Secure a Load
Photo by Doug Howlett
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Secure a Load Safely

If you’ve ever stood outside of a Home Depot, Lowes or discount furniture store and watched consumers try to secure large items to the roofs of their cars or in the back of their trucks, it’s probably no surprise to you that sometimes, the loads aren’t tied down properly. More often than not, you’ll want to get out of the parking lot and ahead of the person you’ve been watching so as to not be behind them when whatever they just bought goes airborne or topples into the roadway. For your safety and the safety of those around you, learn to secure loads the right way. It’s actually quite easy.

Car and SUV Tops

Secure a load to a car or SUV top by utilizing existing roof racks for best results. If needed, you can attach racks to the roof and follow these tips:

For suitcases, boxes, bags and similarly sized items, use a hard-shell rooftop carrier or cargo bag. A cargo bag is great because it folds compactly and can be easily packed in the trunk or the rear of a vehicle until needed. Most can be safely fastened to a vehicle top—with or without racks—in a matter of minutes.

Always use quality nylon ratchet or cam straps of at least an inch to 2-inch width to safely secure loads, whether they are in a carrier or simply tied down. They attach easily to racks and loops and can be cinched down to the precise tightness needed without complicated knots. Avoid ropes and bungees. Ropes can come loose if you’re not good at tying the right knots, and bungees can shift with the weight of your load and break easily.

Large, bulky items, such as a kayak, a canoe, lumber or a piece of furniture, can be laid evenly across both racks, and you should secure them with at least two cam or ratchet straps. Depending on the size of the load, you may need additional straps. Cam straps may also work better than a ratchet strap if you are concerned about damaging the item by tightening down on it too much, as the cam allows you to stop tightening whenever you wish, while a ratchet tightens in increments. For bikes, use a specially designed rooftop or hitch-mounted carrier. Auto Anything offers great advice on how to choose the right one.

Pickup Trucks

Avoid leaning more than a few long boards on the closed tailgate, as it isn’t designed for heavy loads.

To be sure items are safely secured in the bed of a pickup truck, do the following:

The Family Handyman website recommends wrapping long, flimsy materials, such as flashing, conduit and trim that will hang beyond the bed of the truck, with cling film for added support. Otherwise, individual pieces may bounce and whip during travel, getting damaged.

Avoid leaning more than a few long boards on the closed tailgate, as it isn’t designed for heavy loads. Instead, lay them flat with the tailgate open and bind them using ratchet straps. Cinch the boards together near the cab, in the middle and near the end, placing shorter boards on top. Family Handyman suggests then crisscrossing the load with two straps, securing one end of each to the bed near the cab and the other to the far end of the load.

Appliances, such as refrigerators and washers, can tip when taking a turn. Place the appliance against the back of the bed and use straps across the top and around the side, securing the ends of each strap to the bed of the truck.

When transporting lightweight items such as insulation, use a cargo net or tarp and snap it to the hooks inside the bed using the attached clips on a cargo net or D-Ring clips on the tarp.

Flag items extending beyond the bed with a brightly colored rag or flag made for this purpose to keep others aware of the potential hazard.