ARB Flat Rack – Overview & Install on 5th Gen 4Runner
Here is the installation, and a complete review on why I choose the Flat ARB Mesh Roof Rack – The ultimate Low Profile Overland Roof Rack!
There are a multitude of options for roof racks and roof rack attachments for a 5th Gen 4Runner. People invest in racks for their 4Runner due to a variety of reasons, but the main reason revolves around adding additional storage/transportation capabilities.
Some companies provide small basket style racks or cargo bars that utilize the 4Runner’s factory cargo bar supports and or cargo bars themselves. These products do have a place for some people, but the downside of most of these options is that they don’t give you any increase in weight carrying capacity. In fact, they may decrease it since they are only adding weight to the factory roof rack system.
Some smaller crossbar and basket-style systems are limited in storage capability, and more often than not these products are not designed specifically for a 4Runner. Most of these basket style systems are universal and ultimately, a less tailored product for the 4Runner.
Baskets, Cargo Bars or Full Length?
Full-length and 3/4 roof racks are mounted through factory mounting points offer many more benefits. They are typically more versatile but can come at a higher cost, increase in weight, and potentially decrease in ride quality (decreased MPG, increased wind noise, etc).
Full-length and 3/4 roof racks increase carrying capacity, offer more surface area to store gear, and increase locations for mounting accessories and lights.
Most of these racks just offer a better platform for hauling gear around.
For some people such as myself, Full-length and 3/4 roof racks can provide increased visual aesthetics as well.
The Factory Roof Rack Cargo Bars
I have utilized my factory roof rack and cargo bars for approximately a year and a half. They have worked well, but they are limited in capability.
The factory setup is very low profile and provides hardly any wind noise. The factory roof rack is also very lightweight. Carrying capacity is limited to 150 pounds of cargo and due to their only being two cargo bars, your gear can’t be very small in footprint.
The benefit of the factory rack is most people get this option when they purchase a 4Runner so it comes from the factory ready to go. There is no need to install a rack, and if anything has to be installed, it’s crossbars which are optional on the 4Runner.
In consideration of this, the factory roof rack is a good foundation for many people and I have utilized it for approximately a year and a half to transport kayaks and paddleboards all over Texas.
It has done its job and I believe for some people the factory roof rack may be all you need.
I wanted/needed a little more capability though.
Why I Chose to Upgrade my Roof Rack
The more I begin to venture off the beaten path with kayak fishing, mountain biking and camping, it became more and more evident that transporting all the gear I bring with me was a little difficult and I was limited in my capabilities.
As I previously mentioned, the factory roof rack has worked well for my kayaks, but due to the limited carrying capacity (150 lbs) and small footprint, I could only store one kayak on top and didn’t have a good system to store additional gear, such as my paddles, fishing poles, tent, etc.
I also do a lot of night driving and although I have upgraded nearly every factory light on my 4Runner to LED technology and also added aftermarket LED lighting, I still would like some additional lighting capabilities.
After all, I go to some remote places and having proper lighting at night time is a huge benefit for safety. The factory roof rack doesn’t provide me with great options to mount additional lighting, such as forward facing light bars, side scene lighting, or rearward facing lighting. Aftermarket roof racks do.
Roof Top Tent
Since I am beginning to camp more, I eventually would like to get a roof top tent (RTT). It would be impossible to utilize a RTT with the factory roof rack and cargo bars.
This made it even more evident that I needed to upgrade my roof rack.
I don’t want to install a winch on my 4Runner, but I do want to have some recovery boards one day, such as the ARB TRED or Maxtrax Recovery Boards. Although I could utilize the factory roof rack to store these, there are much better options with aftermarket roof racks.
Lastly, I think a good aftermarket roof rack can increase your 4Runner’s visual aesthetics. Although this reason was closer to the bottom of my priorities when researching a rack, it was something that I kept in mind.
Not that the factory roof rack looks bad, it is just generic and nothing special. I wanting something to make my vehicle different from all the other 5th Gen 4Runners on the street.
What I Was Looking For In An Aftermarket Roof Rack
I have briefly discussed some of the aspects I was looking for in an aftermarket roof rack, but to make it a little more straightforward I will list out the key things I wanted:
No Drilling Required:
I didn’t want to drill any holes, so this means utilizing the factory roof rack mounting locations. Depending on the rack, this might mean you can only get a 3/4 or 7/8 length rack, but I was fine with this.
I eventually want to get a RTT and also be able to store more / heavier gear on top of my 4Runner. In consideration of this, I needed more carrying capacity.
I wanted something sleek and simple. Nothing too fancy, but something that looked like it was made for the 4Runner and wasn’t too tall.
Lots of roof racks can add significant weight…at the highest point on your vehicle – not a good place to add weight. I wanted to minimize the amount of weight I was adding so I wanted to find an aluminum rack if possible.
Some roof racks, particularity aluminum racks, can have lots of components to put the rack together. I wanted something solid, simple and sturdy…right out of the box.
My Requirements for a Rack
Here is a list of what I am planning to use an aftermarket roof rack for:
- Transporting my kayaks and paddleboards
- Mounting an RTT
- Storing/transporting gear
- Recovery equipment
- Additional gear for long/extended trips
- Mounting additional lighting
- Light bars
- Scene lighting
- Rearward facing lighting
- Shooting platform
- An elevated platform to shoot from
- Mounting an awning
As you can see, I want to use an aftermarket roof rack for quite a few things, but all very reasonable things. There are many different options for roof racks on the market, but one, in particular, was the one I decided upon.
The ARB Flat Alloy Roof Rack
For those of you less familiar with the off-roading world, ARB is legendary, producing a wide range of products such as air lockers, air compressors, fridges, awnings, RTTs, roof racks, bumpers, sliders, and much more.
They are considered by many to be the industry standard and this is for good reason, they simply make an amazing product and have been doing so for a long time.
When I was in the process of researching roof racks, I vetted through several different options, both flat racks and basket style. Although I liked the basket style racks, I thought a flat rack would better suit my needs and style since my 4Runner serves as my daily vehicle. I eventually found the ARB Flat Alloy Roof Rack (ARB Rack).
The ARB Rack had several different aspects that immediately won me over.
- Utilizes factory roof rack mounting locations (no drilling required)
- Made of aluminum so it is relatively lightweight
- Designed as a flat, low profile rack
- Good sized platform (70” x 44”)
- Mesh is distributed on the roof rack for ample storage capabilities
- Simple and sturdy design
- Very competitive price in comparison to other racks on the market with similar features.
After researching the ARB Rack I made the decision to get the rack and fitting kit and install it on my 2017 Toyota 4Runner TRD Off-Road. For those of you interested in the ARB Rack, it is important to realize you will also need to purchase the fitting kit for a 4Runner as well.
Rack and Fitting Kit Part Numbers:
- ARB Flat Alloy 70” x 44” Mesh Roof Rack: 4913020M
- Fitting Kit for 5th Gen 4Runner: 3722020
Initial Unboxing and First Impression (Uninstalled)
The ARB Rack came via freight truck in a well-packed box along with the fitting kit required for a 5th Gen 4Runner. There were no blemishes and the overall quality was extremely impressive. I haven’t seen a roof rack with such good quality as this ARB Rack.
All of the welds were very impressive and having a one-piece rack is very nice. The fitting kit was also very well made.
I couldn’t have been more impressed with the rack as I unboxed it and went ahead and installed the ARB Rack on my 4Runner.
The Installation Process
ARB provides rather straightforward and simple instructions for the installation of this rack, so I will move quickly through the installation process and finish with the overall conclusion section. It is important to mention that this install is much easier / safer with a second person assisting you, so if possible I recommend having a second set of hands for this install.
Step 1 – Remove the factory roof rail caps
The first step is to remove the factory roof rack. This is pretty straightforward. Begin to remove all of the factory roof bar covers that protect/cover the bolts and bolt location for the factory roof rack.
The way you remove these is by utilize a small pry tool and popping two tabs from their location. You can use a dedicated pry tool, or you can utilize a small flathead screwdriver. ARB recommends placing some masking tape in front of the factory roof bar covers to protect your vehicle’s paint.
I did this and agree it is wise to take the extra time for placing the masking tape for protection purposes. I used a folded rag as a fulcrum point and then pried off the plastic cover in two locations with my flathead screwdriver.
After doing so I could remove the plastic covers by gently pushing them towards the centerline of the vehicle for the two tabs on the backside to pop off. Repeat this process for the remaining three covers.
Step 2 – Unbolt the factory roof rails
Unbolt the factory roof rack bolts. Using a 12 MM socket remove eight bolts that hold the factory roof rack in place. There are two in each of the four corners of the rack.
Make sure to loosen the bolts concurrently, meaning do not fully remove one. Alternate between loosening the bolts so that they come out of the vehicle somewhat simultaneously.
Step 2A – Remove the Factory Roof Rack
After all the factory roof rack bolts have been removed, grab an assistant and get on both sides of the vehicle. Carefully grab onto the middle structure of the roof rack and lift the rack up.
Walk towards the back of your 4Runner taking caution to make sure you are holding the rack above your vehicle to avoid hitting the top of your 4Runner, but also remember if you are doing this inside of a garage not to lift too high and hit a light bulb or something else.
Set your factory roof rack, bolts, cargo bars, etc. to the side for now. If you wish to keep the factory rack, put it in a safe location. If not, I’d recommend trying to sell it online. The cargo bars in particular are pretty easy to sell as not all 4Runners come with the cargo bars, but all 5th Gen 4Runners do come with the factory roof rack structure (all of the roof rack equipment excluding the cargo bars).
Step 3 – Install the supplied rubber seals
Clean around the four factory roof rack mounting locations on your 4Runner.
Try to clear away any dirt, debris, and moisture. Install the supplied rubber seals into the location where the factory brackets where removed from. This will help to keep out moisture, minimize rubbing and noise.
The holes on the rubber seals are slightly smaller than the factory “studs” so you have to push them on with a small amount of force. Repeat this process for the remaining three mounting locations.
Step 5 – Install the specified 4Runner fitting kit
Now you need to install the rails to support the ARB Rack. Find the two rails that are a part of the fitting kit for your 4Runner. The rails are dependent on location (one is for the left, one is for the right – there is also a front and back). An easy way to tell is by looking at the mounting feet. The front of the rail has the foot that faces outwards.
Using an assistant, carefully place the rails onto the rubber seals and holes on the roof rack mounting locations for your 4Runner. Use the supplied M8 x 30mm bolts to secure the rails. There are two bolts for each corner just like the factory roof rack. Tighten the bolts with the supplied 6mm allen key wrench (do not use a star wrench or you could strip the socket).
One thing to keep in mind is that the bolts become pretty difficult to tighten when the threads with anti-seize on them come in contact. Take your time and alternate tightening the bolts.
Step 6 – Place roof rack on top of mounting rails
After ensuring all bolts for the mounting rails have been tightened adequately, use an assistant to place the ARB Rack on top of the mounting rails.
Place the support plate on top of the brackets coming from the ARB rack and the bolt plate underneath the mounting rails bracket.
In order from highest to lowest height (top to bottom) this is the order of the hardware to secure the roof rack:
- M8 x 30mm bolts
- Support plate
- Roof rack bracket
- Mounting rails bracket
- Bolt plate
There are twelve bolts in total you will need to tighten (six on each side). Tighten each side loosely, as you will need to align the roof rack before securely tightening the bolts.
Step 6A – Equalling Both Sides of the Roof Rack
Use a tape measure to measure the distance on each side the roof rack sticks out from the mounting rails and try to make the distance on each side equal. After doing so, fully tighten all of the bolts to secure your new ARB Rack!
Overall Driving Impressions
I have put about 800 miles (both highway and city) on the ARB Rack and overall I am very impressed. In my opinion, one of the most noticeable differences is just how good the roof rack looks.
It is all black and adds a very nice visual appeal in my opinion. I’ve had several people ask me about the rack and tell me how impressed they were with the way it looks.
I really like how low profile this rack is!
The rack has just enough clearance above the rear roof antenna to clear it, but just a small amount of clearance so that the rack is low profile as can be. This is nice if you park your vehicle in a garage, as basket style roof racks add a significant amount of height, whereas this flat ARB Rack minimizes the height increase.
Wind Noise and MPG?
As far as drivability goes, I have noticed a slight increase in road noise and a decrease in MPG from the installation of the ARB Rack. This is expected though, as I added more weight to my vehicle and a larger rack which therefore increases drag.
It is important to remember that any aftermarket roof rack will increase road noise and decrease MPG though, it is just the nature of these types of racks. You are adding a lot of versatility from what all the rack can do, but at the cost of a little more noise and decrease in fuel economy.
I think noise and MPG could be improved if ARB designed a wind deflector for the flat rack, but when and if this product might be produced is unknown.
No sign of weakness here!
Overall, I have been very impressed with the rack and have completed some minor testing with the rack, such as putting a kayak on top and also standing on top of the rack. The rack showed no sign of weakness and did a very good job.
I think what makes this rack worth the money is that it doesn’t require drilling, it increases your carrying capacity drastically, the quality is top notch, it is very low profile, and it is built by an extremely reputable company – ARB.
I will be publishing a second article on this rack in the future to follow up on the different ways you can utilize the rack and a follow up on my thoughts of the ARB Rack after more mileage has been put on it.
I’d highly recommend this rack, especially if you are in the market for a flat roof rack for your 5th Gen 4Runner.
It is strong, sturdy, high quality and just looks very impressive.