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How not to carry a mattress on your car

mattress on the roof

At some point in your life you’ll need to move house and usually the most cumbersome item is the mattress. I was reminded of this today when I heard Jerry Seinfeld’s little comedy skit about guys being superheroes and being able to hold a mattress on the roof of a car while driving.

Stories crop up in the media every so often, too, like this one in the Daily Mail back in 2007. And, because we live our lives at the mercy of Instagram and camera phones, there’s always a ready source of motorway misdemeanours waiting, like the Toyota Camry above which looks like it’s going to take off. You should never carry anything on the roof of your car that isn’t tied down.

If you need to move something large, what is the best way:

1) Get a removals truck. This is the safest, and they have insurance. If you are carrying a mattress and it flies off and damages another vehicle you would need to carefully check the wording in your insurance policy because you might not be covered

2) Get a trailer. This is the second best option, and it’s slightly cheaper than a removals truck. The downside is you’ll need to lift the mattress yourself.

3) Use a roof rack and securely tie down the mattress. Ideally you want the front of the mattress slightly dipped so that wind can’t get underneath it to lift the front up. If this happens, it actually creates a small amount of lift on the car, plus an enormous amount of drag. Load the car so that what you are carrying is balanced between front and rear. If you load it with too much weight on the rear then the back of the car will squat down and this lifts the nose of the car. As well as creating a big weight over the rear axle which will unbalance the car in corners, it will mean your headlights are aligned higher and can dazzle other drivers.

You should avoid tying items to the roof of your car if you don’t have a roof rack because paintwork is slippery and the load can easily move when cornering. You need three or four solid points to tie an item to. You can use rope or canvas webbing/strops (or, better still, use canvas webbing with a ratchet to tighten it). Don’t leave loose ends of the rope or webbing to flap around as these can cause damage to your car, and it will also fray the rope or webbing. Double-check your work when you’ve tightened it.

Check the load periodically if you are travelling a long way, and if you are carrying a very heavy load it’s best to put a couple of extra pounds of pressure in the tyres. Check your manufacturer’s handbook first, though.

If you are regularly moving items, invest in a quality roof rack because it will save you a huge amount of time.

There are vehicle loading questions from the Highway Code here. Check you’re up-to-speed with the law!

Darren has owned several companies in the automotive, advertising and education industries. He has run driving theory educational websites since 2010.

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