has not given you a single tightness unit for you to get to. You will need to exercise your own judgment to decide if your rack is tight enough.

There should be no movement in the bars or feet of your rack once you have finished tightening. If there is any movement at all, you need to go back and tighten them up again. If there is no movement, then you are good to go.

If you notice that your roof rack is bending or flexing but is not moving, you have overtightened your rack. You need to loosen up some screws before you cause irreparable damage to your roof, your rack, or anything that you attach to it.

Can Unistrut be Used Outside?

Unistrut is made from stainless steel that is uncoiled, fed through machinery to get a molten zinc coating, and then recoiled. This creates a clean and fluxed zinc steel.

The coating that Unistrut use has been around for a while which means that it is absolutely time-tested and suitable for use both inside and outdoors. 

Does a Roof Rack affect Gas Mileage?

The short answer is yes, having a roof rack will increase your gas mileage. Even an empty rack can add a whopping 15% to your fuel bill. This is due to the added weight of a rack – especially when you have packed stuff up on there – and the additional air resistance.

Keep in mind that air resistance is one of the biggest culprits of increasing fuel consumption and there is not really anything that you can do to mitigate its effects.

Sure, traveling at high speeds in an aerodynamic vehicle will make the effect of air resistance more noticeable, but altering these factors is rarely practical.

In short, the greater the air resistance and the heavier the items that you transport in or on your roof rack, the greater your fuel consumption.

Is it Worth Getting a Roof Rack?

Getting a roof rack will quickly and easily add some additional storage to your vehicle. But is it always worth it?

If you regularly enjoy hobbies that require big pieces of equipment – like biking, surfing, snowboarding, etc. – then you will probably benefit from getting a roof rack. You will be able to store everything comfortably on top of your vehicle without making yourself and your passengers feel cramped.

Even if you aren’t into these types of activities, you may still benefit from having a roof rack. The ability to store things overhead will help keep your vehicle feeling more spacious and roomy. You may find that long journeys are infinitely more comfortable!

What Can Go on a Roof Rack?

Once you have successfully mounted your roof rack, you can use it to store a lot of different types of cargo easily. This includes bike racks, other racks for kayaks, surfboards, or other winter sports racks.

You could even install a roof box to help you transport smaller pieces of cargo like suitcases or bags.

You can carry just about whatever you want on top of your roof rack. That said, make sure you check the local laws of where you are – some states and countries limit what you can carry on your rack and state how some items must be secured.

Are Roof Racks Practical?

Roof racks are a super practical way to transport just about anything on the top of your vehicle. Installing a roof rack means that you have increased cargo capacity for your vehicle that does not involve getting crammed in. From just a comfort point of view, they are definitely practical!

You can also store larger items on a roof rack, or anything that would not otherwise fit in your vehicle.

Final Thoughts

Creating your own roof rack from Unistrut is a great idea if you are into DIY. 

You get all the benefits of DIY – you choose what color, style, and anything else – with the reassurance of a professional fit thanks to Unistrut’s excellent connectivity.

One thing to bear in mind is weight limits – Unistrut is only safe to handle so much weight, no matter how you hook it up to your van!

So, if you need a new roof rack but don’t know where to look, you should give Unistrut a thought. 

Discover How To Use The Power of Authority Marketing To Make You Money While You Adventure!

No Experience, Existing Product Or Technical Skills Are Required


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