Rust on fenders is extremely common on cars and trucks, especially if you’re living in the Northeastern portion of the U.S. where the so-called “Rust Belt” is located.
Usually, the vehicle’s undercarriage is the first to develop surface rust, but because it’s so difficult to see – most truck and car owners only notice rust when it starts to rot away the fenders. At that point, fender rust becomes an eye-catching nuisance and needs to be fixed.
Now, there are only two ways to deal with it: fix it or hide it.
Fixing surface rust might cost you a lot of money and time, therefore you might be tempted to just hide the fender rust with fender flares until you can get around to fixing them.
But is using fender flares to cover rust a good idea or will it only make it worse? We’ll explain that, and more in this article.
Pros and Cons of Using Fender Flares to Cover Rust
Covering fender rust with fender flares or fixing the rust altogether can be quite a tough decision to make. But to give you a better idea and help you deice, let’s quickly glance over the pros and cons of using fender flares to cover rust.
- It’s quick and easy. Most fender flares are designed to be installed quickly (around 5 minutes for each fender) and all you need is set of sockets, a ratchet, and a screw driver.
- They will improve the look of your truck. Fender flares will make your truck look wider and more aggressive, what’s not to like?
- They will allow you to run wider tires. Running wide tires that extend past the body of the vehicle is illegal in most states. However, with fender flares, you can run wider tires as long as they do not extend past them.
- They will protect your truck’s paint. Part of the reason why running wide tires without fender flares is illegal is because tires pick up rocks and swing them all over the place. Not only do fender flares protect your truck’s paint from rocks, they also protect the windshields of the vehicles around you.
- It will probably make it worse. Fender flares will trap moisture, road grime, salt, etc. and will likely accelerate corrosion and make your fenders rust away even faster.
- They’re quite expensive. A set of decent fender flares will set you back by $100-200, while a few cans of spray paint, rust converter, car polish, and some Bondo required to fix rust costs much less.
Is Using Fender Flares to Cover Rust a Good Idea?
As you can see above, there are many pros to using fender flares, but the cons are quite bad. While it might seem like a decent solution, using fender flares to cover rust is not a good idea. At least not in the long run.
Fender flares create the perfect conditions for rust to spread further and faster, therefore making matters even worse. They trap moisture and any road debris that your tires pick up, including road salt. To make things worse, poorly-made and poorly secured fender flares can rub on the fenders and wear out the paint down to the bare metal.
Rust is very much like cancer. It needs to be treated ASAP because it will just keep spreading and spreading, therefore you’re better off getting it fixed in most cases. Especially when fixing rusty fenders can be done at home without having to pay a body shop to do it (unless your fenders are completely rotten).
To that end, using fender flares to cover rust for the short term might not be a bad idea. Just make sure to fix the rust before it gets worse and extends outside the fender flares.
How to Cover Fender Rust With Fender Flares
If you’re still planning on covering your truck’s rusty fenders with fender flares, then you should take some necessary steps first to not be completely disappointed.
Now, if you just cover your truck’s rusty fenders with fender flares, then the rust will just get out of control fast. That’s no bueno. To avoid that, you should at the very least wire brush away loose rust first and then seal it with a rust converter, a rust encapsulator, or even both.
The goal here is to stop or at least slow down the corrosion process temporarily.
A rust encapsulator is easier to use as it does not require a 100% hard rust surface. It neutralizes existing rust and converts it into a base form that can be painted over.
On the other hand, a rust converter is much more difficult to use as it will only work if the surface is 100% rust – no bare metal or coatings. The good thing about rust converters is that they (if done correctly) work wonderfully and will turn heavy rust into a protective polymeric coating.
For the best chance of keeping rust at bay for as long as possible, you might want to first use a rust converter, then a rust encapsulator on top, and only then spray paint it in order to cover the fender from the elements.
If you’ve taken these steps, then you can rest assured that you’ve done everything (reasonably speaking) to prevent rust from spreading, and can now finally cover the fender with fender flares.
Fender flares look great and do a good job of protecting your truck’s paint from rocks, however, they do have some drawbacks.
If improperly installed or if the fender flares are poorly made, then they can create the perfect conditions for corrosion to appear. But above all, using fender flares on already rusty fenders will likely only increase the speed of corrosion and make things worse.
That is, unless you take necessary precautions beforehand, in order to stop or at least slowdown rust. By first wire-brushing down loose rust and then coating it in a rust converter or encapsulator, you should buy yourself a few years of time before the corrosion process gets out of hand and gets past the fender flares.
Eddie is the co-founder of CarCareCamp.com, and the site’s primary contributor.
Under his belt, Eddie has a bachelor’s degree in Automotive Electronics Engineering and almost a decade of experience working as a semi-truck technician (specializing in electrics).