JDM Auto Lights 2 Kayak Roof Rack Review: Functional and Affordable

JDM Auto Lights Universal Car Top Mount

After vowing to assess every car top kayak carrier we could find, we came across this lesser-known version. Following is our full JDM Auto Lights 2 universal kayak carrier review. We think you’ll find this information as useful as we did. In short, it’s a decent product and one of the most cost-effective kayak racks available. We checked out virtually every brand and model we could find, online and offline – and kept coming back to the JDM Auto Lights 2.

If you are in a hurry, and want to check out this roof rack right now, you can get a great deal for the the JDM Auto Lights 2 in Amazon.com. Otherwise, continue reading below or pick a section from the table of contents to go directly to any topic you find interesting.


The JDM Auto Lights 2 Roof Rack Features

It Looks Like It Should Probably Cost More

JDM’s version has the look and functionality of some of the bigger, more widely-known brands like Thule or Malone. Yet, when you discover the exceptionally-low cost, you’ll swear that it has to be a misprint.

Our opinion is… that with a flashier or more descriptive name, this brand would probably sell to a much greater degree than it already does. And if it wasn’t already selling, chances are we might not have noticed it. Once mounted on your car and loaded, it looks very much like a much pricier model. You might even be the envy of your neighborhood. But only you’ll know how little you paid.

Carries Kayaks and Canoes

Despite its obvious affordability, this roof rack carrier is perfect for both kayaks and canoes. And its universal design means that it should fit virtually all crossbars that are out there. Note: almost all manufacturers claim to have a “universal” design that fits all cars. But the truth is no rack fits every single car on the road. So that’s something to keep in mind.

The JDM auto lights 2 carrier holds the kayak on its side. This is preferable in a lot of situations because it saves a lot of extra roof rack space for any additional cargo you need to haul at the same time. This kind of space saving design is great for those vacation getaways and camping trips, where bringing your kayak along with you makes a lot of sense. And once installed, the JDM carrier makes it relatively easy to haul your boat.

JDM Auto Lights Universal Car Top Mount
JDM Auto Lights Universal Car Top Mount

Stable Design Build from Solid Material

Despite its low-cost, the JDM Auto Lights 2 car kayak carrier is made from solid heavy-duty steel. It boasts a similar, large, wide mouth J-cradle other brands feature, which facilitates easier loading and unloading.

The exterior coating is rust resistant, so it should stand up to Mother Nature and give you extended years of service. This kayak rack gently cradles and supports your vessel with padded protection, ensuring that your hull does not get scratched or marked up in any way.

Bigger, Heavier Load Capacity

It’s a little heavier than some of the other racks we tested, weighing in at almost 17 pounds. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. In the case of the JDM Auto Lights 2 kayak carrier, its load capacity is an impressive 165 pounds for a single kayak.

Not only do you get a single set of J-cradles to carry one kayak from JDM Auto Lights – you actually get two sets. Yes, you read that correctly. It seems as though this manufacturer is serious about their product and therefore, doing everything in its power to provide better value than any other brand on the market.

Instead of struggling to stack two kayaks on a single rack – you can use both racks received, with each holding one vessel. With two kayaks on a single vehicle, the combined weight allowance is up to 265 pounds. And check this out. These racks can accommodate any kayak (within those weight parameters) up to 36 inches wide.

That’s a significantly larger weight and size capacity than many of the big-name brands on the market. If your kayak is of a substantial size and/or weight, you should definitely take a closer look at this model of carrier.

Get the best price on the JDM Auto Lights 2 and more at Amazon.com

Hauls More Than Just Kayaks

Many buyers purchase the JDM Auto Lights 2 car rack specifically to haul a kayak – or two. And most are thrilled to realize that these J-cradles are also perfect for such things as surf-boards, windsurfing equipment, snowshoes, skis, snowboards – and other gear too.

Whatever item you choose to carry can be easily attached and secured to the rack with the four included straps. It’s a compact carrier that gets the job done without creating much extra drag and costing you extra money in terms of mileage.

These racks have a lower profile. So with a smaller car, you can probably leave them on all season long, without any issue. But that’s an individual call, based on your life in between those kayaking adventures.

You Might Need To Substitute Hardware

JDM Auto Lights kayak carriers get the job done – for a lot less money. And although they’re designed to fit most any roof racks, the bolts provided maybe a tad short for your particular roof rack system. No biggie. This problem is easily rectified however by a quick trip to any hardware store or local Home Depot or Lowes to get bolts that are slightly longer to fit your requirements.

Normally, this would kind of result would automatically trigger a negative review. But, given the exceptionally low price for the basic configuration, buying a few extra bolts to get it installed correctly didn’t bother us one bit.

JDM Auto Lights Universal Car Top Mount
JDM Auto Lights Universal Car Top Mount

Gets The Job Done

While it’s not the highest quality rooftop kayak carrier we’ve seen, it’s more than adequate for most applications. It’s an obvious choice for short trips to the river or lake. And we would have zero hesitation in strapping our kayaks to a JDM Auto Lights 2. But buyers who have taken longer trips, like three-hour rides to get where they’re going, report having no issues carrying their kayaks with the JDM roof rack.

As you might expect with this lower-cost carrier, the accessories like the straps provided are not quite as thick or strong as some other models. They may not last as long either. But all things considered, you can replace these straps with a heavier, better quality strap and still have things come out overwhelmingly in your favor on the value for dollar scale.

There’s Lots to Like

The JDM roof rack is relatively lightweight and easy to handle and assemble. Once you’ve put it together – it’s quite sturdy too. In fact, it performs exactly the way you would want a kayak rack to perform. Buyers claim that it securely holds their kayaks in place at speeds of up to 70 mph – without any issue whatsoever.

Yes, it features a universal design to fit most cars. This means that the odds are in your favor. But it may not fit your specific vehicle’s roof perfectly – so you may need to pick up additional crossbars. Again, that’s not a big deal, especially considering the money you’ll save by buying the JDM brand instead of a flashier, more expensive big name carrier.

Some Assembly – And Perhaps A Little Tinkering May Be Required

There is some assembly required with the JDM auto lights 2 kayak carrier. But it’s basic stuff and a simple job for anybody who has used tools. All you typically need is 1/4 inch socket wrench.

Foam padding on the J-cradles tends to wear out over time. The padding protecting your kayak gets damaged easily from the sun. That’s a problem not exclusive to JDM – it happens with virtually all roof racks over time – even on the most expensive kayak carriers. So you’ll want to keep its tabs on the foam and its condition and replace as necessary to protect the hull of your watercraft.

As with any fastening hardware, it’s best to tighten everything down just enough – and not to tight. But don’t leave it to hand tightening alone either. That’s a recipe for disaster down the line.

JDM Auto Lights Universal Car Top Mount
JDM Auto Lights Universal Car Top Mount

Better Than Expected

Most buyers are surprised at the quality of the carrier – relative to the price. Most buy due to the low cost and are surprised when their expectations are exceeded.

Since the JDM carriers can hold two kayaks, it’s probably the most economical way to transport your kayak and your kayaking partner’s equipment at the same time, on a single vehicle.

It’s nice that they have added the rubber foam to protect the kayak when you’re loading. This is particularly helpful for shorter people as they lift the kayak up onto the rack and may find it a little more difficult to get into position.

For people of average height and above, it’s not awkward at all. But for shorter people, it may be a struggle to get the boat up high enough, as it would be with virtually any kayak rooftop mount.

Get an awesome deal for the JDM Auto Lights 2 and more accessories at Amazon.com

What Kind Of Materials Are Used?

These racks are made from solid heavy-duty steel that has a large load capacity. The JDM Auto Lights carrier features a wide J-bar that offers easier loading and unloading than some competing models. The fact that it’s made from rust resistant materials means that these racks should hold up for the long term.

JDM’s carrier is designed to secure the kayak on its side, consuming minimal rack space and allowing you a second rack on the other side. So you can carry two kayaks – back to back – without using your entire roof rack in many cases.

What’s In the Box?

Included with your package is the following:

  • 4 individual J-cradles (2 complete kayak racks – perfect for back to back loading on one car)
  • 4 separate tie-down straps
  • 2 sets of universal mounting hardware

The Good (What Buyers Like Most)

Solid Ratings

Overall, the JDM auto lights 2 kayak carrier scores and impressive and solid 4.0 out of 5 possible stars. And this comes from nearly 300 actual customers reporting – people who took the time to offer a review. That’s an excellent score from a significant number of reviews.

JDM Auto Lights 2 gives you a lot of rack for the money

Probably the best value you will find anywhere. You get 2 complete rook rack systems that are very similar to the top brands for a lot less money than you’d pay for a single unit from other manufacturers. If value is a top consideration, you’ll be glad you found these JDM Auto Lights 2 universal kayak carriers.

Supplied straps hold the kayak tight, keeping it securely in position

This is exactly what you want. Some straps are difficult to work with – but not these. It’s much easier than rope to pull down tight.

There’s no annoying rattle or noise when driving

It’s smooth sailing all the way. These kayak roof racks are surprisingly quiet. Given the low price, this is one area you might expect to be problematic. But that’s just not the case here.

JDM Auto Lights Universal Car Top Mount
JDM Auto Lights Universal Car Top Mount

It seems durable and should hold up for a long time

While we haven’t put these to a long-term test yet, they have so far measured up comparatively well on virtually every other scale. Since they’ve been coated with rust resistant material and are constructed of heavy duty steel, we see no reason why they shouldn’t hold up as long as competing brands.

It features a solid build quality that’s up to the task, even when carrying heavier kayaks

JDM racks replicate the popular design style of big name brands and the quality has proven itself over many road trips. While the quality may not be quite on par with the best in the field, it’s certainly more than adequate.

It assembles quickly and easily

Yes, some assembly is required. But it’s not difficult task at all. And once assembled, you’ll never have to worry about it again. If you can use a simple wrench – you can assemble them without any issues.

Get the best price on the JDM Auto Lights 2 and great accessories at Amazon.com

The rack stays in place

If you’ve ever had a kayak carrier shift on you, you know how scary it can be. Sometimes it takes having such an experience to realize the importance of having the rack and cargo stay solidly in place. That’s exactly what you get with this kayak carrier. It holds firmly to the cross bars, without any shifting.

You get everything you need to carry two kayaks (no secondary purchases required)

If all you got with your JDM purchase was a single kayak carrier – it would still represent terrific value – particularly at the larger than average weight capacity. But the fact that you’re getting 4 J-cradles and 2 complete kayak racks makes this an exceptional deal.

It offers a larger size and weight capacity

Check around and you’ll find that most carriers – even though they cost considerably more money – do not have the size and weight capacity that JDM kayak carriers offer.

The Not So Good

  • Metal can bend if you tighten the ratchets too tight
  • Not as fast to unload kayaks as some competing roof racks
  • Protective foam can sometimes fall off if not duct-taped on
  • It may be universal – but it does not fit every single vehicle
  • Instructions are difficult to follow (but it’s not a difficult assembly job anyway)
  • Bolts that attach may be a little too long, requiring a trip to the hardware store
  • Metal brackets provided can bend after continuous use

The Verdict

At first glance, we figured these low cost kayak carriers wouldn’t stand up and perform as expected. We were wrong. Not only do they meet the minimal standard, the increased size and weight capacity makes the JDM Auto Lights 2 kayak carrier a suitable option for more kayak enthusiasts than many of the biggest brand names.

What you get in the box from JDM are separate mounts for two kayaks. That means two pairs of J-cradles to transport two kayaks simultaneously – and with ease. It’s the superb value and low price that makes this rack so appealing.

It’s a lightweight system – weighing just less than 17 pounds – that takes slightly more work to get kayak-ready. If you can handle that – you really should check these out. We doubt you’ll find a better value than what JDM offers. And if you do – we’d love to hear about it!

JDM Auto Lights Universal Car Top Mount
JDM Auto Lights Universal Car Top Mount

Some people are all about brands. And we get it. We have our favorites in various product categories too. But the truth is… sometimes there’s much better value to be found elsewhere. But it often means venturing out into the vast unknown. Hopefully this JDM Auto Lights 2 universal kayak carrier review has provided you with enough information to help you make an informed decision.

But if you prefer some other more recognizable brand, you can check out the Yakima Jaylow or the Thule Hull-A-Port XT, both from highly recognizable roof rack brands. Also you can check out our selection of the top 10 roof racks for kayaks and canoes.

About the author

    Martin Tripodi

    Software Engineer, husband, father, and avid enthusiast of outdoor activities! Total fan of great quality and functional gear, spends part of his free time researching and compiling loads of information in the form of guides, product recommendations and reviews.