First impressions matter. Fender flares are a great modification that’s easy to overlook, but they provide a lot of value. Many people start out assuming the purpose of fender flares is only for styling, but with a little research you can find they offer many more benefits.
Once you have seen the value of fender flares, you have to include them in your vehicle to make sure the paintwork is not damaged.
For Overlanding, you know the importance of bigger wheels and off road tires. But you may be surprised to find out that fender flares are actually a critical piece of off-road equipment for protecting vehicles from road debris.
Do You Need Fender Flares?
In most places, a vehicle has to have fenders that cover at least the tread or full tire in order to be legal. Because fenders prevent road debris from hitting other vehicles, they are just as important for safety.
The bigger the wheels and tires on a vehicle, the greater amount of debris you’re flinging. So the addition of fender flares is the logical next step to help keep your truck’s body protected. However, the laws (and enforcement thereof) vary widely across the country for fender modifications and aftermarket fender flares.
For example, in Pennsylvania, a vehicle must have fenders that “provide at least as much coverage of the wheel as original equipment,” and fender flares are allowed as long as they don’t exceed 3 inches. If you break those rules, your truck might not pass inspection.
What’s going down in Pennsylvania is a reaction to what has been happening across the country. It may be different in your part of the country, but this is the way things are heading. And it can really make a mess for both law enforcement and truck owners alike.
For a quick reference on what is legal in your state when it comes to off-road vehicle modifications, check out the states’ websites and find out what’s allowed.
Fender Flare Buying Guide
To figure out what type of fender flares to get, you need to consider a few things.
Height & Width
The first thing to look at is the size of your wheels and tires. Once you upgrade to a larger set, your stock fenders will not effectively prevent mud and debris from escaping outside of the fender’s protection zone.
Once your wheels and tires protrude past the fenders the vehicles behind you are in the danger zone. (cue Kenny Loggins)
The width of the fender flares you need is calculated by how far they stick out past the wheel well opening. The height you should select is based more on personal preference with how they will look on your truck. A benefit of higher fender flares is that they can help hide any rust, dents or dings.
The “look” of the fender flare. In general, you’ll see these categories of styles:
- OE – They match your factory trim and other moldings. They have a standard look like they came off the assembly line matching your vehicle.
- Rivet/Bolt/Pocket – One of the more popular styles. Rough and rugged aesthetic and typically have simulated bolts or rivets. These will add a few inches of coverage to your fender well.
- Flat – Similar to the pocket style but without any rivets or bolts.
- Extended – Popular with off-roaders, offer maximum coverage and stick out the most from the fender well.
- Tube – Mostly for Jeeps, the side of the fender flare is a metal tube.
- Street – Mostly for cars. They have a sleek and smooth style and complement lowered vehicles.
The style of the flare does not determine the method of installation. Originally, the term “bolt-on” was used to describe these types of flares. However, it is important to note that these flares are not secured with actual bolts, so rather than describing them as bolt-on, we have decided to refer to them as “simulated” bolts.
Most of the time “bolt-on” fender flares use a no-drill installation. This allows you to fasten the fender flares at the factory mounting locations using double-sided tape to make the installation more secure. However, some fender flares will require cutting and or drilling. It’s best to read the installation instructions prior to purchase if you want to avoid permanent alterations to your truck’s body.
The durability of the fender flares is dependent on the materials they are made out of. The most popular materials are ABS plastic and polyurethane. Both of these have their upside and downside.
In general, ABS tends to be more brittle than polyurethane. It is less flexible but it is more chemical and heat resistant. In addition, ABS tends to be lower in cost and is easier to paint to match the color of your vehicle.
We hope this article answered any questions you had about fender flares. If you need advice or recommendations please contact us and we will be happy to help.