I’ve been wanting a roof rack for a long time for my car. I drive an Audi A3, and I have factory roof rails. The people on the A3 forums rave about Thule products, so I went to their website to see what’s new. Thule recently released this past year the new Aeroblade bars that are suppose to be replacing their older Aerobars and their square bars. Its direct competition is the Yakima Whisper bar. These are suppose to reduce the amount of wind noise when properly installed.
Do they work?
I purchased the following to form my complete setup for my A3: 460R Rapid Podium, Fit Kit 4014, and the ARB47 (in black). Once installed, it took me about 2 hours to figure out how to install. The manual had pictures that were not accompanied with words to explain the pictures, so it was a little difficult to understand.
The A3 with factory roof rails has a slightly annoying fit. You slide the feet into the Aeroblade, and then you have to cut a section from their included plastic strips to fill the space underneath the bar from the foot to the end cap tab.
When I installed the end caps, I noticed that the end caps didn’t entirely close the hole that it was meant to cover. But other than that, I used their “Smartslide” for the center underside of the bar to the inner side of the foot. I placed my front bar about 5.5″ from the front of the rail, and my back bar about 12″ from the rear of the rail. Total length between the front and rear bars was approximately 28″.
After install, I drove my car on the freeway to about 55 mph, and I heard the whistle start at 45 mph. It was exceedingly loud and obnoxious around 55 mph. Did I install it wrong? I checked all over my Aeroblade bar for any gaps under and above the bar, and I found nothing. I made sure the “Smartslide” was hugging the foot. I was at first convinced it was due to the end cap tab not fully closing the hole, so I put scotch tape over it. I also took off the rear bar, and drove it again for the 2nd time to 55 mph. The whistle was less loud at 45 mph with this setup. It didn’t really get loud until I hit 60+ mph where it was a constant high pitch the entire time.
The third time, I’ve moved the front podium feet back 8″ from the front of the rail bar and ensured there were no gaps above and under the bar. It still whistled loudly at 55 mph and faintly at 50 mph. At 45 mph, it was quiet though. I could probably move the feet a few more inches back, but I wanted to match to my A3 mount points (which are approximately 7″ from the front of the rail bar).
I’ve verified that the podium feet are not the culprit as I mounted the feet by themselves without the aeroblade installed. There was no whistle.
The Aeroblade bar was less loud when I put tape over the end cap tabs.
Rack Outfitters (where I purchased these) suggested from their FAQ that I replace the “Smartslides” with the plastic strips if there’s significant wind noise. Thule didn’t give me enough plastic strips to fill where the “Smartslides” go, so we’ll see how they answer to that.
Some ideas that I am going to try throughout this week:
– Move the front Aeroblade bar to the rear, and the rear to the front
– Re-set the top WindDiffuser in the front again
– Take the extreme route and wrap tape around the entire Aeroblade bar to see if it’s the strips that are causing the problem or it’s the Aeroblade itself. I definitely don’t want to do this as I shouldn’t be doing the testing for Thule. I may opt for the square bar + fairing or perhaps going to a different brand.
I’ve sent emails to Thule to figure out what’s going on. Expect a follow up post to this in the next few days once I finish troubleshooting this.
Edited July 24, 2012
I’ve swapped my rear bar to be in the front and vice versa. Drove it up to 75 mph, and there was no whistling whatsoever. What a relief. In order to fix this, I believe I also tightened the torx screws tighter than what I had originally done it. I also made sure that the plastic strips were cut to fit. For reference, the front bar was approximately 5.5″ from the front of the roof rail, and the rear bar was approximately 12″ from the back of the roof rail. Distance between the center points of the bars was approximately 29″ or so.
I didn’t drive it for too long, but mileage seemed to be slightly worse. People recommend that you sit the bars as far back as possible, but I figure the mount points on the existing rail told me those are the points such that the trunk wouldn’t hit the rails.
One last note: Rack Outfitters was where I bought my black bars. After dealing with Paul the owner, it’s safe to conclude that he’s not the best at speaking to his clients. You can call him for help if you need help, but I would suggest you try and contact your car forums or REI for help before contacting Rack Outfitters for help.