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Remove the cross rails from a 2008 Sequoia's roof rack

13373 Views 9 Replies 5 Participants Last post by  griffman
We never use the roof rack on our Sequoia, so I wanted to remove the cross rails, as I've read they add wind noise (and may have some negligible impact on fuel economy). I Googled around for it, and found a lot of references to older Sequoias, and to Highlanders, but not much at all on the newer Sequoias. So to save others some time in the future, here's how I did it.

  1. Remove the plastic covers from the ends (near the end of the car) of each side's mounting rail. These covers are only held on with plastic clips. To remove them, I protected the body with a towel, and then used a small screwdriver to release the clips on the outside. For the clips on the inside, I used a larger screwdriver, and inserted it at the flat end (bottom of the leftmost picture below) of the cover, then moved it around to the inside. The covers came off relatively easily.
  2. With the cover off, you'll see two Torx bolts that secure the end rail mount system to the roof. Remove them.
  3. Gently push up on the now-free rail mount box, and place a towel (or other paint-safe item) in the gap you've made. You want to give yourself as much room to work as you can without bending anything. I'd guess I got about an inch at the most, but it's important.
  4. Here's where I began to hate Toyota's assembly methods. It's clear they put the completed roof rack on the car, cross rails and all, then secure it with the Torx bolts. It's clear because there are two Phillips screws on the underside of the side rails (see the rightmost picture below). These screws must come out before you can remove the end rail mount piece. More detail on this step down below.
  5. With the screws out, slide the end rail mount out, then repeat this process on the other side.
  6. Loosen the cross rails, and slide them out the back of the rack system.
  7. Reassemble everything.
Step four is the beast in this task; overall, it'd be technically easier to remove the entire rack system from the roof so that you could then flip it over to remove the screws. But that'd be much harder practically speaking.

There is very little room to work on the screws. I had just enough room to get an L-shaped (more S-shaped, really) screwdriver in there. However, you need to be very careful when doing this, because the other end of the screwdriver will be perilously close to the paint. As you undo the screw, the head of the screwdriver will also get very close to the paint.

What I wound up doing was loosening each screw (one agonizingly slow 1/8th revolution at a time) enough so that I could get my vice grips around the head. I then turned it the rest of the way with gentle repeated turns with the vice grips. The edges of the screws got pretty roughed up, but they're countersunk and in a near-invisible location anyway, so I really didn't care.

This is slow, tedious work, and I had many near-scrapes with the screwdriver. Once the screws come out, though, it's easy from there. To reassemble, I hand-started the screws, then used the vice grips until the screws were close to the top, and finished them off with more agonizing turns from the L-shaped screwdriver. Ugh.

The whole project took me probably 90 minutes, with 80 of that going to the screws and protecting the car from damage while unscrewing said screws. The screws look pretty beat up in the photo, and the edges certainly are. But they're not visible at all in normal view (the flash lit them quite well), and the Phillips head itself is in fine shape.

Hope this helps someone else down the line...


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Ingenous post! I never bothered taking mine off when supplanting then with Thule load bars. Will evernote clip this post for one day in summer. Thank you.
Just to go further on your issue of the annoying bottom screws. I made the same mod last year and am very happy with it. When I reassembled, I didn't reinstall the screws in the back of the rails. This way if I ever have to put them back on, it's a 5 minute install. 6 months and no issues with the missing screws.
I just bought a 2008 SR5 and have been scouring the internet for how to take the cross rails off. I am not going to use them and they create drag on the car. Every little bit helps MPG, no matter how small. Dealership that I went to didn't want to touch taking the rails off. Thanks for the post!
Any photos with the rack completely removed? Is there a spot there with unfinished paint? bolt holes?
I didn't remove the entire roof rack, just the cross rails. If the entire rack were removed, there would definitely be work to be done -- there are some seriously large holes for the mounting bolts, for instance.

Good tip on the under screws; it was obvious that there's no way for the thing to fall apart without them, but I was worried about rattling sounds. If I do this again, I'll leave them out next time!

While I had mine apart I covered the rails in adhesive back chrome vinyl that would be used for truck lettering. Cheap mod and dressed it up a little. I'd like to get the end caps painted body color to finish it off.


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I see.

Very nice work there pdmted, that looks very cool. To bad there aren't more SS or chrome options out there to just bolt on.
Just finished removing cross rails today...Griffman stated in his post is how it worked for me. Must take your time and be careful. The only additional thing I did was add blue bolt lock to the 4 torx bolts that go into roof.
In case I do this again, I picked up this skinny ratcheting screwdriver at Home Depot for under $10. It's still too tall to get the screws all the way out, but it's soooo much easier to use than the S-shaped screwdriver.


Recommended for anyone contemplating this minor surgery.

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