Install TJ Flares on a CJ

Cut my fenders? Cut my brand-new (to me) YJ tub? Are you MAD?!? Well, I do own a Jeep, so to be honest, my sanity must be in question. None the less, I recently got a good deal on a set of 35" BFG M/T tires on fancy aluminum wheels. The only problem with this is that my Jeep is to have a 3" lift kit and a 1" body lift kit. In this configuration, I’d fit 33" tires, no prob, but 35" tires were out of the question. The only possible solution then, is to cut out my fenders for additional clearance so that I CAN fit 35" tires.

Most people know that TJ Jeeps built from 1996-present sport massive fender openings and the flares to cover them. It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to guess that it might be worth grafting these things on a CJ for better tire clearance. And this really was the only option open to me, since I do want my Jeep to look nice. Hacked out fenders would give the impression that my Jeep is a POS and I don’t give a damn what it looks like. The TJ flares cover all the butchery of my sheet metal work, and they really do look very nice when installed. Please keep in mind that in these pictures, there is NO lift on my Jeep. Right now it has the stock, sagging springs from 1983 on it, and it shows. The only other mod that affects the tire clearance is the 1" body lift I installed after the YJ tub swap. That’s it. Nothing else.

Pics with 35's installed:

The first step is to cut out the rear flares. Why? Because they are easy to do and will give you confidence when you tackle the front fenders, which are a little harder to do. That way, the jigsaw won’t tremble in your hands when you make the more important cuts up front :-) The back flares are cake. Start by COVERING the area to be cut with masking tape. Be liberal. The jigsaw will vibrate, and if you don’t have a good buffer against your paint, the saw will chew it up. The bright side is that if you do chew up the paint, the flares will cover up any mistakes you make, and then some. (yeah, I made a few good scratches, too) Factory TJ flares have an interior lip that fits in the fender opening. This makes life real easy when you cut your fenders. Just use a pony clamp or vice grip to hold the flare to the fender in the location that you want to put it. Then use a marker or pen to scribe a line on the masking tape along the inside rim of the flare. Be careful here about your flare position. You are limited in the front of the rear wheel wells by the design of your tub. You’ll only be able to cut out maybe a 1/4" from the front of the wheel well before you start cutting into the inside wheel house and into the passenger compartment. So be mindful of this when you position the flare. After you have the flare where you want it and have it scribed, move the flare away and get ready to cut. Just go slow and don’t rush it. The rear of the opening will end just short of interior bulkhead that supports the rear of the wheel house. Mount the flare in position and make sure once again that you are happy with where it is. Clamp the flare back in place and use a nail to scribe the locations of the mounting holes for the flares on the tub.

For my install, I chucked all my CJ flare mounting hardware and used 1/4" stainless steel Allen head bolts and flared nuts. Anyone can order these from McMaster-Carr. Drill the holes using a 1/4" drill bit and when you are done, give EVERY bare metal surface a good coat of rustoleum to keep it from rusting.

All that’s left to do is to bolt the flare in place and seal the joint against the body with silicone or polyurethane adhesive. Use the sealant on the holes you drilled-out for the fasteners, too. I used black silicone I bought at the local Home Depot. The other rear flare is the same procedure (Lather, rinse, repeat).

Onto the front flares. Now that you’ve done the rear flares, the front flares aren’t much harder. The same procedure for the rear flares is used for the front, but there is some extra work you need to do. Start by covering everything with tape and getting the flare where you want it to sit. Ideally, the front portion of the flare where it starts to dip down will line up with the fender where it starts to dip down. The trailing edge of the flare should reach back and overlap onto the front of your tub by about ½". Step back from the Jeep and make sure that the flare is level with the fender and adjust it until you are happy with how it lines up. Pay special attention to the front of the fender and how the flare matches the curve of the nose of the fender. When you’re happy, scribe the line and remove the flare from the fender. Cut the line with your saw. Keep in mind that there is a raised ridge on the side CJ fenders for the original flares to mount. Make sure that you cut ALL the raised portion of the CJ fender off when you make your cut or the TJ flare won’t mount flush to the fender. Furthermore, the sculpted front edge of the fender bulges out a bit from the fender. Don’t cut this edge off, since you need it to mount the TJ flare. Rather, cut a horizontal line in the front edge and bent the metal in so that the TJ flare has a flush surface to mount against. Don’t worry if you crack the paint, the flare will cover this damage quite nicely.

You will need to cut the inside fender well of the front fenders along the back side of the wheel opening. This will become readily apparent after you cut your front fenders out, as the cut away portion of the fender will be left hanging by the inner fender. Use tin snips to cut away the fender trimmings. Leave as much of the inner fender as possible. After it’s cut away, you need to reattach the inner fender to the outer fender. I used sheet metal screws to attach the inner flares to the outer fender along with a piece of right-angle bent sheet metal I bought from Home Depot. It’s a stock item that any decent hardware store will have on hand. Make sure you paint the bent angle before you install it, along with any other exposed metal from the cutting process.

Install the front TJ flare the same as you did on the back, using good fasteners and lots of silicone or polyurethane sealant, and you’re done. Lather, rinse, and repeat for the other side.

I’d say all in all, I spent about 4 hours installing the flares, and I was very nit-picky about how I wanted them. The final results are apparent. With out any suspension lift, it’s easy to see where my tires might hit on the trail. I will most likely relocate the rear axle back about 1" using the MORE plates that bolt right under the spring pads. The front axle should be fine once the suspension lift is in. If it’s not, I’ll use the same MORE plates to move the front axle back 3/4", but I really don’t think that will be necessary. This really is a simple mod that I think anyone can do with a bit of patience. Thanks go out to the Jeeptech and SWBJeep mailing lists, and the subscribers of those lists who have done this before me.