What Are Fender Flares?

What Are Fender Flares?

Last Updated June 13, 2023 | Andrew Boyle

Fender flares are more than just flair for your truck or 4X4. While they do undeniably alter the look of your vehicle, fender flares can also improve your vehicle’s functionality and help keep it in better shape. If you’re in the market for a mod that’s easy to install and can change both the looks and performance of your rig, then fender flares are a fantastic option.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting your vehicle to look good. Considering the amount of time and effort we pour into our rides, it’s only natural that we want them to look as good as possible.

On many rigs, fender flares are the missing ingredient to their overall appearance. Especially on lifted and otherwise visibly upgraded vehicles, a nice set of fender flares can tie everything together. They can make larger wheels and tires more visible, add a dash of color around each of the wheels, or just make the car seem wider. If you are restoring a classic truck, fender flares can also be a good way to cover up any tricky rust spots on the wheel wells.

Some fender flares do have a bad reputation, however. There are plenty of images of DIY fender flares that are poorly painted, haphazardly attached, or are just downright ugly. Don’t let those less than stellar examples cloud your judgment. There are plenty of fantastic looking examples of fender flares out there. For example, look at CJ's Sema F-150 Project.

What Are Fender Flares For?

Beyond just the looks, there are several practical uses for fender flares (if you don’t consider improving your vehicle’s look a practical thing). Similar to splash guards, fender flares can keep mud, dirt, and water from being flung underneath your wheel wells. This is a particularly useful function of fender flares. Many oversized tires will have deep grooves. While deep grooves are great for off-road traction, they are experts at flinging debris into your wheel wells.

Let’s just say, if you ever want to go mudding, then fender flares can help cut your post-mudding hose-down time a lot! In our JL Hemi-Swap YouTube series, we saw firsthand how difficult it is to clean dirty Jeep Wrangler wheel wells.

Maybe you’re into a completely mud-covered vehicle, however. If that’s the case, there are still plenty of reasons for you to want to install fender flares on your truck or 4X4 rig.

A big reason (pun intended) that many owners decide to install fender flares is so that they can run larger wheels and tires on their rig. Many of the wheel wells that come stock on trucks and SUVs can be unfortunately restrictive.

If your tires ever rub on your vehicle’s wheel wells, then a set of fender flares is a great upgrade option for you. Rubbing can eventually cause some pretty serious damage to both your tires and your rig.

Finally, in some states, there are legal requirements for tire coverage. If you have wheels that extend outside the wheel well, then you could be driving illegally. Even if you have no clearance issues with your oversized tires, you might want a set of fender flares just to avoid the potential legal hassle.

Styles Of Fender Flares

Pocket Style

Pocket Style Fender Flares

These are the quintessential aftermarket fender flares. Their bolt-on style immediately sends the message that you aren’t afraid to seriously wrench on your vehicle and get it into tip-top shape. This style of fender flare is sometimes called a “bolt style” flare because of the prominent bolts attaching them to the vehicle.

Pocket style flares provide a lot of coverage, so if you are trying to hide any body damage or rust, these are a great option. Additionally, the visible bolts add a dash of toughness to your truck or 4X4's exterior.

OE Style

OE Fender Flare Example

OE style fender flares are more designed to blend into your vehicle’s profile. They are considerably more sleek and subtle than pocket style fender flares, and for the most part, appear to be a stock part of the vehicle. These are best for covering up a little damage and giving a small (but noticeable nonetheless) appearance boost to your ride.

These are some of the most subtle types of fender flares. For the most part, they blend seamlessly into the vehicle's exterior. If you are a fan of the often overlooked parts of truck and SUV design, then these are the fender flares for you. While people won't necessarily notice these flares, they will surely notice an improvement. It's similar to when you get a light hair trim. You haven't gotten a whole new cut per se, but your hair is surely looking nicer.

Extended Flares

Wrangler With Flat Style Fender Flares

These are the type of fender flares that are the recipient of a lot of jokes. There’s nothing wrong with extended fender flares, they only happen to pop up on vehicles that really don’t need them. If you’ve ever seen a needlessly modified car, then an extra-wide set of fender flares was likely a part of the equation. That all being said, there’s nothing wrong with this style of fender.

If you are running oversized tires and wheels, then these flares can give you the coverage that you need. The overhang on top of the tire can catch the debris flung from the tires more effectively. Additionally, they can help vehicles with wider wheel offsets remain legal in states with tire coverage laws. Be careful if you want to off-road with extended flares however. If they aren’t at the correct height, however, they can place a limit on wheel travel.

Street Style

This type of fender flare is similar to OE style flares but with a sleeker, lower profile appearance. These are a touch more recognizable as an upgraded component as they can really show off oversized tires and wheels.

These are the types of flares that can really help you get a "wow" reaction out of your truck or 4X4. The larger space under the wheel wells really accentuates your vehicle's tires and suspension systems. For lifted vehicles, these flares make all of your suspension mods upfront and visible.

Are Fender Flares Worth It?

Fender flares aren’t for every truck and 4X4, but there are many vehicles that they can absolutely transform. If you want to spruce up your truck and provide a bit of rust protection while you’re at it, then fender flares are certainly worth it.

All in all, fender flares are a quick and easy mod to install that offer immediate benefits. From the additional tire clearance to a spiffier looking truck or SUV, fender flares can offer plenty of different things for your ride. Here at CJ Off-Road, we have a great selection of fender flares for your truck or Jeep Wrangler, so be sure to check them out!

This article was researched, written, edited, and reviewed following the steps outlined in our editorial process. Learn more about CJ's editorial standards and guidelines.