Trimming your XJ’s fenders for 33s

The front fenders is where the fun starts, and why most people are reluctant to cut sheetmetal. Depending on what the backspacing is on you rims you may have to cut more or less than what I’ve done here. My rims are 15×8’s with 4.75″ backspacing. I’ve found this to be an almost ideal size for running 33×12.5’s with minimal fender problems. One thing I didn’t want to do was move the flares further up on the body, as this leaves gaps that I think look bad. Also, moving the front flares up makes the height difference between the front and rear flares even worse, which again I think looks bad. My plan was to cut the fenders even with the top of the front bumper, leave the flares where they were, and trim them to match the fender (basically the way that the newer body style XJ’s come from the factory).

I talked with a lot of people on how to go about trimming the front fenders. I got suggestions of everything from tin snips to a sawzall to a plasma cutter. One person suggested using a Dremel-type rotary tool, which sounded like a good idea to me, because that just happened to be what I had handy (I’m not lucky enough to have access to a plasma cutter…), plus it would have the least effect on the paint when I cut the metal. So, I pulled out my trusty Black&Decker corded Wizard and a tube of cut-off wheels and went to work…

To start out you’ll need to remove the flares and front bumper. Next remove the lower fender support brace. If you haven’t already, remove the splash guards as well. Some people recommend relocating the horns when you remove the splash guards, but I haven’t had any problems with leaving my horns in the stock location.
Next you’ll probably want some way to mark where you’re going to cut. I used some blue masking tape. At first I decided to cut the fenders off about one inch below the grill, so that’s what you’ll see me doing in these photos. I soon discovered that wasn’t enough and I had to go back and trim the fenders level with the bottom of the grill for more tire clearance.
Now, if you decide to do what I did and use a rotary tool and cut-off wheels, be sure you have a LOT of cut-off wheels as they are pretty brittle and shatter easily (wear eye protection!), not to mention they wear down fast. I probably went through 4 cut-off wheels per fender.
It may look like a tedious way to do it, and it did take a while, but it really worked out quite well I think. The paint wasn’t harmed at all and I was able to get a very clean and straight cut, as you can see. I’ve also got a 4″ angle grinder that I thought about using instead, but at the time I couldn’t find any cut-off wheels that would fit it.
Now that you’ve got the sheetmetal all trimmed up (however you decided to do it), it’s time to cut the flares. I remounted mine and taped it off where I wanted to cut it. Again I pulled out my B&D Wizard and went to work. I could have just used a utility knife to cut the flares, but the Wizard was quicker.
Since the bottom mounting holes for the flare were cut off, I had to drill a new hole and do some slight modification to the metal mounting plates that help hold the flare to the fender. I also put a piece of adhesive black door edge guard on the bare metal edge to keep anyone from cutting a finger on it.

Below are the photos from when I had to go back an cut some more off of the fenders. You can see the black door edge guard pretty well in the bottom left pic.

That bottom right photo is from a short trail I ran with my cousin and his CJ8 just after finishing retrimming the front fenders. As you can see, the 33’s tuck pretty far into the front fenders, and I could actually use some more trimming along the front of the fender to get total clearance, but it’s close enough at it is and I really don’t want to modify the flares any more than they are already. After all, my rig is still my daily driver and it still has to look decent on the streets.

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4 Comments so far

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  2. John November 26th, 2013 12:49 pm

    Great JOB !!

    How was the lower fender supported after cutting ??

    Or does it flap in the breeze ??

  3. Jeepin Jason December 17th, 2013 8:40 am

    No additional support was added – the fender is rigid enough that it doesn’t really flap around. Not that I’ve noticed anyway.

  4. Jason February 21st, 2014 6:06 pm

    5-6″ required for 33″s?? Nope I run them on 3″ list with trimming….

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