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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi all, I just wanted to share some pictures and impressions about a particular set of aftermarket cross bars that I happened to come into possession of.

To put the summary right at the top: I would only ever recommend OEM cross bars, or those from an OEM supplier such as Thule.
These particular bars reviewed here I would summarize as thus: They look good, but they aren't good.
Let's get into the details...

So I said I only ever prefer to go with OEM yet I ended up with these, how did that happen? Well, I was actually trying to purchase an OEM set for our Cherokee because we had a big ski trip coming up. The OEM ones were on backorder and out of desperation I tried ordering some aftermarket ones instead just to get us by for one trip. Well, what the ebay seller sent me by total random chance were not for a Cherokee, but actually for a 2nd gen Compass... Needless to say we had to go on our trip without any cross bars and I fired off an angry message to the seller. Ultimately they refunded me something like 50% and let me keep the wrong ones they had sent. I threw them on the shelf in the garage until last weekend, when I had a little free time and thought "eh, lets give them a try on the Compass, maybe they will be good enough for lightweight stuff like our paddle boards."

(I maybe should mention I never had an OEM set for the Compass, I had a homemade steel rack some of you may remember)

Anyways, I took all the parts out and assembled them:

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Basically what we have here with these is a design that is probably sound in the 3D modeling software of some designer's computer, but in practice/real world application these are ultimately cheap plastic clamps that you can't trust as far as you can throw them.

To their credit, they have come up with something clever that allows them to sell the same top portion of the clamp mated to different designs of the bottom portions so they can support a wide range of vehicles with fewer parts. The design is clever, but its all just plastic other than the aluminum extrusion of the bars themselves. How this plastic will hold up over months and years in the hot sun, extreme colds of winter, etc will be interesting to see. I predict that they crack for sure, I just don't know when.

The inner portion of the clamps they sent me does not fit the Compass well, and does not utilize any of the bolt holes that exist on the inside of the factory roof rail. By the stock design you are relying on these plastic clamps which just have a tiny bite of the rail, to hold your cargo on your roof. Pretty sketchy.

I looked at this and an idea came to my head to quickly and easily improve the retention and location of these clamps on the rails. I grabbed myself some 3/4" steel pipe strap (sometimes called hanger strap, found for $3 at your local hardware store) and I cut myself four pieces of it with 4 holes of length each:

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Long-term these should have been brackets I could have probably easily made with my bending brake, and painted up nicely, but at this point this was all just an experiment to see how these bars looked once mounted up and I knew there was a strong chance I'd be taking them off in the near future (because I could see that the plastic design sucked...)

So instead of painting, I wrapped each one with a piece of black duct tape to temporarily keep rust at bay and bolted them into the factory rool rails at the positions I was going to use. The upper hole on each strap ended at more or less the right height to engage with the long clamping bolt used on the aftermarket rail clamps:

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On each one I then put the outer portion of the clamp, with the clamping bolt through the pipe strap, and then supplied my own lock nut to tighten up the strap like so:

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The bolts in the rails are stainless steel hardware, 1/4"-ish bolts of some kind, it is listed elsewhere on the forum here what the thread pitch of these is but its nothing rare or special.

So now these straps I have added provide what the aftermarket design does not (but could have and should have), a physical connection to the car to keep the brackets holding the cross bars in place and keep them from flying off if the plastic clamps crack and fail.

From here I still install the inner-portion of the aftermarket clamps on that long bolt as they intended, so my straps end up sandwiched in the middle, hardly noticeable but making me feel much more secure about the likelihood that these will stay on my roof over time.

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In the next post below I will have pictures of the finished install and point out another problem with these particular bars, gimme 5-10 minutes here...
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
Ok, so one other big issue with these aftermarket bars is that although their design would allow a solid amount of the aluminum bars to be inside of each plastic clamp housing, they cheaply send you down to the last millimeter the bare minimum amount of bar that will somewhat work:

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Them having shorted me a few inches on the bars makes an already questionable design even weaker. As you can imagine there is a bit of play where the bars meet the plastic brackets because of this that wouldn't be here if the bars went in a decent amount. This puts extra pressure on the far ends of these plastic brackets. I bet I know where they are going to crack first!

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Of course its been months since I ordered these and they ended up being wrong, but right by mistake, sat on the shelf, etc. So there is no help from my ebay seller now, but if you go ahead with these bars I would recommend you don't accept this kind of corner cutting. Demand that they send you full-length bars.

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So between the weakness of the use of plastic clamps and the further weakening thanks to sending too short of bars, its safe to say these are super, super crappy. Absolutely cannot recommend.

And its a crying shame, because the one area where these cross bars excel is in the looks department. They may be garbage, but they look just excellent. So without further adieu let's take a step back and look at the finished product on the car: (see next post)
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
So here is what it ends up looking like:

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It's really a mixed bag. I love how the design of these preserves the line of the inner chrome trim on the factory rails. I like the height. I like that there are no ugly knobs on top of the brackets like the other common aftermarket cross bars. I like that the bars don't stick out past the edges of the roof. Its a really clean and nice look. It's just too bad you can't trust them to actually hold anything. Almost entirely for decoration.

We often will fill our inflatable paddle boards here at the house, with the use of the 65 gallon air compressor (much easier than the hand pump!) and then throw them on the roof of the Cherokee to drive a few minutes to a local lake. I kinda wanted to be able to do the same with our Compass, hence throwing on these bars, but I think that is the limit of what I would trust these with. Very light loads for very short trips at lower speeds. These are not suitable for holding up your spare tire, 5 gallon jerry can, high lift jack, etc. (You can't use a hi-lift jack on these plastic-bumpered unibody cars anyways, so quit being a poser and carrying one around!)

If its just for the looks and holding some lightweight stuff, maybe... If I were going to start using these seriously I'd do away with the inner part of the clamp they send and make my own metal bracket that bolts both to the car AND to the aluminum bar. When I get my metal bending brake setup maybe this is what I will do down the road. For now the pipe strap will give me peace of mind that they at least won't fly off while driving with nothing on the roof.

Want to hear one more bad thing about these? They howl. Not a whistle. Not a rumbling of rushing air. They HOWL on the highway. They sound like the fake wind sound effects from the animated Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer movie, when the bad storm is brewing and Santa can't drive his sleigh because of the storm... its awful. The pitch of the howl goes up and down with speed and gusts of wind, it starts as low as 40 MPH and can be heard plainly over the radio, even at pretty high radio volume (ie, volume 20 for Sirius XM or volume 24/25 for Android Auto). So, plan on needing a fairing of some sort because that is going to drive me nuts in short order.

I might install a fairing, or try a light bar and see if I get lucky and maybe that quiets it down. Or I might take them off and throw them in the garbage, and get the OEM ones like a person should do. The looks are good so... we'll see.

Anyways, thats all for now. If I can I will try to get a recording of the howling sound for you guys later. But in general, I'd say stay away from these. Avoid all aftermarket unless its a high-end brand and you can tell its using the factory bolt holes to keep it on your roof.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
The Cherokee has totally different roof rails but here is a quick side-by side of our Cherokee with factory Mopar rails (by Thule) and my Compass with the aftermarket ones:

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I like not having the bars stick out the sides like wings on the Compass. It looks good on the Cherokee but thats just a different styling going on altogether, on a larger roof. The Compass has a tiny roof, so it should have a small rack (in my opinion).

Gotta say though we sure do enjoy this pair of cars. They aren't perfect and nothing ever is, but damn are they nice anyways.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Someone with sharp eyes might notice the Cherokee has a stubby antenna, and the Compass is still running the original antenna. I have a stubby on order for the Compass, its not what I wanted but I can't find a shark-fin style that fits so far. I ordered one on a guess, the hole on the bottom of it was too small to clear the hump of the base of the antenna. I don't really want to block the satellite signal either, as I use the Sirius XM radio constantly, so likely the stubby is what I will end up with so that long things like the paddle boards can be thrown on top without worrying about removing and replacing the full-height antenna. I never use AM/FM anyways.
 

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Someone with sharp eyes might notice the Cherokee has a stubby antenna, and the Compass is still running the original antenna. I have a stubby on order for the Compass, its not what I wanted but I can't find a shark-fin style that fits so far. I ordered one on a guess, the hole on the bottom of it was too small to clear the hump of the base of the antenna. I don't really want to block the satellite signal either, as I use the Sirius XM radio constantly, so likely the stubby is what I will end up with so that long things like the paddle boards can be thrown on top without worrying about removing and replacing the full-height antenna. I never use AM/FM anyways.
I just got this shark fin direct from theantennasource.com for $28.99 & free shipping. They sell the same one on Amazon and Ebay for $49.99. It is listed for the Cherokee but I researched the antenna base MOPAR part number and the 2nd gen Compass uses the same base as the Cherokee. As you can see it covers the OEM base. It's been too hot to take the time to connect and install it but I placed it over the base for the pics and the SXM signal comes in fine. I never paid for the SXM service after the free trial but their channel 1 Preview is always available and it comes in fine with the fin in place. According to theantennasource.com site, the SXM and GPS antennas are located elsewhere on the vehicle. Oh, it's available in gloss black, white and silver.
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I just got this shark fin direct from theantennasource.com for $28.99 & free shipping. They sell the same one on Amazon and Ebay for $49.99. It is listed for the Cherokee but I researched the antenna base MOPAR part number and the 2nd gen Compass uses the same base as the Cherokee. As you can see it covers the OEM base. It's been too hot to take the time to connect and install it but I placed it over the base for the pics and the SXM signal comes in fine. I never paid for the SXM service after the free trial but their channel 1 Preview is always available and it comes in fine with the fin in place. According to theantennasource.com site, the SXM and GPS antennas are located elsewhere on the vehicle. Oh, it's available in gloss black, white and silver.
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I did the same. Looks a lot better in my opinion.
 
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