I notice that when I haul things that don't really fit, by leaving the rear hatch on my car/suv/crossover open there is a tendency for exhaust fumes to circulate up to the drivers area.

Renting a truck for a 2 mile drive with a couple of 8 foot pieces of lumber just does not make sense. What is the healthiest/safest way to drive with the rear open? I have tried driving with the heat on full, and/or the windows open but not really sure which is the best approach.

  • by lumber do you mean like 8 foot studs that'd you buy at the hardware store? or do you mean like two tree trunks that are 8 feet long that you got out of the forest?
    Commented Dec 14, 2014 at 15:13
  • Lumber is wood that has been processed Commented Dec 15, 2014 at 11:34
  • So then were not dealing with anything that is very heavy. Ok. In British English and others lumber is actually timber, that's why I asked for clarification. Do you need those couple of pieces of lumber to remain 8 ft long? or is it possible you could have the shop/yourself cut it so it fits in your vehicle with the back seat folded down?
    Commented Dec 15, 2014 at 11:40
  • If you cut them down so you can close the hatch, you won't be answer addressing the primary tenant of the question healthiest option with the hatch open. Commented Dec 15, 2014 at 11:56
  • I think a good answer would be dependent on the vehicle, I drive a 2002 VW Beetle and surprisingly I can fit 8' studs in with the rear hatch closed. What vehicle are you using exactly?
    – apaul
    Commented Dec 16, 2014 at 18:55

4 Answers 4


There is not a way to drive with the back open, due to the air dynamic. The exhaust is always going to come in the back. The best way to minimize this is to keep windows shut, and air vents pulling in air from the outside if you have that option on your car. This will give you a little positive pressure but not enough to really be safe from exhaust fumes. If you have wind wings on your car, not very common these days, opening those all the way so they act as a wind scope may give you enough air to keep the fumes out.

If you have a vehicle able to pull a trailer, a trailer is a good way to overcome the open hatch. Trailers are often cheap to rent. However buying a small utility trailer can be an excellent option. The nice thing about buying over renting is that trailers, have a great resale value, I bought one used for 500, and sold it five years later for 500. Buying of course depends on if you have space for the trailer and how often you need a trailer.

A roof rack may also work well. The main limitation to a roof rack is the weight. Most passenger vehicles really are not designed to work well with roof racks. However for a few pieces of plywood or half a dozen 2x4's this may meet your needs. I would not put a roof rack on my Honda civic, but maybe a larger SUV would accommodate this just fine.

Another option is to make friends with someone that owns a pickup truck. You can best decide how this works for you. I know when I had a pickup truck many years ago, I would avoid making friends with people making friends because they needed a favor involving the pickup truck, unless of course she was cute.

The last option involves plastic sheeting and duct tape. Yes duct tape and plastic the stuff of last resort when you need to temporarily seal a space. Load your stuff and then use duct tape and plastic to seal off the back end for the drive home. Might not work very well for longer drives home that involve freeway speeds. If you have an suv/station wagon you could make the seal between the cargo department and passenger department. Should not be used when wet.

Another option for a cheap roof rack is stiff Styrofoam, place the load on a couple of pieces of the Styrofoam and tie down your load by running rope through the windows. Use caution and perhaps use some kind of shield between the rope and any points that it contacts the car. Please be very careful with long lumbar like 2x4 framing studs. This kind of load is very unstable, and you will find your self with a hood full of lumbar if you need to do a quick stop.

All of these methods involve costs. If you have a vehicle that can pull a trailer buying a used trailer is by far the most cost effective, and perhaps the most convenient. Finding a bud with a pickup may be cheaper, just depends on how much gas and beer you need to purchase. Permanent roof racks with any muscle tend to be expensive, and also reduce your gas mileage over time. Plastic and duct tape do not reuse well, and also take a lot of time.

Since your just getting a couple of 8 foot 2x4's, leave the tail gate shut and run them at an angle out the passengers side window, tying them off to the mirror, depending on the size of your vehicle it is typically only a foot or two that comes out the window.


It is possible to put anything on the roof of your automobile, don't worry.

For everything that doesn't fit your car, the most easy way is to position all the rest of your luggage on the roof of your car, like this:

enter image description here


The biggest advantage of this is that you don't block your view to any side (except of top) and, of course, it is very safe.

Another way is, of course, to carry the trailer with you if you are planning to drive with big objects, like this:

enter image description here


It is quite safe too, but makes your transport too long.

  • It is not quite safe if you drive around corners like I do. :)
    – J. Musser
    Commented Dec 14, 2014 at 13:56
  • @J.M You mean it is not safe for corners ;) For car, its completely safe :)
    – nicael
    Commented Dec 14, 2014 at 13:57
  • 3
    Yeah, it's not going to hurt anything but the (possibly) suspension, tranny, brake system, engine, axles, etc.
    – J. Musser
    Commented Dec 14, 2014 at 13:58
  • Depends on the car.
    – J. Musser
    Commented Dec 14, 2014 at 13:59
  • 3
    The OP is talking about a couple 8-foot pieces of lumber. While what's shown in this answer's picture might be crazily unsafe, I don't think there are many cars on the road that couldn't handle a couple boards on the roof without safety issues.
    – TIO Begs
    Commented Dec 16, 2014 at 18:54

I've done this as few times. My best solution; drive with all car windows open. You need to have the space in your car as much ventilated as you can.

In another answer @Jon suggests turning on the air vents. This is insufficient and could cause you to feel nauseated.


If carrying long slender items, lay towels or padding on top of the vehicle, lay the items on that, then tie to the front and rear of the vehicle. It's possible to carry items longer than the car this way. To tie, take a thin piece of rope, make a loop in the end, wrap the loop around the item two or three times, slide the rope further up the item, then tie the other end of the rope under the bumper. The rope should bind onto the item and hold it fast. When both the front and rear have been tied the item may flex into a bow shape depending on how rigid it is.

I've done 2x4s, 2x6s, 1x, PVC pipe, copper pipe, moulding, and other stuff this way. Long items extending much behind the rear of the vehicle should have a red flag which will be available at the store usually for free.

Another way to carry items is to roll down the front passenger window, place the items through the window to the opposite rear corner as far as possible, and leave them extending out the window. Sometimes the passenger seat can be moved or folded down to accommodate. Look at the items and judge whether this will work, first. If extended very far out the window use a red flag and pay attention when driving.

Yet another method is to make a simple harness on the passenger side of the vehicle out of rope. To anchor ropes to the car, roll down front and rear windows and tie to seatbelts or whatever available inside. The front and rear doors can also be closed onto the rope to hold it, if the rope is placed toward the top of the door where it is more springy. Do not allow the rope to be pulled through the door since that may damage the rubber or seal. For loads not too heavy this works. Pay attention so items will not scratch paint on the side of the vehicle.

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