Can I Leave My Kayak On My Car? (Revealed)

“Can I leave my kayak on my car”? It’s a popular question.

Some believe you can’t leave a kayak on your car, while others think it’s no problem.

So what’s the truth?

Can you leave your kayak on your car or not? 

This blog post will explore the answer to that question and help determine if leaving your kayak on your car is right for you.

Can I Leave My Kayak On My Car?

Yes, you can leave a kayak on top of a car, but there are a few things to keep in mind. First, make sure the kayak is secured correctly and locked. Second, it is essential to consider the weather conditions. Extreme heat and UV light can cause the materials of a kayak to break down, so it’s best to avoid leaving your yak in direct sunlight for extended periods. Ultimately, while it is possible to leave a kayak on top of a car, it is not always the ideal solution. However, in certain circumstances, it can be the best option available.

The Sun’s UV Rays

Ultraviolet rays from the sun can cause plastic kayaks to break down over time.

The rays cause the plastic to become brittle and crack, leading to leaks. Eventually, you will need a new kayak.

UV rays can also cause the color of the kayak to fade.

To help protect your kayak from the sun’s rays, store it in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight.

You can also apply a UV-resistant coating like 303 Protectant to the kayak, which will help to reflect the sun’s rays and prevent them from causing damage to the kayak.

Think of 303 Protectant as sunblock for your kayak.

Hot Weather

On a hot summer day, there’s nothing more refreshing than hitting the water in a kayak. But if you’re not careful, the heat can take its toll on your boat.

Rotomolded kayaks are made of plastic molded into shape under heat and pressure. When exposed to high temperatures, the plastic begins to lose its shape, which can cause the kayak to deform.

If you leave your boat on the car for an extended period, keep it away from the sun or cover it with a tarp.

Taking these precautions can help ensure that your kayak stays in good condition for many summers to come.

Park In The Shade

If you plan to leave your kayak on your car for a long time, try to park in the shade.

Try to park under a tree, in a parking garage, or in other shady spots.

The sun can damage the kayak over time, especially if it’s plastic. 

Parking in the shade will help protect your kayak from the elements and extend its lifespan.

If you can’t park your vehicle in the shade, try to cover the kayak up with a tarp to keep it out of direct sunlight.

Lock Your Kayak

Just as you would lock your bike or skis to your car, it only makes sense to lock up your kayak.

After all, kayaks can be just as expensive as other sporting equipment, and they’re just as vulnerable to theft.

There are several ways to secure your kayak to your car, but one of the most effective is to use a cable locking system that attaches the kayak to the roof rack.

Locking it up can help deter would-be thieves and ensure that your kayak is there when you return to it. Just be sure to use a good quality lock so it can’t be easily cut through.

So if you’re planning on leaving your kayak on your car, take a few minutes to secure it first.

Watch Out For Oil Canning

Oil canning is the term to define indentations on the kayak hull.

When the kayak is supported on the bottom of the hull, and the bow and stern tie-downs are too tight, the hull can bend the wrong way.

If your kayak is left with a significant dent in the hull, that is called oil canning.

Watch the bow and stern lines if you keep your kayak on your car for extended periods with the hull side down on cross bars.

To prevent oil canning, loosen the tie downs when you park the car and tighten them when you start driving.

Invest In A J-Cradle Kayak Rack

If you’re planning on leaving your kayak on your car for extended periods, the right kayak rack is essential.

While many folks simply tie their kayak down to the roof rack, this can put undue strain on the hull, likely leading to damage.

A better option is to use a J-cradle, like Yakima JayLow, which supports the boat on its side and evenly distributes the weight.

If you go with a J-cradle and keep your kayak strapped on your car for extended periods, flip it around from time to time to even the pressure points.

Flipping the kayak helps to prevent hull damage. 

When choosing a J-cradle, select one that will fit your car and kayak.

Keep The Straps Loose When Parked

If you’re planning on leaving your kayak on your car for an extended period, it’s important to loosen the straps when you park or when you won’t be driving the car for a while.

For example, if you take your kayak to work and leave it strapped to your car, loosen the straps while the car is parked for the day.

Leaving the straps tightened can put undue pressure on the kayak, damaging the boat’s structure.

Of course, you must tighten the straps before hitting the road. But, loosening the straps will help temporarily remove some pressure.

So, next time you park, remember to loosen those straps.

Alternatives To Leaving Your Kayak On Your Car

One important consideration for kayak owners is how to store their kayak when it’s not in use.

Storing the kayak in a garage is a good option, but not everyone has a garage, so some folks leave the kayak on top of their car.

Another option is to store the kayak outdoors or in a storage shed.

If you opt to leave your kayak outdoors, cover it with a tarp or other waterproof covering to protect it from the elements.

And if you’re storing your kayak in a storage shed, make sure that the shed is secure and dry.

The bottom line is that there are many options for storing your kayak, so choose the one that makes the most sense.

What Happens If Your Kayak Gets A Dent?

If your kayak is ever dented from leaving it on top of your car, don’t fret.

If the dents don’t pop back out, a hair dryer, a heat gun, and some patience might do the trick.

Heat up the area around the dent. Once it’s nice and warm, often, the dent pop right back out.

If it doesn’t, you can repeat the process, and if you can reach the dented area, you might be able to push it back in place once the plastic is warm.


“Can I leave my kayak on my car” is a popular question.

In this article, we’ve outlined a few tips to help keep your kayak in good condition while it’s on your car.

We also suggest using a J-cradle rack and loosening the straps when you park.

If your kayak does get damaged, don’t worry, it’s possible to fix it.

So, next time you plan to leave your kayak on your car, keep these tips in mind.

Photo of author
About the author
Steve Morrow
Steve Morrow owns Paddle About, an outdoor recreation and travel blog. Steve loves to travel, kayak, paddle board, camp, hike, and spend time outdoors with his wife and two kids. When he's not exploring the great outdoors, Steve enjoys writing about his adventures and sharing tips for getting the most out of your outdoor experiences. He has a lot of interesting stories to share, and he's always happy to help others get more out of life.