A few months before our trip to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, I ordered a cargo bag and bungee net from an online retailer so that we can secure our luggage to the roof rack of the van without having to worry about it being exposed to the elements as we cross five states. The bag and the net came in a timely manner and everything looked okay.
As the trip drew near, I brought out the bag and the net and sized them up with the roof rack of the van. Everything looked just fine. The straps that would be used to secure the bag to the rack looked like they’d be long enough and strong enough to hold the luggage in place. The net looked like it would cover the bag and work as a backup in case one of the straps failed for some reason. All-in-all, everything looked like it would work as it should.
The night before we left, I began to secure the bag to the luggage rack. I needed to move one of the bars of the rack a few inches so that it would be closer to the bag and I wouldn’t need to have the strap stretched out as far as it could go. It looked simple enough, there was a thumbscrew on either side that looked like it should turn, loosen, and allow me to move the bar. Famous. Last. Words. I couldn’t budge either of the screws. So I went and got a pair of pliers and loosened the screw, or so I thought. I turned it the six turns that the manual said to (yeah, I know, revoke my man-card, I read the damn manual). I was able to move the bar. So I went to the other side and did the same. I was able to move the bar on that side. Mission accomplished, right? Wrong.
As I began to tighten the screws I felt a slight but distinct clicking. I turned and turned and turned the screws but nothing tightened. And the clicking got worse. After about 15 minutes of turning the thumbscrews and scratching my head, I took a flat head screwdriver and popped off one of the plastic thumbscrews to reveal this:
I don’t even know what the hell to call this thing. It’s like a post on an oven that you put the knobs on. And it has some of the smallest little ridges that are supposed to catch the matching ridges in the plastic thumbscrew. Only problem is that IT’S PLASTIC!!!!! The metal ridges stripped those plastic ridges right out. There was no chance of this thing ever working correctly! Major design fail on Chrysler’s part if you ask me. Major fail.
So, I got my vice grips and tightened the metal post thingie down and the bar was secured in place. Step one complete.
Now, secure the bag to the rack. There are three different types of straps used to secure the cargo bag to the roof rack. Two large ones that clip to the bag, loop around the bar, and clip together. Essentially a “two clips on one strap” system. The clips are the type you typically see in shopping carts to secure your children, or on children’s life jackets, where one part fits into the other, and to separate them you have to squeeze two parts of the inner piece and it slides out of the outer piece. There are also two large straps with one clip system, so you have to feed the strap around the bar, then thread it through the clip and clip it to the bag. And the last type is a small strap that works like the first type of large straps, where there is a two clip system. It sounds complicated, but it’s not. Or it shouldn’t be.
Oh, but it is. There isn’t enough room in the one clip straps to feed the strap through. I ended up using the flat head screwdriver I used to pry the thumbscrew off of the post to “push” the strap through. It was so tight that I risked stabbing myself with the screwdriver if I slipped. And that would have required an emergency room visit. Once I got that set up I began to fasten the side straps, the smaller ones. As I started to pull the straps to tighten them down, one of the clips just pulled right out and came undone. It was as if there was nothing holding it in place. I re-fastened it to its counterpart on the bag and began to tighten the strap again and the same thing happened. I thoroughly inspected it thinking I must have done something wrong like put it in the wrong way. Nope, it was in the correct way. It just wasn’t “clicking” into place, and therefore not secure. I tried it in all four positions on the bag with the same results. Good thing I bought that bungee net.
Then I got to the front of the bag. The straps with the two clip system. Those seemed to hold in place pretty well. Then I began to tighten the straps, which just loosened again when I let go. The instructions were not very explicit as to how to feed the straps through the clips. Apparently the way I believed it should be done was backwards. Once I turned the clip around, it held the straps in position much better.
So, since one of the straps was not holding, I decided to use the net. I got it in place, secured all of the hooks on one side to the roof rack, and began to pull the net over to the other side and secure the hooks on that side. I got to the second to last one, and the metal ring holding one part of the bungee net to another let go and went flying millimeters from my head. Nice. So now I had to loop that end around, through and back to the luggage rack to secure that end down. Luckily it was not the same end that the malfunctioning strap was on.
So, now with the luggage secured to the rack, we began our journey. I kept praying and checking my rear view mirrors the entire way to North Carolina thinking I would see our cargo bag and luggage cartwheeling across I-77. It stayed attached to the rack the whole way. We got to our hotel, unpacked and got a good night’s rest. The next morning while I was loading up again, another one of the small straps failed in the same manner as the first. Fantastic.
Despite the additional failure, the luggage made it all the way to Myrtle Beach. While we were unhooking the net to unload, one of the hooks just popped off of the net. Just popped right off. Upon further inspection, it was fairly easy to reattach, as it was just hooked onto the net much the way a Christmas tree ornament hook attaches to an ornament. It’s just a tighter hook.
Thankfully, we were able to pack everything up and make it all the way home from Myrtle Beach without having any further failures or malfunctions. And the luggage never seemed to be in danger of coming off of the roof. I was glad I spent the extra money on the bungee net. Rest assured next year I will have multiple backup plans in place.