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  1. #1
    jasonc's Avatar
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    Thule Roof Bars nearly came off!

    Has anybody experienced any problems using Thule Roof bars?

    I've used my bars on several vehicles over the last few years and always considered them to be rock solid until this happened...

    We were driving down to the New Forest on Saturday morning with 2 bikes on the roof. The roof bars, cycle carriers and bikes had been secured to the roof properly - I'm always very careful and give everything a really good shove before setting off to make sure that nothing is loose.

    We were on a dual carriageway travelling fairly rapidly when I started to hear an occasional knocking noise as we went over bumps - I wasn't concerned because I've often heard this before when the cranks on the bikes can knock against the arms on the bike carriers. But then a biker (who was an absolute hero!) came roaring up along side us going nuts on his horn - I looked over and he started pointing at the bikes on the roof (which can't of been easy at that speed!). I figured that maybe there was a strap flapping around (I use zip straps around the bikes as an extra precaution) and the biker was over-reacting but obviously I slowed right down anyway. The biker then pulled in behind us and started to back the traffic up so there was a clear gap behind us - at this point I started to think that maybe there was a bigger problem than a loose strap! Fortunately a lay-by appeared after a very short distance and I pulled in and got out of the car to see what was going on. I could hardly believe what I was seeing - the foot on the front bar on the drivers side was no longer attached to the vehicle and the front bar was bouncing up and down freely. The movement on the front bar had also caused the bracket that holds one of the cycle carriers to the bar to fall apart and the cycle carrier was now making it's own break for freedom!

    I was then extremely glad that I have a Sportback - folded down the seats and managed to fit both bikes, cycle carriers and the roof bar in the back and continue the journey!

    Now for the really odd part - there doesn't appear to be anything wrong with the foot that came off:



    When I stopped the foot was still fixed to the bar in the correct place and the bracket that fits around the door frame was still screwed up in the correct position. It also managed to detach from the car without causing any damage - there is a very small dent on the roof where the bar has hit it but nothing else.

    I'm now unsure what to do next and I can't trust any of the kit until I know what went wrong.

    The easiest explanation would just be to assume that I was an idiot and I didn't fit them on properly but I don't really see what I could of done wrong. It's also worth noting that I put the roof bars on the car on Friday, put one bike on the roof at home on Saturday morning and then drove for an hour to my friends before putting the second bike on the roof so I had plenty of opportunities to spot if I had screwed up.

    Any thoughts / ideas / similar experiences greatly appreciated!
    2008 Audi S3 Manual

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  3. #2
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    Strange......I have used thule roof bars for years without problems, but only once on the S3 ( used many times on the S4, but that had a grommet which actually sat in a specific hole in the door frame, so it physically couldn't move ) and the S3 mounting is held only by clamping force.

    Have you tried to line it up again onto the roof, so that you can see if the foot mountings still line up correctly, or if one has moved so that the whole assembly can be slid onto the roof and over the mounting point as well ( if it is still in the position you took it off in, then it shouldn't be able to get around the roof (I hope that makes sense ).

    Only other thought is to check the hook section of the foot that fits into the door frame....it is a 'click' fitting and I suppose that may not be sitting correctly or have failed in some way.

    Must have been a bit of a 'sphincter clincher' though !!

    Alternatively, contact Thule and ask them to investigate the unit, as they will want to see if there is an issue ( and they may well send you a goodwill gesture or a new unit ) !!
    Last edited by Shadowman; 13th August 2012 at 15:36.

  4. #3
    jasonc's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shadowman View Post
    Strange......I have used thule roof bars for years without problems, but only once on the S3 ( used many times on the S4, but that had a grommet which actually sat in a specific hole in the door frame, so it physically couldn't move ) and the S3 mounting is held only by clamping force.

    Have you tried to line it up again onto the roof, so that you can see if the foot mountings still line up correctly, or if one has moved so that the whole assembly can be slid onto the roof and over the mounting point as well ( if it is still in the position you took it off in, then it shouldn't be able to get around the roof (I hope that makes sense ).

    Only other thought is to check the hook section of the foot that fits into the door frame....it is a 'click' fitting and I suppose that may not be sitting correctly or have failed in some way.

    Must have been a bit of a 'sphincter clincher' though !!

    Alternatively, contact Thule and ask them to investigate the unit, as they will want to see if there is an issue ( and they may well send you a goodwill gesture or a new unit ) !!
    I did refit the bar briefly on to the roof when I got home and it appeared to fit on normally and seemed solid (as it had done the previous time!). I had to unscrew the fitting to drop the hook down before it would fit back on to the roof which suggests that everything was still set in the "fitted" position.

    I have now emailed Thule to see if they can shed any light on it so we'll see what they have to say.
    2008 Audi S3 Manual

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    ok...Let us know what they say..........not too keen on using these again if there is a problem they aren't aware of !!

  6. #5
    Ben H's Avatar
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    Scary reading - although I take it that your Sportback doesn't have roof rails (mine does, so it's a different set-up)?
    S3 Sportback S-Tronic (2010) - Brilliant Red
    Technology Pack (RNSE 2, Bluetooth, 6-CD stack), BOSE, roof rails, 2 child seats and 310bhp



  7. #6
    NHN
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    I used use a set of these on my 8L S3 & tbh I didnt rate them then either given they wernt as secure as you'd like to think when I stuck a surfboard on them, given the style you have then no roof rails to attach some too.

    Why not fit some rails then get the proper bars to fit to the rails, that way its secure.

    BTW I have a retrofit kit for sale with chrome bars, used but in VGC £200 cheaper than audi new, if interested, supply/fit is an option aswell

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  8. #7
    jasonc's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ben H View Post
    Scary reading - although I take it that your Sportback doesn't have roof rails (mine does, so it's a different set-up)?
    That's right, no roof rails so I have to clamp over the door frame.

    Quote Originally Posted by NHN View Post
    I used use a set of these on my 8L S3 & tbh I didnt rate them then either given they wernt as secure as you'd like to think when I stuck a surfboard on them, given the style you have then no roof rails to attach some too.

    Why not fit some rails then get the proper bars to fit to the rails, that way its secure.

    BTW I have a retrofit kit for sale with chrome bars, used but in VGC £200 cheaper than audi new, if interested, supply/fit is an option aswell
    I was just thinking along these lines yesterday!

    I'm tempted, I'll do a bit more research into rails and bars and may well PM you to discuss the ones you have for sale.


    BTW, I haven't had any response from Thule yet... not impressed!
    2008 Audi S3 Manual

  9. #8
    NHN
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    No worries, its has the dvd guide, templates & fixings for the holes if you want to do it yourself, just takes a bit of time, but hey drilling into your roof is always a little anxious like, I know as I fit sharkfins onto cars without lol, so far so good lol.

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  10. #9
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    ive fitted hundreds of sets of these over the years to various cars, never had a problem with thule kit, its very good, i think in this case it was probably not fitted 100%, the only other issue could be a broken footpad etc, but you would have saw this whilst fitting.

  11. #10
    jasonc's Avatar
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    Still no response from Thule and I still can't see any fault with the foot that came off so this afternoon I thought I'd investigate the possibility that I could of fitted them badly and caused the problem.

    I dug out the instructions to check that the position of the feet and the positioning on the roof were OK - they were but something caught my eye in the instructions:



    So they seem to be suggesting that pushing the bracket against the car as it is being tightened is important, not something that I have ever paid too much attention to.

    I fitted the front bar as I would of done previously and the result was pretty clear - a gap between the bracket and the car:



    With this setup and having used what I would consider to be a decent amount of force tightening up the brackets (I don't have a torque wrench for an arm so I don't know if it was 4Nm or not!) there is a little bit of give vertically in the feet and if you give the bar enough of a shove it can be moved forwards and backwards a tiny bit.

    I then fitted the bar again, pushing the bracket firmly against the car while I tightened it up. To get the brackets to stay tight to the car you have to keep running around alternating between the two sides and tightening each up a little bit at a time but the result looks a bit more reassuring:



    Once tightened up to what I would consider to be the breaking point of the plastic fitting there is no movement in any direction no matter how hard you try and rip the bars off of the car.

    I'm not totally convinced that this explains how the bar could of come off but it has given me enough confidence to leave the bars fitted to the car with a single cycle carrier on them (no bikes yet - I'm not that brave / insane!).

    One thing I am sure of is that the design of the brackets is rubbish - there is a recess on all of the door frames where the bars fit to the car which Audi have clearly designed to help locate roof bars in place, if Thule had made the brackets with a bulge to match the recess in the car they could have removed any possibility of the bars moving.
    2008 Audi S3 Manual

  12. #11
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    can u take a pic of the inside of each foot pack? I fit these on a regular basis and one thing that can happen is the lil plastic part u screw into can go into the wrong recess or it can even be the wrong way round. Also did u follow the correct instructions as to the positioning of the bars? I.e. 300mm from the windscreen to the front bar, and 700mm between the centre point of the front and rear feet.

  13. #12
    jasonc's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sidhu88 View Post
    can u take a pic of the inside of each foot pack? I fit these on a regular basis and one thing that can happen is the lil plastic part u screw into can go into the wrong recess or it can even be the wrong way round. Also did u follow the correct instructions as to the positioning of the bars? I.e. 300mm from the windscreen to the front bar, and 700mm between the centre point of the front and rear feet.
    My instructions show 270mm from the windscreen and 700mm between the bars - this puts the bar in line with the recesses in the door frames so I think it must be correct.

    The bars are fitted to the car at the moment but when I take them off (or they fall off!) I'll get some pics inside the foot packs.
    2008 Audi S3 Manual

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    u dont need to take em off to see the bit on the inside. in fact i wana see pics of it in situ so i can see if those plastic bits are in the correct place, once u take em off they'll move. Another thing, i know it says 4Nm but i've found in alot of cases, especially with the cheaper branded products, u'll never get them on properly unless u use a fair bit of torque. Within reason its ok to use more, just have enough sense to know when to stop or u'll end up causing damage.

    You say u've had thule kits on other car, just to confirm this isn't a bit of a mix and match job is it? by that i mean is the kit uve got for ur car, bars footpack and fitting kit. or have u used bars and footpacks from old cars and just a new fitting kit?

    The other thing, on some thule kits each individual corner has its own numbered rubber mount and clamp, are u sure these are all correct for each corner?

  15. #14
    jasonc's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sidhu88 View Post
    You say u've had thule kits on other car, just to confirm this isn't a bit of a mix and match job is it? by that i mean is the kit uve got for ur car, bars footpack and fitting kit. or have u used bars and footpacks from old cars and just a new fitting kit?
    That is exactly what it is - why would that be a problem?
    The aero bars have been used on 3 different cars now - they all needed the same size bars.
    The feet were originally used on a Seat Leon on and off for about 2 years. Thule specify the same foot pack for the Seat Leon and the Sportback Audi A3, since I already had them it didn't make sense to buy a new set.
    The adapter kit was bought specifically for the Audi.

    Quote Originally Posted by Sidhu88 View Post
    The other thing, on some thule kits each individual corner has its own numbered rubber mount and clamp, are u sure these are all correct for each corner?
    I have had this in the past on other cars but it is not the case for the Audi - the front and rear fittings are different but there is no distinction between the left and right sides. I definitely have the front and rear bars the correct way round and I have checked that the fittings are all on the correct bars.

    Quote Originally Posted by Sidhu88 View Post
    u dont need to take em off to see the bit on the inside. in fact i wana see pics of it in situ so i can see if those plastic bits are in the correct place, once u take em off they'll move.
    I'm not sure which bits you are referring to - this is a shot of the inside of one of the feet:

    2008 Audi S3 Manual

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    That doesn't look like mine when they are fitted.....by that, I mean that once fitted, the footpad is clamped tightly against the roof of the car....on your pic, it looks like there is space between the two ( unless that pic is taken before you have tightened it ? ).

    If that is the position when everything is tightened, then it looks wrong.....maybe there is a problem with the thread on the clamping mechanism, so that when it feels tight it actually isn't ?

  17. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shadowman View Post
    That doesn't look like mine when they are fitted.....by that, I mean that once fitted, the footpad is clamped tightly against the roof of the car....on your pic, it looks like there is space between the two ( unless that pic is taken before you have tightened it ? ).

    If that is the position when everything is tightened, then it looks wrong.....maybe there is a problem with the thread on the clamping mechanism, so that when it feels tight it actually isn't ?
    It was definitely tight when the picture was taken. If I do it any tighter something is going to give!

    The footpack and adapter kit are definitely the ones that are specified for an A3 Sportback but the fit to the car doesn't seem 100% right - for example the rubber pads just don't seem to fit very well (because they are the same left and right sides they don't line up with the lip on the roof very well and there is a gap at the front) and the brackets don't match up perfectly to the underside of the door frames. On previous cars the Thule kits have always fitted the cars like a glove. Has the design of the Sportback roof / doors area ever changed (the same kit is specified for the Sportback from 2004 to present)?
    2008 Audi S3 Manual

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    ohhh i thought u had a slightly different kit. Ok, heres what i suggest u try, with all the bars off, move the footpack further in on the bar. Say 5mm either side, or 10mm either side. The rubber foot pulls down and outwards once u tighten it and sometimes doesnt sit against the lip properly. Loosen out the clamp as much as u can so u can still get it on again afterwards. tighten it up and see how u get on. once u've got them on and tight, pull on them pretty hard and see if they move. The car shud move with it if its on properly, if not ull see movement between the rubber foot and car

  19. #18
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    Just thought I'd update this thread for anybody searching around later.

    Thule did eventually respond and gave me the option of returning the bars for further investigation but by that point I'd already come to my own conclusions and decided that I wasn't going to use these roof bars on the Audi again.

    I'm not going to slate Thule too much because I have used their bars on my last 3 cars and they have been excellent but I do believe that they have messed up the design of the A3 Sportback adapters. My conclusions are:

    1. Because they provide identical feet for the left and right side of the car (unlike every other adapter kit I've had from them for previous vehicles) the front bar can never fit the contours of the roof correctly. This means that there is the possibility of the bar moving forwards or backwards on the roof which is where the problems start. This can be avoided by tightening them to the point that they feel they are about to snap (but I don't know how many times they could be fitted like this!).

    2. From what I have read if you have roof rails on your A3 then you will have a different adapter kit and the Thule bars will be OK.


    Anyway, since I no longer trusted the Thule bars and both of my bike carriers were pretty mangled from being bounced around the roof when it all came apart I decided to cut my losses and start again.

    After much research I settled on some roof bars from a Kiwi company called Whispbar and a pair of Atera Giro bike carriers. I knew it wasn't going to be cheap but I got a bundle discount from roofbox.co.uk and got the job lot for 270 quid which was a fair bit less than I was expecting.

    The first thing I noticed after unpacking the roof bars was different feet for the left and right side of the vehicle so straight away I'm encouraged that they haven't made the same mistake as Thule. In fact even the metal clamps are shaped differently left and right and the whole assembly seems to fit the car like a glove and inspires a lot more confidence than my previous set-up.

    Whispbar claims to be the quietest bars available and have no impact on fuel consumption (with only the bars fitted, obviously when you stick bikes on them it is going to have an effect!). I can't comment on the fuel consumption but the noise is impressive - with just the bars fitted I can't hear any wind noise from them until I get to high motorway speeds and even then it is barely noticeable.

    The thing that strikes me most though is how much better they look on the car than the old bars. Roof bars are never going to improve the look of a car but I reckon these new ones look pretty smart. Judge for yourselves:

    Thule Aero Bars:



    Whispbars:



    I'm also pretty impressed with the Atera bike carriers. My previous carriers were the very basic Thule ones (Halfords branded) which fitted by clamping around the bars which I never liked (they are very fiddly and the clamps can drop down when you release them and hit the roof). The Atera ones slide into the tracks on the roof bars which is a considerably better method (this mechanism is also available with the more expensive Thule carriers). They also look much better:



    Fitting the bikes to them is a big improvement as well - they have a one handed spring loaded mechanism which clamps to any size bike frame without the need for adjustment (I used to have to dismantle my old carriers anytime I switched between mountain bikes and road bikes because of the vast difference in the frame sizes):



    It's early days but so far I'm pretty pleased with the new setup. Not a cheap solution but I'll sell the old Thule bars on so should get a few quid back towards the cost (I'll sell them with the adapter kit for my previous car on which they worked well, I'm not going to inflict them on another A3 owner!).
    2008 Audi S3 Manual

  20. #19
    NHN
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    I have to say even just by looking at a pic of the new bars fitted you can clearly tell they are better, I didnt rate thule on my 8L, so, glad you have found an alternative, good write up aswell

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  21. #20
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    Have to say i rate the Thule system and have carried two Kayaks (25kgs each) on the roof on an A3 L with the 750 foot pack on many occasions and found them to be very good. On the A3 L there is scope for user error if the feet are not totally parallel to each other or the internal length between the feet isn't correct / i adjust the set up so that the hooking plate under the door sits flush with the body work its clamping. I found some of the manufacturer marks for the feet not to be perfect - eg in your photos, the front feet would benefit from being slightly further back (5 inches?) to reduce clamping on a curvature and you can also push the rears back the same distance.

  22. #21
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    Jason, thanks for those updated photos, I've been looking at some Thule bars for my new S3, but those Whispbar ones look much better, like the look of the bike carriers too. Might have to look at these instead I think.

  23. #22
    NHN
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    I wish mine were user error, but unfortunately not, was just not a great system to use.

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  24. #23
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    Got wisps bars myself much better than normal roof bars plus they are very quite as the name suggests.

 

 

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