How-to: Build Another Uni-strut Roof Rack - PBR - Second Generation Nissan Xterra Forums (2005+)
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post #1 of 46 (permalink) Old 04-11-2012, 09:40 PM Thread Starter
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How-to: Build Another Uni-strut Roof Rack - PBR

Inspired by others here I decided to try my hand at a Uni-strut Roof Rack. Previously I had a Safari Rack that stuck up about an inch or two from the level of the Factory Roof Bars. Under it I had an Aluminum Light Bar which had a pair of 27watts LED Work Lights and along the side of the Safari 28w more worth of smaller LED Lights.

I wanted to go as low as possible so I off-set from the top of the Rubber Strips on my Roof. With my existing Zombie Lights I had to fold them downwards to fit inside the garage which was a pain. Sometimes I'd leave them downwards and one never knows when the Zombies are going to attack. Going this low meant that installing some of the nuts and bolts was a challenge. I planned everything out in scale using Microsoft Visio.

(Below) Top view showing how far back I wanted to run the Rack to put an 120w LED Light Bar way out there. The side arms allow for the LED Work Lights to light up the ground really close to the of the truck - so close that there's no way to see the limit from inside the truck.


I went with four Cross Bars strong enough to hold the 15-20 Gallons of Fuel and Water that get chucked up there for longer expeditions. The First and Last Bar are 1/2" thick and 3 inches wide... Very strong, forming a Frame. The inside two Bars are 1/4" thick and 2 inches wide to add some support for the already Gonzo Strong Uni-strut.

(Below) I cut the L-brackets from 4" x 3/8" thick Aluminum Angle Plate. Everything indexes off of the top hole so that the 1/2" and 1/4" thick Aluminum Cross-braces end up at the same level.


(Below) A side view shows the different lengths of bolts needed. The outside corners got 3/8" hardware, the inside 1/4" hardware. The 1/4" bolts are very likely strong enough but I just ran 3/8" to continue to the gonzo theme.


(Below) The 1/2" x 3" Bars are 48" long which allows them to hang over the Roof line pretty well. The Lights can be spun 360 degrees around and tilt forwards and back over a really good arc.


After cutting all the parts to size I painting them a Stealth Black and did a quick test fitting. It became obvious that I was going to have to put in the four outside lengths of metal in first and then loosen everything to get to the nuts underneath. I could have removed the Factory Roof Rack, bolted everything together on the shop floor, place on the Roof, and then rebuild the Stock Roof Rack on top ... but I've read too many stories of the Stock Rack losing the nuts inside the Roof.

(Below) The L-brackets lined up waiting the first Uni-strut.


(Below) The outside Frame bolted in place.


(Below) The remaining parts to be put in once the Frame (above) is loosened and lifted up about an inch and a half. The rear has a 1/4" thick x 4" high plate at a 90 degree angle to mound the LED Light Bar on. The front has a similar plate at a 45 degree angle to deflect the wind some.


I used locking nuts with nylon inserts to reduce the chance that something is going to rattle loose. They come really close the Roof but putting my weight on the Bars I couldn't get any flex at all on the finished assembly.

(Below) Close up of the Light Bar and L-bracket.


(Below) A side view showing just how low the Uni-strut sits on the finished Frame.


(Below) A front view with my rotating KC's in the up position.


(Below) And in the down position.


(Below) The completed Rack from above.


(Below) One of the Zombie Lights and the Rear Facing 20" LED Light Bar.


I've finished the Three Way Energizing Circuit with Three Way By-pass. Energize: Manually with a Toggle Switch, Manually with an RF Remote Control, and Automatically with the Transmission Shifting into Reverse. By-pass: All-OFF, Zombie "Alley" Lights Off, Rear Light Bar OFF.

(Below) The Electrical Circuit takes Three Inputs runs them though a Relay and then through Two Over-ride Switches.


(Below) Lots of Lighting Switches. I'd like to replace that Single Pole Double Throw with Center OFF Bat Switch, but they're hard to find.


(Below) Photos of the lighting results after dark.



Sources: www.mcmastercarr.com and Online Metal Store | Small Quantity Metal Orders | Metal Cutting, Sales & Shipping | Buy Steel, Aluminum, Copper, Brass, Stainless | Metal Product Guides at OnlineMetals.com

The U-bolts are made for 2.5" OD pipe and are 3/8"-24 Black-Oxide with a 1090 pound work limit. McMaster # 3201T23
The tube wrap is UV resistant Black PVC tubing with in internal diameter of 3/8" and a wall thickness of 1/8" McMaster # 5231K7
The front and back verticals are 1/4" thick aluminum plate 4" wide by 36 long - I cut down to size to fit the back and front openings. OnlineMetals part 18147
The front brackets are Strut channel accessory 90 degree angle brackets. McMaster # 33125T145
The rear brackets are strut channel accessory 45 degree angle brackets. McMaster # 33125T152
The cross bars are aluminum 6061 T61. OnlineMetals # 18144 (2") and 18156 (3")
The uni-strut is steel strut channel, painted black, 5' long 13/16x1 5/8 (with about 3" cut off to fit). McMaster
The switches are from www.oznium.com

June 2012 - Update: Edited to Add. The end plates have worked out really nice allowing me to haul home 4"x4"x10' long beams, sheets of 4x8' plywood, a barbecue grill, and an outdoor patio set (not in one trip!). The 1/4' thick plates are plenty strong enough to hold the weight.

July 2012 - Update: New Light Switch Panel.


Sept 2012 - Update: The first of two Aluminum Boxes Mounted.

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Last edited by Old Navy; 04-22-2018 at 06:46 PM. Reason: All Photophucket Links Resurrected
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post #2 of 46 (permalink) Old 04-11-2012, 10:24 PM
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post #3 of 46 (permalink) Old 04-11-2012, 11:04 PM
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SWEET! great job on the drawings.
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post #4 of 46 (permalink) Old 04-12-2012, 03:00 AM
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You can get the unistrut at Homeless Depot or any electrical supply.
It comes in aluminum too

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post #5 of 46 (permalink) Old 04-12-2012, 06:51 AM
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It's the 2nd Unitrust rack I see and I like it. One question I have though: Why not mount the U bolt upside down and skip the L bracket?
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post #6 of 46 (permalink) Old 04-12-2012, 09:29 AM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 56kz2slow View Post
It's the 2nd Unitrust rack I see and I like it. One question I have though: Why not mount the U bolt upside down and skip the L bracket?
I wanted to go lower to gain that extra inch and a half. I have seen others with the U-bolt straight to the cross member and others without. The depth of the internal "basket" is about 3" rather than 1.5".

You're going to save time and money going with a U-bolt directly to the cross members no doubt.

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post #7 of 46 (permalink) Old 04-12-2012, 09:42 AM
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An alternative to the L bracket and be lower would be to use a spacer between the round tube and the crossbar, but then it does not leave much room to put on the nuts.
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post #8 of 46 (permalink) Old 04-12-2012, 10:33 AM
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Excellent design!

I may have to make one of these... Only with an expanded metal base.


You could always mount the bolts upside down to reduce the distance to the Roof itself. I realize what it means in terms of a bolt coming loose and all, but the nuts would be easier to access for disassembly or retightening. A little Red Loctite does wonders

Seriously ... Very nice execution.

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post #9 of 46 (permalink) Old 04-12-2012, 10:57 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by XKNUT View Post
Excellent design!

I may have to make one of these... Only with an expanded metal base.


You could always mount the bolts upside down to reduce the distance to the Roof itself. I realize what it means in terms of a bolt coming loose and all, but the nuts would be easier to access for disassembly or retightening. A little Red Loctite does wonders

Seriously ... Very nice execution.
I think I an going to look at doing that expanded metal base too

Last edited by Old Navy; 04-22-2018 at 07:26 PM. Reason: Converted Photophucket Link
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post #10 of 46 (permalink) Old 04-12-2012, 11:15 AM
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Awesome engineering, as usual Paul
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