So I thought I would take a few minutes and post my recent modification on my JK. Some of you who follow me on Facebook already have seen this but for others who are considering fender modifications it may help you.
During our last trail ride at Camp Sinawa I noticed an annoying tire rub sound coming from my front end. When looking at photos after the ride the issue was clear. My 35" tires were rubbing on my stock fenders fairly severely when riding over larger rocks or stumps. I have a 2-1/2" lift and when you disconnect the sway bar and go over larger obstacles the increased travel of the tires upward caused them to collide with the outside edge of the fenders. The stock JK fenders have a 3" drop edge and the tires are wider than the fenders so they can't travel up inside the fender well. Photo attached showing the issue!
The only solutions I thought were either install a higher lift ($$) or purchase bumpstops that limit the tire travel ($) or purchase after market flat fenders ($$). All can be pricey and like many I just didn't have the funds to do either at the moment. There is another low cost option to resolve the issue - cut the 3" side walls off the stock fenders! There are a bunch of YouTube videos out there of folks doing this (or trying) with varying degrees of success. Some folks removed the entire fenders and modified them and then reinstall taking weeks to get it done. Others just grab a saw and started cutting leaving a horrible jagged edge and inconsistent look. Here is how I did it and the pros and cons of doing so:
Dremel tool with plastic cutting disk (must have - most important tool you will use to cut the radius' and inner wheel wells that are hard to reach).
Drill - 1/8" & 5/16" bits
Jig saw - fine tooth wood blade (makes a smooth edge when cutting)
Orbital Sander of file - use to smooth out the rough cuts on the inner plastic support structure behind the fender.
Plastic Epoxy $4 Home Depot
Cowles Edge Trim model T5602 - comes preglued. 18' per package - you will need (2). $12 Auto Zone
Plastic Drywall Toggles with stainless steel #6 x 1" screws. $1 Ace Hardware - you will need (2)
Safety glasses - a MUST as the dremel & jig saw both kick up a lot of plastic debis.
Vacuum - keep the wife happy and clean up your mess!
Spray rubber or spray bed liner (optional) to coat rear fender wells when done.
Ok so here's the process:
1. Take your time as this took me about 8 hours total start to finish. Using duct tape mark the area you wish to cut off. I cut right along the edge as to keep as much of the width in tact as possible.
2. Measure 3x cut once! I used a plastic 12" dia lid to use as a stencil to trace circular ends to round off the outside corners. Final shape is totally up to you.
3. On the rear fenders once you cut the edge off you will end up removing the plastic wheel wells - easy to do as just held on by a few plastic plug clips. You cannot save the wells as they are made to line up with the bottom of the fenders and since we are cutting 3" off the fenders the wells are too short. My solution to protect the wheel wells was to spray the inside wells with a rubberized spray 4 coats to create a coating to protect the metal from rust as certainly the paint will get chipped up over time. If the rubberized sealer starts to fail in time I will probably use bedliner spray.
4. On the front fenders Caution! Remove the side marker light before you cut the side edge! There is wiring hidden inside the fender. There is a hard plastic structural support member that holds the fender in place. You can see it before you start cutting. You want to keep as much of this support structure in place as possible when cutting. After you cut off the fender edge the fenders will appear a bit "loose" since the dropped edge adds structure. I used some plastic epoxy (Home Depot $4) to basically weld the plastic support panel to the fenders along the underside perimeter. The epoxy basically melts the 2 plastic surfaces into one with 3000lb holding force. These are not going anywhere when done!
5. Front Fender wheel wells: When you cut off the fender drop edge off you will see the plastic wheel wells are also 3" lower than you need along the front edge. This is not noticed till you cut off the fenders. You must take time and carefully plan how to cut this off as close to the body edge as possible as the goal is to keep as much of the plastic wheel well in tact to keep dirt out of the engine compartment. I was able to save 95% of mine and used plastic drywall toggle bolts with stainless steel screws to reattach the wheel wells. Worked really well. $1 Ace hardware!
6. To finish off the cut edge of the fenders I installed door trim. It is preglued so just push it in place around the fender perimeter.
7. Relocate the side marker lights. Not a lot of choices where to reattach so I screwed mine to the Jeep frame up as far as possible while still remaining flat.
No more rubbing!
Cost of mod = $30 or so.
Satisfaction of solving the problem and probably the least expensive modification possible with the most dramatic change.
Takes a lot longer to do this than you think. Plan an entire weekend if you want it to look professional and to hold up over time. Don't skimp out on securing things back together. If it is loose in your garage it will fail on the road.
Makes tires look smaller as the wheel wells are larger now. That 3" makes a large visual difference on the Jeep.
If you mess up you will end up buying new after market fenders - recommend having a "plan B" if possible if you need to buy them. I did this and placed on my wish list just in case.
That's it. Photos show it all! Feel free to reach out if you have any questions on stuff I missed. Good project and honestly most people can't tell they are not after market flat fenders when done.
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