2012 Honda CR-V: Installing a Factory Rooftop Cargo Box
January 2, 2013
It our last episode we installed Honda's accessory crossbars onto the roof of our long-term 2012 Honda CR-V, a move that opens the door to a whole range of Honda Genuine rooftop accessories. One of them is a 13-cubic foot rooftop cargo box, which your local Honda dealer will sell you for $499, a price that's fairly competitive when compared to similar aftermarket products.
Wherever you get yours, a roof pod is the kind of thing you want to be able to install and remove yourself, because driving around with one on your roof when you don't actually need it isn't a great plan. For one, there's the obvious and potentially damaging loss of overhead clearance in your typical garage or parking structure, but you can also expect a drop in fuel economy on account of the additional frontal area and aerodynamic drag the pod represents, whether it's loaded or not.
As you read this we're measuring the scale of the fuel economy loss during our annual 2,000-mile holiday trip to Oregon and back. What follows is a short description of how the installation went down before we left.
The box the roof pod comes in fits inside the CR-V itself, which is not something you can say about some aftermarket roof pods, which come in a confusing array of sizes. I suppose this test represents a good rule of thumb: if it's too long for the cargo space, it's probably too long for the roof, although I suspect skiers will take issue with this.
The fully-assembled box is ready to go right out of the box, but there is the small issue of mounting hardware, which is in a bag inside.
There's a lot of stuff in the mounting hardware bag, but almost all of it will only be installed this first time. Subsequent removals and reinstallations of the cargo box require far less work and time.
The first order of business involves peeling the adhesive backing from foam pads and sticking it to metal plates.
There are eight pads in all.
Now it's time to set the box on the crossbars. A second pair of hands can be of help, but it weighs less than 30 pounds. One person can do it, but you may find it a little awkward.
It's important to place the box just forward of the CR-V's centrally-mounted roof antenna. Honda's factory accessory development team takes this into consideration, but you've got to be a bit careful if you're shopping for a longer aftermarket box because you can't let it extend any farther back than this one because of that antenna.
At this point we've opened the cargo box so we can see the mounting holes from the inside. There are two pairs of available holes (the span of the holes in the plates we prepared before makes it necessary to skip one) and the relative position of the back edge of the box and the CR-V's roof antenna makes it necessary to use the rearmost pair.
The two chosen holes straddle the crossbar, which is why the unused hole between the pair we've chosen appears blocked. The kit comes with stickers to cover the two unused holes so moisture doesn't come in through the openings. There are more than enough of these stickers, so I put one on the inside and another on the outside.
The single pair of holes at the front end are part of a sliding assembly that adjusts to suit once the rear crossbars holes have been selected.
With the box in place and the holes roughly lined up we can now install the clamps and bolts. First we lift up the box just enough to slide the large metal pad above the crossbar, foam side down. The smaller plate goes below, foam side up, and we skewer them both with a stove-head bolt that comes up from the bottom.
Pass the bolt on up through the hole in the box, then place a retaining bracket and split washer over the end before threading on a retaining knob. Add a second bolt, washer and knob on the other side of the crossbar, where everything is the same except for a slot in the lower part of the clamp.
Center everything up before cranking down on the clamps. A tape measure helps, but isn't strictly necessary because this is more about aesthetics than anything else.
Tighten each knob gradually to bring the plates together to grip the crossbar, taking care to alternate between the two ends to keep the plates parallel.
The slotted end of the lower clamp, barely visible in the foreground here, is what allows the box to be removed and reinstalled more easily after we've finished this initial assembly. As the knobs are loosened enough slack will be created so the lower plate can be pivoted free of its bolt. Spin it 180 degrees and it will no longer capture the crossbar and the box can be lifted off without removing any parts.
The retaining brackets have slots that allow retaining straps to be threaded through and around the cargo you put up here, like the inside of a humungous suitcase.
We're done. The box opens from the back, of course, but you load it from either side, using an open rear door to provide a handy step.
The installation wasn't terribly difficult, but there were quite a few parts. At least we'll only have to do most of it just this once. From here on out removal and installation will be a simpler matter of loosening or tightening eight knobs.
Of course we still need to figure out where we're going to stash it between trips.
Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 12,953 miles