Fender Trimming:  Why Do It?

Fender trimming can be a difficult decision to make, especially if your rig is relatively new and in good condition as it sits.

So, why even consider taking a reciprocating saw, sabre saw or cut-off wheel to your Jeep fenders?  What if you make a mistake?  What is involved?  Relax!  You just need a good reason, and making sure you prepare well and take your time when you do make the decision to make an incision (a little play on words, don't ya know).

The number one reason the majority of folks resort to fender trimming is to make room for larger tires.  Fitting larger tires on your rig may often follow a suspension and/or body lift to get more clearance under the vehicle for off-roading.  Even though the larger tires may have plenty of room to clear suspension and steering components, the only thing standing in the way may be the limited travel allowed by the stock wheel well openings of the fenders.

"Limited travel" refers to how much the rig's body flexes on uneven (off-road) surfaces.  While standing still your over-sized tires may seem to fit comfortably within the wheel wells, and they may actually do fine running on pavement, however, as soon as you begin to "flex" the suspension on rocks, ruts and uneven surfaces those expensive tires may make contact with the lips of the fenders or worse.

This can damage good sheet metal and even cut your nice tires when pushing your Jeep hard. The best way to find out how much clearance you have under more extreme conditions is to place your rig in the most awkward positions possible, but in static conditions (not moving).  By "static" I mean turning your steering from maximum left to maximum right while checking the space between tires and fenders.  Then slowly drive one side of your rig up onto a curb or side of a ramp (not so far as to flip over) and check the clearances.  Finally, if you can find some ruts or rocks where you can gently position your rig where one front tire is compressed while a rear tire is compressed on the opposite side, this will give you a good idea of clearances under some of the most extreme flexing of the suspension.

The trick is to get a good idea of just how much fender trimming will be needed, and that will vary greatly with your tire size and the amount of available sheet metal that can effectively be trimmed from the vehicle.  The Jeep Wrangler Fender is fairly easy to work with because it has a relatively flat surface which lends itself to smooth cuts.  Other vehicles may be more curved and contoured requiring more patience and planning.

Only about 2 to 3 inches (maximum) needed on this trim.  Notice the carefully measured line drawn.  This was also done on the opposite side.

Fender Trimming Golden Rule

Remember what I said about being well prepared?  Well, this is very important.  The adage "measure twice, cut once" is wise advice.  Look carefully for welds, seams, and body integrity parts that might interfere or create unnecessary repair work...before you trim.

There are many wheel well trim tutorials online for specific vehicle applications, so I will not go into much detail about the actual fender trimming process.  However, in my experience I found that using a good cut-off wheel and an angle grinder works very efficiently on sheet metal.  Taking your time is imperative to getting even and precision cuts regardless of your cutting tool of choice.

Cut made!  Notice the masking tape used to smooth out the cut and allow a good view of the cut line. 

Smoothing out the rough (sharp) edges after trimming, and doing the cosmetic touch up necessary is the final step.  If you have rubber or plastic fender flares don't forget to make sure these can be re-used after trimming the fenders.  They may need to be altered or replaced depending upon the amount of sheet metal removed.

When completed you should be able to enjoy those big tires without worrying so much about them making contact with your fenders.  After all, you put a lot into your rig...protect that investment!

My Wrangler before fender trimming,  larger tires, and lift.

My Wrangler after lift, larger tires, and trimming the fenders.  I went ahead and trimmed the flares as well which added another few inches of clearance.

Fender Trimming Can Lead to More Body Trimming to Make Your Jeep Even Better.  Check out Steve's Wrangler Hood Louver Install.

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