Fender flares provide more tire clearance, cover wider tire treads, and enhance your rig’s appearance.
Arguably, a Jeep Cherokee (XJ model) will give you the most bang for your off-roading buck. What we mean, is that with an XJ you get a lot of 4×4 vehicle for a minimum cost. Nearly 3 million Cherokees were produced in the US over the model’s production run (1984 – 2001), with many more being produced on nearly every continent in the world.
The name Cherokee was introduced a decade earlier by Jeep as the 1974 Cherokee Chief — a full ladder-framed less expensive two-door version of the luxurious four-door Wagoneer. However, in 1983, Jeep reintroduced the name as the 1984 XJ model, a monocoque (unibody) Sportwagon (a precursor to SUV, a term that wasn’t coined at the time). By eliminating the heavy steel ladder frame, Jeep saved a great deal of weight and still produced a very capable off-road vehicle.
Cherokees have a couple oddities, though, one of which is addressed by the addition of fender flares. The other is an automatic transmission that doesn’t lock into low gear for downhill trekking; it will only hold in second, which means you’ll be riding the brakes down steep trails. Oddity number one, though, is the Cherokee’s relatively small wheel openings.
Small wheel openings mean you’re restricted in the size tires you can add to your XJ, so many companies have produced fender flares. Some flares are metal, some are fiberglass, and we even saw a set made from a plastic kiddy pool on Facebook. For the hard rock trails of Arizona, however, strength is needed so we chose a set of DirtBound steel flares.
ALSO SEE: How to Install Dual Batteries in a Jeep
Full disclosure: we tried a different brand initially, which shall remain nameless, but the front fender flares were so far out of alignment with the Cherokee’s sheet metal, their mounting bolts would have drastically distorted the original fenders. We sent them back and contacted DirtBound.
Normally, we would include a photo of the entire kit displayed on a table or the floor; however, in this case, Cherokee owner Gale Lee—after the fiasco of the first kit—couldn’t wait to begin the installation. Since the front fenders had already been trimmed out to match the first kit, Lee marked and cut the rear wheel openings before we arrived.
As always, the first step is laying out all the contents of the kit and making sure nothing is missing. Nothing was missing from the DirtBound kit (SKU: 1012037). In fact, a few extra nuts and bolts were included in case of loss during install.
How to Install Jeep Fender Flares
With the DirtBound steel body armor and fender flares protecting his Cherokee, Gale Lee hit Secret Pass outside Kingman, Arizona.
The front flares protect the XJ’s entire front fender panel and flares out over the tire tread.
After trimming back the sheet metal, make sure there’s nothing left protruding to snag, cut or slice a tire.
Prior to attaching the flare, seal all the cracks and crannies in the modified wheel openings with RTV silicone sealant. This will go a long way to avoiding rust in the future. Use clear or colored silicone.
After sealing all the nooks and crimps with silicone, you may want to further seal the entire inner fender surfaces with a good undercoating product.
Correctly position each flare to its respective fender, clamp into place, and mark the locations of the mounting bolts.
We used these quite strong spring clamps for our flares.
First drill just one hole, and then insert the bolt and finger-tighten the nut.
DirtBound included more than enough of these special nuts, bolts, and washers for all fender flares.
After finger-tightening the first bolt, drill the remaining holes and insert all the bolts. Once they are all in place, go around the edge and tighten each fastener.
We’re all finished with the first front fender flare, except for painting it to match the Cherokee.
Perform the same steps on the rear flares and tighten into place.
All protected, Lee can now install larger, taller tires.