Yakima Camper Shell Roof Rack DIY Install & Product Review For 3rd Gen Tacoma
I am an Overlander. As an Overlander, I am obligated to cover my vehicle with as much gear as possible, inside and out. I am kidding obviously, or am I?
I have a camper shell on my 2nd Gen Tacoma and I love the functionality of a camper shell. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with bed racks. I just like to protect everything in the bed from rain, dust and dirt. That’s just my preference.
When I purchased my new Tacoma I knew I would be going with a camper shell, for now. Big plans for the future. I didn’t know if this would be my forever shell, therefore I didn’t want to buy new. I searched Craigslist and found an almost new shell for a third of the price of a new one. The only drawback was, it did not come with a rack for my rooftop tent and awning.
I am a huge Yakima fan, so I went to them first. I ordered all the parts to be able to put a rack on my camper shell.
Their website is so user friendly, you can pick and choose what parts you need. It is terrible to start a project thinking you have all the necessary pieces and notice you forgot something you need. So, take your time when you order or be prepared to wait a few extra weeks to begin your install.
Yakima Parts I Utilized For My Install
Parts You’ll Need (Not Included w/ Kit)
- 54” Tracks w/ Capnuts Part #8001138: Check Price
- Landing Pad Part #8000221: Check Price
- Skyline Towers Part #8000148: Check Price
- JetStreamBlack 60” Medium Part #8000426: Check Price
Tools and Materials
- Loctite RTV Silicone
- Tape Measurer
- Blue Masking Tape
- High-Speed Drill
- Drill Bits
- Metric Allen Keys
- Stabilo Marking Pencil
Yakima Roof Rack Step-By-Step Install
Drilling the first hole is the hardest part…
The process of installing a roof rack into a fiberglass camper shell is going to involve drilling into the fiberglass. I know this is going to be a huge turnoff to most people.
The only thing I will say is that all of these racks are installed at the dealer in the same manner. I feel pretty comfortable doing the install knowing that either I do it or some kid in the shop is going to do it for twice the expense.
Step 1. Lay Out Yakima Tracks
Where on the camper shell do the tracks go? Lucky for me, I have a camper shell on my 2nd Gen Tacoma so I had the measurements in my driveway. Depending on the type of camper shell you own, you want the tracks to be mounted as far toward the sides as possible so that the weight is supported by the sides of the camper shell and not the roof.
The camper shell on my 2nd Gen is an ARE and the camper shell on my 2020 Tacoma(pictured here) is a ProTop. They use different manufacturing processes but the overall shape of the shell is almost exactly the same. I felt very confident that transferring the measurements from one to the other and that the rack would be perfectly secure.
I laid the tracks 4” inward from the side windows. From the front edge of the camper shell, I measured out 2.5” and laid the tracks out. The most important part of this process is that the tracks must be parallel to each other. On the off chance that you move your bars around on your rack, if they are not parallel, you will have to change bar width every time you move your bars. That would bother me enough to probably start all over again.
Once I laid out my tracks where I wanted them, I marked the outside edges of both sides with blue masking tape. Once you have the edges marked with tape, measure again and then measure a third time. Better safe than sorry.
Step 2. Mark Your Holes
Set your track exactly where you want it and mark your holes. There are a bunch of holes in the 54” Tracks and you don’t need to drill them all, plus you won’t have enough hardware to fill all the holes.
For my application, I marked the two front holes closest to the cab. Moving back, I marked every other hole in the track. Then, in the end, I marked the last two holes as well. This will be plenty sturdy for whatever I can throw at this rack.
I used a Stabilo marking pencil. I really like using Stabilo pencils because they will mark anything and have a nice white mark which is easy to find.
Step 3. Drill Your Holes
Check, check, and triple check.
Drilling the first hole is the hardest part of this process. Start with a small pilot hole first. I drilled the first set of holes with a 1/8” drill bit. I began drilling the holes slowly, trying not to make a huge mess of fiberglass. Taking a shop vacuum and cleaning up the mess as you go makes the process much faster and cleaner.
All the initial pilot holes are drilled and cleaned up. I changed the drill bit to the final size of 1/4” and drilled out all the holes to the final size. I vacuumed the holes as I went to keep the mess at bay. After vacuuming, I cleaned everything up with Windex.
Step 4. Seal Holes
The kit comes with a small tube of Loctite RTV Silicone. Apply enough silicone to completely circle each of the holes. I applied a large amount per hole and still had about half the tube left over. Next, I placed a white rubber washer directly over each hole. Try your best to center the washer over the holes as best you can, otherwise, you push some sealant away from the hole by moving the washer.
Step 5. Lay Track
This job might be better done with some help. You want to lay the track down on top of the holes with as little movement as possible once it’s laying on the holes. The more you move the track, the more you may push the sealant away from the hole.
Using the included hardware, place the bolt through the recessed hole of the track into the underside of the camper shell. The hardware is the bolt, black washer and plastic nut with a black cap.
Tightening down the track to the camper shell can be done with one person, if you can prop the camper shell up, on the end that faces the cab of the truck. With the camper shell on its end, you can reach both the roof and the inside of the shell.
If you have a helper you can ask them to climb inside and hold the caps. This is made even more fun when the camper shell is on the ground just like mine was.
We put all the bolts in loose to start, to make sure there would not be any issues with alignment. After that, I tightened everything down, nice and tight. Be sure not to over tighten, the fiberglass will crack.
Don’t forget to install the end feet of the tracks. They get bolted into the end of the track.
Step 6. Clean It Up
Pull the tape you used to align everything and clean any fiberglass residue off the camper shell. The tracks are done.
Step 7. Install Landing Pad
The Yakima Landing Pads are the base that attaches to the track. They get screwed into t-nuts in the track.
Begin the install process by sliding the T-Nuts into the track.
Lay the Landing Pad on top of the T-Nuts and insert the included hardware. Tighten the bolts down with a 5mm Allen wrench. I spaced the Landing Pads 35” apart because that is the spacing I use for everything that I put on the roof bars; rooftop tent, bike racks and the Yakima skybox.
Step 8. Install Skyline Towers
The Skyline Tower is what mounts the crossbars to the Landing Pad. First, we have to build the towers to use our specific bars. I had to open the parts bag to my Jetstream Bars and pull out the blocks that screw into the top of the towers.
Begin by opening the plate that covers up the internals of the tower. The cover plate has the Yakima label on the face of the plate.
Once opened, you will see an Allen head bolt, so utilizing the torque wrench that came with the kit, loosen the Allen bolt and keep loosening the bolt until you can see the Allen head bolt on the bottom side of the tower.
Say that three times, fast as you can!
A security plate covers that bolt when tightened.
Now take the black plates and click them into the receptacle of the tower. They can only go in one way.
Once that is clicked into place, grab the metal block with the screw hole in the bottom and place that screw hole down in the middle of the black insert piece on top of the tower.
With those pieces in place, begin screwing the Allen bolt on the bottom of the tower. You will feel everything begin to tighten up. Keep tightening until the torque driver clicks. That means it is torqued to spec.
This step is very complex, so take your time and it will all go together nicely.
Step 9. Install JetStream Bars
Begin by looking at the label on the bars and orient them in the correct direction.
Remember, these are aerodynamic bars and will only function properly in the correct orientation. Once you have the bars oriented on the roof in the correct direction, remove the rubber trim on the bottom of the bars. This is where they will slide into the Skyline Towers.
Now, carefully index the notch of the bar into the Jetstream Bars and slide them across to the other tower and insert through that tower as well.
Place the Skyline Towers over the Landing Pads with the front plate open and slide the Tower onto the Landing Pad. Orient the bar evenly from side to side on the towers.
Now it is time to tighten the bars to the towers and the towers to the landing pad.
Begin by looking down on the landing pad on either side of the bar. There are two screws that you will tighten with a 5mm Allen key. Once that is tightened down, move to the Skyline Tower.
Utilizing your torque driver supplied in the kit, find the Allen head bolt on the face of the tower and tighten until the torque driver clicks.
Close up the faceplate of the Skyline Tower and insert the caps to the Jetstream Bars.
Step 10. Clean Up
The bars have been completely installed. Go back and check that all your bolts and attachments are tight. Now pull all the tape and labels. You are done.
I have to say that these are the best-looking crossbars I have ever had on a vehicle. I like the look of the Aero bars, I think it makes the truck look very sporty. My truck has a very rugged overland look to it and this takes my truck from bodybuilder to Mr. Olympic.
The kit was installed fairly easily. There were a couple of steps that made me scratch my head for a minute, however, you don’t need to worry, I gave you all the cheat codes. Yakima, as always, has made an amazing, quality product. I have never been disappointed in anything they have released to the market.
Now that being said, I do have a single complaint and I completely understand why this is.
The Skyline Towers are very high and set the bars high off the roofline. Now, this is both good and bad, in my humble opinion.
It is good because you have a lot of room to attach the tent to the bars and wash the roof of the camper shell.
The bad is that the tent sits extremely high off the camper shell, which in turn is increasing your center of gravity and raises your clearance height.
For me, this is not a huge deal, obviously because I keep going back to this system. The only place that bothers me the most is in pictures.
I know it may sound weird but I like my truck to look as good as it functions.
I have spent hundreds of hours making my truck bulletproof, and that huge gap between the camper shell and the tent has always bothered me.
Of course, when I’m running a soapy sponge under the bars and hit my knuckle on the bars I will yell that there should be more clearance under the bars.
I know, it’s a vicious cycle. But, outside of this, I am pleased with my purchase and pleased with the ease of install.