When going aftermarket fender flares you have several options to choose from. There are the heavyweights in the category made from thick steel plate and exceptionally durable. Aluminum which offers lighter weight similar durability to steel but at a premium price. The third option is a durable flexible plastic similar to the stock flares like those that MCE make.
We are not going to debate what style is better or worse, that is for each owner. We will talk about what we experienced installing both steel and plastic fenders on our project Jeep and my opinion on what direction we would go if we did it again.
MCE’s flexible fenders are made from Thermoplastic Olefin (TPO) that are UV stable and won’t crack. In simplest terms they allow the material to take an impact by folding and flexing without breaking. Your stock flares would crack or rip off. The stock flares also fade easily where the superior TPO material is far more resistant to weathering.
The rear install is extremely straightforward. After removing your stock flares you position the MCE flares and clamp them in place so you can mark the holes you will drill. You are only drilling small pilot holes for the 8 self tapping screws. Make sure to use some silicone or RTV on the screw tips to help them seal and keep debris out of the holes.
The great thing about this install is how small the final holes are and that they don’t alter the stock holes in any way. That means if you need to you can reinstall the stock flares. Most steel or aluminum flares alter the stock holes and use nutserts. From personal experience trying to remove these leaves a giant mess and required some extensive repairs to fix. Not everyone will remove them and this won’t be an issue but it is something to think about.
The front install is just as simple with a couple changes. The two front most holes use through bolts and washers instead of self tapping screws. You also get a third bolt to put into the hole that’s not used.
The last bit for the front is the spacer installed on the original fender support. It’s used to put some tension on the new flare to keep it from sagging and set the flare height.
What does it all mean?
A better question might be “What would I choose?”. If hindsight is 20/20 then we would go back in time and get these fenders to begin with. We really liked the metal fenders that were installed on our project Jeep. The problem is they caused a bunch of metal damage from the sheer weight attached to such flimsy stock sheet metal. The steel fenders have also been reported to transfer trail damage to the body with an impact, negating the protection they offer.
The flexible fenders offer the tire coverage required by most state laws, they fold instead of cracking when they hit items on the trail, and they don’t cause irreparable damage to your Jeep. For us that’s a winning combination, especially when combined with the cost difference. Steel fenders run about $1100 for a full set while the MCE Fenders run $792 for the full set and that includes the marker lights. MCE also offers a No Crack Warranty for the life of the fenders. Click here to see the full details.
From MCE: Our fenders blend the aggressive, true “flatty” fender look of the original Jeep to today’s JK. Our JK fenders also provide 2″ of extra tire clearance, allowing a larger tire to be installed on the vehicle. (Up to a 35” tire with no suspension lift)