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Roof rack safety: How to load a car for trouble-free travel

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Roof racks are a simple solution to carrying luggage, creating more space in the car for you and your passengers. But it won't seem such a boon if the rack or your belongings spill over the road, damaging your car and risking a nasty accident. These tips should give you peace of mind while driving with your roof rack.

Check it over. Inspect your roof rack before you start loading it. Make sure it is securely fitted to your car, and if the fittings have started to go a little rusty, rub in some copper grease. Also, make regular stops on your journey to check that everything is still in place.

Don't overload it. Put heavier items in the boot, not on the roof. Too much weight at the top will raise your car's centre of gravity, making it harder to control. Double check the weight limit for your car and make sure you don't exceed it.

Pack it securely. Make sure that nothing on the roof is likely to move around, and don't pack liquids on top (they can shift around and cause the car to lurch). Be particularly careful with long items such as canoes, surfboards and mattresses. The aerodynamic lift on these items can be enormous, pulling the fixings from the roof and causing the entire rack to lift off. These items must be fixed to the front and back of the car—not just to the rack.

Remember your extra height. This is particularly important if you have a bicycle on the roof, but any extra luggage will mean you need a little extra clearance when going under low bridges or overhanging trees. It is a good idea to measure your height and keep a note of it on the dashboard.

Drive safely. The usual rules of safe driving apply even more with extra weight on top. Make sure your tyres are inflated to the correct pressure, and remember that it will take you longer to stop, so leave plenty of room between your car and the one in front. Finally, don't be in too much of a hurry. The slower you drive, the less force there will be trying to lift your roof rack off.

Just being a little more conscious of safety will ensure that you, your family and your luggage all arrive safely at your destination, leaving you to enjoy your holiday with no worries.