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Do you need roof racks for a car awning?

Roof racks are the most common way of mounting a car awning but is not essential as there are other methods.

If you don't have roof bars or don't want to install them, there are other options available. Rackless mounting systems can be created for your car but require modification to your car which may invalidate warranty for your vehicle. We'll mention the three main ways of installing a car awning to your vehicle and a general guide in how to install them.


  • Using Roof bars or racks are the most common methods of attaching a car awning.
  • You can create a rackless mounting system which sit in the vehicle roof gutter permanently.
  • A tailgate awning that connects to the boot of the vehicle is another rackless car awning system.

What methods are available for mounting a car awning?

Roof bars or roof rack Method

The common method for mounting a car awning is by using roof bars. This method involves securely attaching the roof bars to the roof of your vehicle and the car awning attaching to the roof bars with an awning bracket.

The roof bars should be strong enough to support the weight of the awning and should be securely attached to your car. Many awning manufacturers offer specific roof rack mounting kits for their products. These kits include all the necessary hardware and instructions for mounting the awning on the roof racks.

Best for:

  • Heavier and larger awnings such as batwing awnings, 270 degree awnings or a pull out awning.
  • You want to utilise the space on your roof with roof bars e.g. equipping a roof tent or roof boxes.

Rackless Mounting

If your car does not have roof racks or cross bars, you can still mount a car awning using a rackless mounting system. This method involves attaching the awning directly to the car's roof or rain gutters using clamps or brackets. The mounting hardware should be strong enough to support the weight of the awning and should be securely attached to the car. Some awning manufacturers offer specific rackless mounting kits for their products.

Best for:

  • Those who do not want a bulky roof rack system on their vehicle roof and but want to support a side car awning or batwing awning.

Tailgate Car Awnings

Tailgate car awnings are a popular option for those who want a quick and easy way to set up an awning without the need for roof bars or a rackless mounting system. These awnings attach directly to the tailgate of your car and can be set up in just a few minutes. They are perfect for camping trips or picnics and provide a shaded area for relaxing or cooking.

Tailgate Awning

Best for:

  • Those who do not want the hassle of installing a roof bar or rack system and want a simple option

Overall, there are several methods available for mounting a car awning, including roof racks, rackless mounting, and tailgate car awnings. The method you choose will depend on your specific needs, the type of car you have and the awning setup you prefer.


Installing Car Awnings

When it comes to installing a car awning, there are a few factors to consider. In this section, we will discuss the different installation methods for car awnings. Treat the below information as general advice as it is best to stick to manufacturers' recommendations and instructions.

Roof Rack Compatibility

If you have a roof rack on your vehicle, you can easily install a car awning. Most car awnings are designed to be mounted on roof racks. However, it is important to ensure that your roof rack is compatible with the awning you want to install. Check the weight capacity of your roof rack and make sure it can support the weight of the awning.


  1. Purchase the compatible vehicle awning
  2. Make sure you have correct brackets and bolts required to attach to your roof bar or rack.
  3. If your roof bars have T-channels then slide in the T-bolts or channel nuts and fasten the bolts securely to the bracket.
  4. Secure the car awning to the side of the bracket and fasten the bolts securely

Rackless Awning Mount System

If you don't have a roof rack, you can still install a car awning using a rackless awning mount system which involves modifying your gutter and should only be done by a qualified person.


  1. Check compatibility of the bracket and mount with your vehicle.
  2. Measure and mark where to cut the vehicle's rubber roof trim to fit the mount, using masking tape to hold the measurement.
  3. Carefully remove the rubber trim from the roof, and then cut it at the marked spots.
  4. Place the mount in the roof channel, mark drilling holes, and then drill using a 5mm bit with a drill stop to avoid damaging the roof lining.
  5. Apply anti-rust paint to drilled holes, and then silicon around holes and along the mount length.
  6. Rivet the mount into place, ensuring all rivets are firmly attached.
  7. Attach the top plate of the mount with bolts, and apply a paint protection strip under the mount.
  8. Install the rackless awning bracket with bolts, ensuring it's square and pushed towards the center of the vehicle to avoid door seal damage.
  9. Finally, attach the awning to the bracket following the awning's specific instructions.

Tailgate Car Awnings

Tailgate car awnings are another option for those who don't have a roof rack.

  1. Inflate or erect the poles of the tailgate awning
  2. Then simply attach with throw over straps or factory rails.
  3. Closely fit the back connecting tailgate entrance to the contour of your car vehicle
  4. Tie any guy ropes to the ground that may come with the tailgate awning.


In conclusion, there are several ways to install a car awning on your vehicle. Whether you have a roof rack or not, there is an installation method that will work for you. Consider your specific needs and vehicle type before choosing the best installation method for your car awning.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I really need a roof rack?

It depends on the type of car awning you have. If your car awning is designed to be installed on a roof rack, then you will need a roof rack to install it. However, some car awnings can be installed on the side of your vehicle without the need for a roof rack.

Are roof bar awnings worth it?

Roof rack awnings can be a great investment for those who enjoy outdoor activities such as camping, hiking, or fishing. They provide a shaded area to relax or cook, and can also protect you from rain and other elements. If you frequently engage in outdoor activities, something like an arb awning can be a useful addition to your vehicle.

Can Thule roof bars be used to install a car awning?

Yes, Thule roof bars can be used to install most car awnings. However, it is important to check the compatibility of the roof rack and the car awning before purchasing. Some car awnings may require specific mounting brackets or adapters that are not compatible with all roof racks.

What holds up a Car awning?

Most car awnings are held up by a combination of poles, guy ropes, and pegs. The poles are usually made from lightweight materials such as aluminium or fibreglass, and are designed to be easy to assemble and disassemble. The guy ropes and pegs are used to secure the awning to the ground and provide stability.

Can I install a car awning myself?

Yes, most car awnings can be installed by one or two people with basic tools. However, it is important to read the installation instructions carefully and follow them closely. If you are unsure about any part of the installation process, it is recommended that you seek professional help to ensure that the awning is installed safely and securely.


Gary Cheung profile picture

Gary Cheung

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Owner & Director at Outdoor Roadie in the UK. Passionate about helping people get outdoors and travelling. Knowledgeable in all things roof tents, caravan awnings and camping gear.