Not all roof racks are made equal, and after almost a year of use, we’re finally ready to release our long term review of the Front Runner Slimline II roof rack.
A little over 14 months ago we installed the Slimline II on our 2014 JKU Rubicon, and in that time we’ve put over 20,000 miles on the truck with the rack mounted. We’ve utilized the rack on dozens of road trips, in variety of temperatures/weather condition, and overall it’s performed exceptionally well, especially compared to the previous GOBI I had on the truck.
- It’s quiet*
- Made of lightweight aluminum
- Bolts directly to the roll cage/body
- Lots of available accessories
- Jeep becomes a permanent hard top
- You have to drill into your roof
- Can leak
- Slats have some flexibility
The main reason I decided to replace my Gobi with the Front Runner was due to the excessive noise I experienced while using the rack. Not only did it generate a substantial amount of turbulence, the rack itself would often make noise associated with the design due to how it mounted to the truck. None of these problems exist with the Front Runner but as always there are a few caveats. All roof racks will make noise, and you will hear it whistle and hum from time to time while driving down the highway, especially in windy conditions. Also the JK has no sound insulation, so if you install a headliner it will make a substantial difference. The takeaway is that if you want a “quiet” roof rack the Front Runner is your best bet, if don’t like noise from a roof rack, go buy a trailer.
Installing the Slimline II is time consuming but not difficult, but the biggest downside to the design is you have to drill into your hard top. This is because the lightweight aluminum rack mounts directly to the roll bar of the JK providing for tons of stability and strength, but you’re pretty much stuck with keeping the rack on 24/7. There are options to remove the rack and plug the holes, but for all intents and purposes, this rack will make your truck a permanent hard top. The good news is that it’s very light at only 100 lbs (brackets, mounting hardware, etc.) and you won’t have to worry about the aluminum rusting on you.
The other thing to consider is that the JK is already well known for not being very good at keeping out water. I had a slight issue with one of the bolts that went through the hard top, and for some reason the provided washer/gasket just wouldn’t seal well enough to keep out the rain. This was fixed by adding some silicone, but something to keep in mind is that out of the 16 holes you need to put in the top, this is the only one that has failed. Every other penetration has remained leak free since the original installation.
I’ve used the rack to transport everything including my OzTent RV-4, multiple E-Z Up awnings, Front Runner Wolf Pack boxes, fire wood, MAXTRAX, kitchen chairs, ladder for my house, and probably a few things I shouldn’t admit to on the internet. Chances are if you want to mount it on your roof, Front Runner makes an accessory for it. Something to think about though is that since the roof slats are aluminum, if you walk down the middle of the rack, you will experience some flex. At 155 lbs, I don’t have any problems walking down the middle, but if you’re over 200 lbs, you might want to stick to the outside edge.
Overall the Slimline II has been a great rack, I’ve been exceptionally happy with it’s performance and wish I would have pulled the trigger and purchased it before the GOBI. The powder coat and hardware have held up great, even with multiple east coast winter snow storms and trips to the Outer Banks. I’m pretty sure this rack will last longer than the truck, if you decide to go this route, you won’t be disappointed.
On the front runner site, they show a JK without its top. So there isn’t a way to take off the tack if you want to go topless? Please let me know. FYI, I was going to get the Gobi until I read your review.
Theoretically you can remove the top but you have to remove the top portion of the rack first. Then you can re mount the rack once you’ve removed the top. To be honest, it’s pretty cumbersome, if you were planning on keeping the top off all summer then it might make sense, but I’ve never removed my top since I’ve installed the rack.
You can still pull the freedom panels though relatively easily since there is plenty of space to maneuver them around. Good luck with the purchase!
Great review first on the GOBI rack and now the Front Runner. Have you heard anything or have any experience with the Maximus-3 Rhino-Rack Roof Rack? I have a 2016 Jeep 4-door Hardrock. I think I like the looks of the Maximus better and they have a ladder like the GOBI.
Corbin, no personal experience with the Maximus, if you end up picking one up, please let us know what you think about it.