If you pay attention to off-road trends, then you may have noticed that tall is out and low is in. The formula is pretty simple: low lift, big tires. It’s all about keeping the rig stable and safe on-road and off. While that combo may sound easy enough, your rig’s fenderwell openings might make the popular stance more difficult to achieve. Fortunately, the answer to your large tire clearance problems can usually be solved with a bit of fender trimming and sheetmetal massaging.
Enlarging your fenders for oversized tires is often easier on older rigs, but room can still be gained by manipulating modern sheetmetal as well. In this article we’ve gathered some of our favorite tips and tricks that we have learned along the way. While some rigs are built with larger wheelwell openings than others, with the right tools and some creative problem solving you can modify your factory fenderwells to fit a range of tire sizes.
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Just as important as what you cut is how you cut it. A Sawzall is probably the most accessible and easy way to use power tool, but we are also fans of air-powered cutoff wheels and body saws. The two pneumatic cutters tend to offer more control, while the Sawzall has the power to trim through thick and thin steel with ease. Of course, always use some sort of safety glasses when you cut.
1. Prior to trimming, be sure to investigate what may or may not be hiding behind your fender. A wiring harness, body mount, fender brace, and emissions equipment (such as charcoal canisters) are all items commonly tucked away inside your rig’s fenderwells.
2. One of the challenges of keeping your rig low and running a large tire is making sure the tire doesn’t contact suspension and frame-mounted components. A common part that is relatively easy to relocate or modify is your rig’s body mounts. Changing the position or trimming your rig’s stock body mounts will allow the tire to turn further into the framerail, without damaging your expensive oversized cleats.
3. A very common and easy-to-achieve fender trimming technique is to cut small slices into the lip of the fender and fold it back. The cut-and-fold method adds a bit more strength to the sheetmetal over simply cutting the fender out.
4. Your rig’s fender braces are there for a reason. They not only keep the fender positioned correctly, but help to secure it to the rig. This is especially important if your oversized tire comes into contact with it. While this may require more fab work, extending or relocating your rig’s fender braces will be worth the effort.
5. Another way to gain strength in a heavily sliced fender is to weld in custom inner fenders. Obviously this is more time-intensive, but the added strength can make a tremendous difference, especially on larger panels such as bedsides.
6. Using DOM tubing as a custom flare and sheetmetal protector is an excellent way to finish out a large fenderwell opening. On this particular early Bronco, the tubing blends nicely with the bodylines while doubling as a brace and body guard. Another bonus is that the tubing won’t cut the tires like sheetmetal does if they come into contact at full compression.
7. Masking tape and a Sharpie marker will help you keep your cuts matching and straight. Don’t forget to toss on some paint to any freshly trimmed metal to keep it from rusting.
8. It doesn’t get any more low buck than taking a hammer to your fender! A few hits can bend in any excess metal or extruding seams. Always double-check that there are not any sharp edges, as it doesn’t take much to slice up a new set of treads. An angle grinder can also work to clean up rough seams and jagged metal pieces.