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They work fantastic, the loading ramp allows the boats to be pushed up into the cradle,and on a high van, this is a big help and they flex enough to hold the boats firmly in place when strapped correctly. I have driven at highway speeds and have confidence the yaks are secure. Full package - Chrysler Town and Country Van, Thule 400 series racks w/ 58" load bars, Malone Autoloader Xv, Pungo's... Could fit a 3rd yak flat in between the Malone's when using a 58" bars.
One word to describe the Malone Autoloader Xv.... AWESOME!
While I don't think that the usefulness of the Autoloader is comprimised becaused of this missing strip, it's really ugly now and I'm really surprised that this would have happened after only two months of use. I've submitted two complaints/inquires to Malone, but it's been over a month and I haven't heard anything. I don't quite know what I expect them to say, but I'm dissapointed that they would outright ignore a customer like this. In fact, the reports of Malone's excelent customer service was one of the motivating factors in purchasing these.
Oh well. I'm going to submit one last e-mail to Malone and see if they respond. I just felt everyone should know what I've experienced so far. The Autoloaders still work great, but the customer service is surprisingly lacking.
When they finally arrived, the first thing I noticed was that they were very sturdy and seemed indestructible. Secondly they fit on the Thule bars very well. After using them for the first time, I decided that I had made the right choice. The two SOTís that I have (OK Scrambler XT and Wilderness Rave) fit very well in the generous opening of the Malone Autoloader. I can pop the kayaks up onto the ledge of the cradle and let them rest there while I strap them down. They will stay in place pretty well without the straps unless a really stiff breeze comes along. In fact, after strapping them up, I felt so secure in the cradles that I was tempted to do without the bow and stern lines. Of course I did use them (as should everybody). On the drive back home I hit a pretty nasty wind coming from the side, but the SOTís didnít move a bit. Of course they acted like a sail on top of the car like that, but they never flinched.
The only criticism that I have of the Malone Autoloader is that there is no easy way of taking them off in between kayaking adventures. Right now Iím just keeping them on, but when you look at my Honda Accord with the Autoloaders on it, it looks kinda ridiculous. Perhaps there is an easier way than unbolting them each time, but so far I have just left them up. I may try what the last poster mentioned and just loosening the bolts to let the cradles lie flat, but that also seems like a pain. I wish that they had something that worked as a quick release. Perhaps something similar to the pressure locks a bicycle uses? But other than that, great product for a great price!
When loading, I generally use a stool to compensate for my height and place the bow on the Autoloader's "lip", allow it to slide in place, then use both hands to get the stern into the rear cradle. I did fumble the first few times, but I now find it easy to load the boat myself without scratching up the car.
I did find that once when driving at highway speed with a strong crosswind, the saddles shifted a bit and needed to be re-tightented. If you do choose them with Saris racks, I would check the tightness occasionally. Also, make sure that the straps are threaded through the slots such that it fits securely for your boat. I use bow and stern lines from Yakima in addition to the cradles.
Malone is a good company to deal with. They didn't want me to have to pay for their product unless I was completely happy with it. This was comforting to me because there was no dealer nearby and I couldn't see the product first.
I haven't seen any damage of any kind caused by the use of the Autoloaders.
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