By Bryan Martin, special to Land Line
Every truck owner wants some sort of custom fender treatment on their rig. Let’s face it: Stock sucks. Just because your truck was “born” with a lame set of 24-inch long, basic ol’ quarter fenders, it certainly does not mean it has to stay that way.
Seems like we all yearn for more of a custom look. After we get our bumper, visor and exhaust pipes upgraded, typically the next target area is the rear fenders. Not only does it enhance the appearance of your truck, it also serves a practical function by minimizing the likelihood of your drive tires throwing rocks and debris on the back of your cab/sleeper.
Fenders are available in plastic/poly, smooth aluminum, diamond plate aluminum, stainless steel or fiberglass. Plastic is low-cost and nearly indestructible. Aluminum is cost-effective and practical. Stainless looks nice and has a great shine, but costs more than aluminum. Fiberglass provides a truly custom look; however, the paint and install costs are much higher than metal fenders. However, fiberglass is repairable in the event of a scrape or crack.
Types and styles
Quarter fenders are what the typical truck is equipped with at the factory. Usually they are only 24 inches long and allow rocks to be thrown over or under the fender panel, causing damage to the paint on the back of your cab/sleeper. Most chrome shops offer quarter fenders in 27-inch, 30-inch and even 34-inch lengths for a cool, clean look. They remain affordable while offering a bit more protection than OEM quarter fenders. Installation is quick and easy.
Half fenders are much the same as quarter fenders, but extend across the top of your tires to about the center of your tandems. This style eliminates the possibility of your tires throwing debris on the back of your cab. They are also available in “longer and taller” lengths that drop down farther on the front edge to help you obtain the classic hot rod look. Average install time for half fenders is usually four hours.
Full fenders (traditional) are the classic style that appeals to most folks. These fenders completely cover both axles and offer a great deal of protection, while adding class to just about any rig. Full fenders will require a mounting kit to allow for worry-free installation, and normal installation time is six to eight hours.
Full radius or “double hump” style fenders have been gaining in popularity over the past 10 years or so. These are C-shaped fenders that cover each pair of duals individually. In other words, you need four fenders to outfit a tandem axle truck. They are available from several different manufacturers. Install time is generally eight to 12 hours. The “layout” time is to ensure the appearance of your truck.
There are many vendors for fiberglass fenders, in dozens of different styles and shapes. All of them that I am aware of will require fabrication and welding of the mounting brackets. These brackets will need to be painted just like the fenders. So allow some extra time for this when planning your install.
If your freight requires a lot of drop-and-hook, multi-trailer hauling, you may want to lean toward a nice set of quarter fenders versus half or full. It seems like no matter how careful you are, at some chug hole-filled yard in the middle of nowhere … that trailer will scrape the top of your beautiful shiny fenders. You know what happens next. You throw your hat down, stomp your feet, kick your tires and say a few choice words you’d rather not share … but it happens.
Even if you pull a dedicated trailer, you must check your fifth wheel height before installing full fenders to insure you have adequate clearance between your tires and your trailer to allow for damage-free full fenders.
As far as recommendations, you should always buy a quality fender and a quality bracket system. If you are after longevity, the cheapest option is seldom gonna be the right choice. It’s like the rancher that wants a really, really good, cheap bull – it very rarely exists. One great upgrade for metal or fiberglass fenders is applying a couple of coats of bed liner to the bottom side to minimize dents, dings and starbursts from the stones thrown from the tires.
Fenders are fun. They look cool and can be installed at home in most cases. They can also be moved from truck to truck, should you change vehicles. And they provide more protection and less rain spray than traditional short quarter fenders.
Until our next chat, here’s wishing fewer deadhead miles in your future and cheaper fuel tomorrow than today. OK, OK, OK. Probably won’t happen. But dare to dream. LL