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TJ Flares

TJ Front Flares on an XJ


Background
With the addition of 33x10.50x15 BFG Mud Terrains this spring, I realized I was having a lot of interference with the tire hitting the stock XJ fender flare. The 32" Dunlop Mud Rovers were great with the 4.5" lift, but the newer, slightly larger 33" tires made a serious racket and were in danger of tearing the fenders off even in normal road conditions.

Installation
I got bit by a pit bull a few days before I planned to remove the stock flares, so I put my son, Andrew to work on the driver's side while I got at the passenger flare one-handed. You can see that I have already cut the front edge of the flare when I installed the front BPI bumper.

I think I have lost the pics, but the stock flares are held on by three metal flanges. The flanges are simply long, flat pieces of sheetmetal with a fold along the length that bolts down to the fender, and pinches the flare in place. I think all three of them were supposed to have capture nuts hidden back there, so don't expect the flange to loosen and pop off just because you removed the nuts.

Once the flare is off, you'll get a good look at the rubber inner fender liner, probably because it's falling out in front of you. It is held to the fender and the flare by the same flange that pinches the flare in place. I ended up driving with the flare removed and just the inner liner in place for awhile before I had a chance to cut the sheetmetal. It helped reduce the interference with the tire, but was an ugly fix.

 
Uncut fenders with the flares removed and liner showing

I used several black nylon zip ties through the mounting holes to hold the inner liner in place until I was ready to start cutting sheetmetal.

Hacking It Up
The TJ fenders have a locating hole at the front and rear of the wheel arch; the molding process makes this into a cross-shaped "pin" projection on the flare. I decided to keep the pins in place and cut two crosses in the fender to help line things up. Since you're going to end up cutting metal anyway, exact flare placement is going to be your preference.

There is a folded line in the XJ fender that runs several inches below the edge of the hood. I've seen some TJ flare replacements that align the top edge of the flare with that folded line, but this makes a considerably larger wheel opening and leaves a large gap at the rear where the TJ flare doesn't meet the bottom of the panel.

I elected to set the front corner of the flare at the front edge of the fender, with the lower front corner in line with the bottom of the front turn signal. That puts the upper front corner of the flare about 1.25" below the folded panel line. That panel line is not level, it drops slightly toward the front so I made sure I didn't follow it - instead, the back corner of the TJ flare is about 1.5" below the panel line.
With good weather in the forecast, it was time to break out the grinder and cutting wheels. First, I covered the fender with a couple layers of masking tape and used a Sharpie to outline the placement. After marking the locating pins, it's pretty simple to zip those right into the fenders with the angle grinder. Once they're cut, it's time to use a Sharpie to mark the underside of the flare. Don't forget to move the actual cut line up about 1/4" or a little more so you can tuck the lip of the flare underneath.
The TJ flares have a molded lip that helps protect the edge of the sheetmetal from rock chips. Because of that, I wasn't able to hold the entire flare in place to mark it at once. Instead, I marked and cut the center section out (see above) and then I was able to hold the flare in a more natural position to mark the front and back sections.

The only part I ran into trouble with was the very bottom of the rear opening. My step-rails extended just far enough forward that I couldn't get my angle grinder in there, even with the wheels turned. Since my hacksaw has gone on walkabout and I don't own a Sawzall, it was time to rely on friends. Thankfully, Big Dave of mallcrawlin.com doesn't live too far away - 30 seconds of cutting and two hours of chatting later, I was done. Thanks Dave! (on a sidenote, big thanks to Pam for welding up the cracks in yet another replacement exhaust manifold - that writeup will follow eventually)

Mounting
Unlike the XJ with the flange pinching the flare to the body, TJs have a series of holes along the arch, and use a bolt through the metal that screws into a small plastic block. Prior to painting the metal, I taped one last time and marked the holes in the flare. Once marked, I used a center punch (aka nail set) and drilled the holes out. That is one tool I miss - I used to have a spring-loaded nail set that I let a friend borrow a long time ago. It looked like a ballpoint pen, and once you placed the tip where needed, you hit the button and *bang* there was a dent in the metal.

De-burr the holes and freshly cut sheetmetal, and get ready to paint!

Painting
Protecting the freshly-cut metal is important to prevent rusting; I used a flap wheel on the grinder to remove the metal burr and paint along the freshly-cut edge, both inside and outside. Once that was done, I cleaned the surrounding area with soap and water, and masked off the panel again. I set the flare in place and traced the outer edges. When that was done, I removed the flare and cut/tore the tape away about 1/4" below the line. There is a section in the middle of the flare that doesn't have much coverage, you want to make sure the metal gets painted but don't want the new paint to show up on the fender so cut carefully. Once the metal was exposed, it got a couple coats of Krylon Grey Primer Enamel inside and out, and then several coats of their Satin Black Enamel. I also shot the inside of the wheelwell a few times just because it's all white paint inside there.

The flares I got were seriously sun-faded, you see it here mocked into position. I need to replace the turn signal assembly on this side, and will wire the turn signal bulb into the front turn signal so it's more visible when the flasher is on.

Krylon Fusion paint needs a very clean surface in order to bond well. Andrew and I used green Scotch-Brite pads and sponges along with a bucket full of warm water and a little dish soap. Add a lot of elbow grease, and we had two very clean TJ fender flares that needed only to be rinsed off and dried.

Once the flares were dry overnight, I made every attempt to avoid contact between the surface and my bare hands. I have seen recommendations to wipe the whole thing down with denatured alcohol prior to spraying, but I don't have any so we made do. The flares were laid out on the driveway with several old cardboard boxes underneath. Over the course of the next hour, they got multiple light coats of Krylon Fusion Black, and were carefully set aside in the garage to cure overnight.

At this point, all was ready for installation. I still have been unable to locate the bulb holders for the side markers, so I set them in place without the electrics in place for the time being. Since winter is around the corner, I needed to get the flares in place sooner rather than later.

Once again, Andrew helped out. This time, he's attaching the flares with a 10mm wrench and strong fingers to hold the block in place while bolting into it.

Of course, the newly-painted flares reminded me that my 12-year old black paint is getting grey...and the new front flares are darker than the old rear ones, so it looks like I'm going to pull those off and give them the same Krylon Fusion treatment. The rest of the lower body is going to get a sanding and a few coats of primer and black as well.

Problems / Future Upgrades
One problem I have not yet addressed is the rear edge of the flare. The TJ has a relatively flat fender, but the XJ has two sharp bends in the fender and door that interfere with the flare sitting flat. The bend starts right at the black line in my pics above, and there's also the body stripe - it's a fat rubber strip that I believe is supposed to protect against shopping carts. I kinda like it though and kept the pieces that have fallen off.

Options are either to cut the flare to match the bends, or bend the fender to match the flat flare. I think I'm going to go with the first, although I may lose a mounting point by cutting.

One other problem is that the inner liner is gone now. It used to block the hinges and keep debris, water, and cold air out of that area. When it finally snowed a few days ago, the void around the hinges filled completely with snow. When heat from the interior melts it, the refrozen snow/ice can maek it difficult to open the door again.

One solution I've seen has been to stuff a foam "pool noodle" in there, but I'm looking at ways to re-mount at least the rear half of the liner to protect the hinges and keep the cold air out - there's definitely a draft that comes in through there. I picked up a set of replacement nylon trees at Autozone that are used to hold the inner liner in place and will clean that area up and reinstall the rear 2/3 of the liner when the weather clears up again.

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created: Sept 20, 2008
Updated Dec 4, 2008

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Any changes or modifications to your vehicle are at your own discretion; I take no responsibility for your lack of responsibility