Jeep XJ Fender Flares to Cover Your Meats
You gotta stay legal!
Slap some big meats on your XJ Cherokee and it's pretty easy to have them sticking out past the body.
Unfortunately, the po-po in many areas do not like this. A decent set of flares will keep you legal.
Let's take a look at some flare whys, flare features, and a few flares that work well .
You Need Fender Flares on Your Jeep XJ
Unless you're building your XJ into a pure trail beast, you most likely need fender flares.
There are two reasons for this:
- Being a cool 4x4er
Let's address these in more depth:
First of all, many states have a rule stating that your vehicle need its tire tread covered. We have a list of DMV websites here. You can usually find fender flare laws there.
Enforcement for this varies pretty widely:
- Some states have the law but don't really enforce it.
- Some state have no exposed tire tread laws.
- Some states have the law and also enforce it during the required inspection.
- Some states have the law but don't really enforce it, but may enforce it if you aren't a local.
- Some states will use the law just to pull you over.
Legality-wise, we think flares on your XJ are generally a good idea since you may travel into a state that has fender flare laws even if yours doesn't.
Don't Break Two "Rules" At Once
If you want to stay out of trouble with law enforcement we generally stick to our "Don't break two 'rules' at once" policy. "Rules" aren't just laws. It's also doing things out of the ordinary. So you would try not to:
- Speed when you have out-of-state plates.
- Transport cocaine when you have a taillight out.
- Drive a muddy, jacked-up XJ without fender flares.
Be a Cool XJ Dude (or Dudette) with Flares
Do states just make up these fender flare laws to be jerks? Probably not.
If your tire tread is covered, it'll keep the tire from:
- Flinging mud off your tires onto other cars
- Slingshotting stones into people's windshields
- Producing tons of fine droplets of rainwater that fill the air and lower visibility for cars behind you
Lots of people don't like lifted trucks, loud exhausts, and big tires. Fender flares on your Cherokee XJ will make your XJ look a little more presentable.
If you poke around on 4x4 forums, there are plenty of other off roaders that want you to run flares(and mudflaps) since they've had windshields broken by rocks catapulted through the air by unprotected tire tread.
Fender Flare Styles for Jeep Cherokee XJs
We've got your options covered from budget to, uh, not budget. There are a few different styles, but you'll pay more for anything that isn't a basic look.
For the most part, you can buy Bushwacker flares as a front set only, a rear set only, or a full set.
Cheaper flares sets are usually sold in a set of four.
Jeep XJ Cherokee Flat Fender Flares
We really like the look of flat fender flares on XJs.
But one of the great things about them is that they also come in one piece for the rear fender. Other cutout style fenders come in two pieces for the rear fender flare.
Besides easier install, the one piece design also means that it'll fit 2 door XJs, 4 door XJs, or MJ comanche pickups.
This is not true with other cutout fender flares!
The Bushwacker flat-style flares are available in as a rear set, a front set, or a full set. Pay attention to prices!
For some reason, a full set usually costs only a little more than a rear or front set. Go figure!
Check them out here:
- Bushwacker Flat Fender Flares for XJs and MJs, full set
- Bushwacker Flat Fender Flares for XJs and MJs, front set
- Bushwacker Flat Fender Flares for XJs and MJs, rear set
You will need to cut your front fenders and rear quarters to install these. Read our tips below and also check out the installation instructions here.
Jeep XJ 4 Door Cherokee Cutout Fender Flares
Cutout flares are the second style that you're likely to encounter. They have the "standard" fender flare look that covers up your tires.
As with the flat fender flares, you'll need to cut your front fenders and your rear quarters in order to fit these.
These fender flares do not fit 2 door Cherokees or the Jeep Comanche MJ pickup.
You'll notice that a 4 door Cherokee extends the door almost to the front edge of the rear fender well.This means there is no place to attach a cutout style flair!
Instead, the flare attaches to the door.
Some people hate that rear cutout flares on Cherokees are 2 pieces. If you're one of them, your only option is to pick up a set of flat flares above OR buy a two door Cherokee!
Take a look at the Bushwacker cutout flares here:
- Bushwacker Cutout Fender Flares for 4 door XJs, full set
- Bushwacker Cutout Fender Flares for 4 door XJs, front set
- Bushwacker Cutout Fender Flares for 4 door XJs, rear set
If you want to see the how the installation will go, get the installation details here.
Bushwacker has been in the business a long time - they use their own plastic and their flares are fairly resistant to fading.
However, if you don't have the budget for them, check out EAG's flares. They are very similar to the Bushwacker flares for quite a bit less cash.
We probably wouldn't go too much cheaper on flares than the EAGs - there are kits our there for much less, but they tend to fit badly, install badly, and break more easily.
Jeep XJ 2 Door Cherokee and MJ Comanche Cutout Fender Flares
Because 2 door Cherokees and Jeep MJs have lots of metal forward of the rear wheelwell, they can use a one piece rear fender flare.
There aren't really any budget options out there for the 2 door Cherokee/Comanche-style fender flares since both of these vehicles are pretty rare!
You can buy the front flares separately - the front fender flares for a 2 door XJ, Comanche, and 4 door XJ are all the same. It's only the rear set that's different.
Unfortunately, you can't buy the rear flares separately, only the fronts.
Check out Bushwacker's cutout fender flares here:
- Bushwacker Cutout Fender Flares for 2 door XJs and MJ Comanches, full set
- Bushwacker Cutout Fender Flares for 4 door XJs, 2 door XJs, and MJ Comanches, front set
Installation on these is fairly similar to the 4 door instructions, but a little less fiddly. Check it out here.
Remember, if you're not big on the arched cutout style, you can still use the flat style above.
Jeep XJ Cherokee Steel Fender Flares
If you need serious protection, you need steel fender flares.
Steel flares (mostly) won't crack or break against trees and rocks and usually provide more clearance since they're designed for serious wheeling. This comes at a weight penalty, though!
A standard set of flares weighs in around 9 lbs. These'll add around 60 lbs to your XJ.
Chekout the Affordable Offroad fender flares here:
- Affordable Offroad Steel Fender Flares for Jeep XJs, full set
- Affordable Offroad Steel Fender Flares for Jeep XJs, front set
- Affordable Offroad Steel Fender Flares for Jeep XJs, rear set
Along with reinforcing the fender edge, these flares will protect most of the panel they are attached to:
They have the strength that plastic can't have. The pictured steel flares from Affordable Offroad are made out of 1/8" CNCed steel. Note that you'll need to drill your fender and quarter panels to install these and you'll need to cut plenty to make them fit.
The rear flare/armor also comes with a 1 3/4" tube rub rail.
Because of the fact that you have a large panel covering your cut lines and don't need to worry about flare alignment in the same way, you'll probably find these a little easier to install than plastic flares. Get a taste of the install here.
These are made in the USA.
You Want Answers, We Have Them
There are plenty of options out there for flares on your Cherokee. It's
easiest to know what you need once you have your tires, wheels, and
axles installed so you know what width flares you need.
Here are some answers to questions you'll have:
Do I need to cut the body to install flares on an XJ?
Yes. If you want wide, non-stock fender flares, you'll need to cut the body.
All fender flares for XJs require cutting.
Are front fender flares and rear fender flares different?
Yes. Front flares are different from rear flares. A front flare kit won't fit on the rear fenders, or vice versa.
Are fender flare kits different for different year XJ Cherokees?
No. All XJ fender flare kits will work on 1984 to 2001 Jeep Cherokee XJs. That means if you bought a kit for your 1985 XJ Cherokee you could also install it on your buddy's 1999 XJ Cherokee.
However, there are small differences between Cherokees that may require you to make small adjustments, cut trim off, or massage sheetmetal. There are small differences installation between different years and different trim levels. These differences are noted in the installation instructions for the flares that we included above.
There are also differences between 2 door Cherokee/MJ Comanche kits and 4 door Cherokee kits.
Why are there 6 pieces in my fender flare kit?
4 door XJs use a 2 piece flare in the rear with the "standard" curved cutout flares. One piece attaches to the door and one piece attaches to the body.
If you want a one piece rear flare, you need to use a flat flare style.
What if I have a 2 door XJ Cherokee?
The 2 doors DO have different fender flares for the rear quarter panel. This is because 4 door kits use a 2 piece flare that attaches to the door and the quarter panel. 2 door Jeep Cherokees and pickups use a one-piece flare.
How much should I spend on flares?
As with anything else, you get what you pay for. Bushwacker flares are generally the best flares you can get. They have better plastic than budget flares and they will generally install a little easier.
Budget flares like the EAGs work fine. However, Bushwacker basically owns the flare market and they make more flare styles for more body styles than anyone else.
It should go without saying, but if your fender flares come in contact with rocks or trees out on the trail, they will break. No one will warranty fender flares that broke from being smashed.
Amazingly, "My fender flares broke when I ran into a tree" is a very common complaint with plastic flares! This is kind of like saying, "Geez, I'm really upset that my 35s snapped my Dana 30 shafts. Someone should have told me!"
I have no money for flares. Now what?
You probably also:
- Bought bigger tires when you should've bought a locker
- Never regeared
- Drive around with a tire and a gas can on your roof rack, 100% of the time
That's okay! We've all been there.
Almost any place that sells garden supplies will have plastic lawn and garden edging in large rolls. It is cheap, fairly durable and should get you 4-ish inches of tire coverage. However, you will find:
- It's pretty ugly.
- It won't cover fender cuts, so they need to be straight.
- It tends to install a little "wavy".
What should I do when I get my fender flares?
Inspect them! Make sure they aren't warped and be sure that you have all the hardware. Warped flares will be annoying to install. Besides, flares are expensive! Don't mess with a defective set.
Missing hardware seems to be common. We'd speculate that people probably return flares once they realize they need to cut their XJ's body.
Do I have to paint the flares I put on my XJ?
Only if you want to. All "normal" fender flares for XJs come in some type of plastic (except for a metal set below). This plastic comes in black, but is paintable.
Most people that install fender flares on their Cherokee choose to leave the flares unpainted.
They look good as they are, you don't have to worry about scratching them, and it saves a lot of money!
If you choose to paint them, a body shop will do the best work to match the flares to your XJ's paint.
Height and Width
If you just need stock flares, it's easy to buy them new.
For most of us, the fender cutting you need to do to stuff 33s or 35s in your fender well will be easily covered by most aftermarket fender flares.
Jeep XJ Fender Flare Installation Tips
Installation of fender flares is not for the faint of heart! Fender flares are usually a "measure twice, cut once" type of job.
Although it's important to be careful when you're cutting, remember:
Your cut line will be covered up by the flare. If you make any small mistakes, they'll be covered up by the flare.
Here are some XJ-specific tips:
Particularly in the engine bay, be careful about cutting and drilling.
Some XJs are laid out a little differently, but you may have wiring, tubing, your windshield washer reservoir, or relay/fuse blocks mounted to your inner fender/apron.
Be careful not to cut or drill through to them!
You will probably need to trim these flares if you have aftermarket bumpers on your XJ.
This may go without saying, but if you have aftermarket bumpers, look at the lines of the bumpers and the lines of the flares. You may find that the flares and bumper interfere with each other.
If that's the case, cut the flares to fit.
Consider pulling off your tires.
This'll give you a little more room to work.
You may need to do hammering and light cutting inside the wheelwell, and this is much easier with the tire off.
It's possible you'll need to remove or mod the bumper end caps.
Some flares will interfere with stock bumper end caps. You can usually mod the flares or remove the caps.
Do not use a Sawzall/reciprocating saw or a jigsaw to make cutouts.
Sawzalls are amazing until they aren't. That point is usually when the blade binds a little or you're repositioning for a cut.
The blade catches the sheetmetal of your body and shakes it back and forth. Usually the results are:
- The exterior paint gets scratched because you never thought to tape it.
- The sheetmetal may now be a little bent.
- It's more difficult to start up again.
- The perfect cut line you made up to this point is slightly wallowed out.
Jigsaws are a little better, but not a lot.
Another problem with any type of reciprocating saw is that the blade can poke through very far and snag/cut stuff if you aren't paying lots of attention.
If you have no choice but to use some sort of reciprocating saw to make your fender flare cuts, make sure to tape a wide area on either side of the cut line! Also, use the shortest blade you can!
Use a cutoff wheel to make cutouts.
Cutoff wheels are far easier to use than a Sawzall for cutting in flares.
Generally, we prefer a 2" (small diameter) cutting wheel on an air cutoff tool. The small diameter cutoff wheel makes it much easier to cut curves.
Air cutoff tools are also pretty light and easy to brace against the body so that you get a clean cut.
Not everybody has a big air compressor that can run a cutoff tool!
A larger diameter wheel on an electric grinder works well. It's slightly more difficult to handle than a cutoff tool, but it would be silly to buy an air compressor for this job and it's still much easier than a Sawzall.
Just be careful to not go too deep on the curves to ensure that they're clean.
Try to preserve the spot welds on the rear fenders.
There are some spot welds on the rear fender well. Try to NOT cut through them unless the cut pattern tells you to.
You can weld the rear inner fender and rear quarter together for more strength.
When you cut the rear quarter panels, you'll end up with a gap between the wheelwell liner and the quarter panel.
Depending on how much you cut, you can either pinch the edges together and weld them, or leave tabs that can be folded over and welded together.
This is completely optional (no fender flare manufacturer expects you to have a welder) but it'll add a little strength to tie the liner and quarter together.
Paint cut edges.
If you have any drill holes or cuts, paint them! Fender wells have more caked-on dirt and road salt than most other parts of your XJ and will rust out if you don't protect them.
Frankly, if you can spare some extra time for a primer/paint combo to fully dry before you install your flares, it'll be well worth it in 5 years.
Last updated: November 21, 2019