October 5, 2023

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How Should I Tie a Mattress to the Roof of My Car?

I cannot tell you how many times I have encountered drivers who apparently thought it a good idea to carry a mattress on the roof of the car without properly securing it. Recently, I was relaying one such experience to a friend of mine. The fact that he was incredulous told me he had probably done this before. But then he asked a question that ended up being a dead giveaway: how should I tie a mattress to the roof of my car?

You shouldn’t. Period. Passenger vehicles are not designed to be mattress movers. Use a van, pickup truck, or utility trailer – even if you need to rent something. If you do choose to use your passenger vehicle anyway, there are safer ways to do it.

Start with Tie-Down Straps

The starting point is your choice of tie-down. Carrying a mattress on top of your car is a mistake to begin with. Do not compound things by using rope or bungee cords. Rope is likely to loosen as you drive. Bungee cords will not be able to handle the load once the mattress starts flapping in the wind.

Your best choice is always going to be tie-down straps. Rollercam makes a cam buckle tie down strap that combines webbing material with their patented cam buckle. The product would be an excellent choice. But really, any brand of cam buckle or ratchet strap will do the trick. You will need at least four of them.

From Front to Back

After laying the mattress on the roof of your car and centering it, the next step is to run two straps from front-to-back. This is where everybody blows it, by the way. They tie down from side-to-side but never think of front-to-back. In transit, the wind grabs the front of the mattress and threatens to rip it right off the car.

Ratchet straps with hooks on the ends can be anchored to the front and rear bumper. Better yet, going underneath the bumper and hooking to the frame guarantees neither the straps nor mattress are going to move.

With a Luggage Rack

If you are working with a luggage rack, you can run two more ratchet straps completely around the mattress, widthwise, and underneath the rack. Pull them tight and you’re good to go. Now you have straps running both front-to-back and side-to-side. You shouldn’t have any problems with wind.

Of course, this is assuming that there is room to get straps under the luggage rack. If not, you’ll have to follow the same advice as someone who doesn’t have a rack.

Without a Luggage Rack

Strapping from side-to-side without a luggage rack requires opening the windows. You are still going to use two cam straps, but you’re going to run them through the car instead of underneath a luggage rack. It will be easier if you arrange things so that the cam buckles are inside of the car rather than outside.

Take Nothing for Granted

Securing a mattress with four cam straps is the safest way to go. Still, don’t take anything for granted. Double check that the mattress is secure before you hit the road. If your drive is any more than 10 to 15 minutes, stop at the 15 minute mark and check again. Make sure nothing has come loose. If you can, avoid interstates and local expressways.

Carrying a mattress strapped to the roof of your car is never smart. But if you must do it, be smart about it. Use cam straps running from front-to-back and side-to-side. Forget the rope and bungee cords entirely.