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How to Keep your Wide-Track's Rear Flares from Rusting Off

Contributed by: Michael Baxter

Here is what I did to prevent my Wide-Track Cherokee's rear fender flares from rusting off (again). I have a '79 Cherokee S. I replaced the rear flares several years ago after scrounging-up some rust free parts and Unwanted to figure a way of keeping it from happening again.

If you own a J-Truck, your flares are different. While they look the same,they are single-wall construction and a lot less prone to rust.

When my old flares finally rusted through at the bottoms, I noticed that there was a lot of dirt trapped in the bottom of those flares (enough to make a 6 inch pile of dirt each time on the garage floor!). It didn't take me long (amazingly) to figure-out that all that dirt just made mud when it got wet. Since the dirt was getting in, it was a sure bet water was getting inside the flares also.

The body shop that performed the flare replacement told me they would do areal nice job of sealing everything up and that I shouldn't have the rust problem again. Well 18 months later, I finally got around to creating some drains holes (I was always going to do it). When I drilled the firs thole, I got a face full of dirt. The little dirt piles were back. Just nowhere near as high as before.

The flares consist of 3 parts: The inner wheel house, the outer wheelhouse and the outside of the flare. If you look up inside the top of the wheel well, right in the middle, you can see the seam that is formed between the inner and outer wheel houses. The seam runs parallel with the frame.

The outer wheel house forms the bottom of the flare. The top or outside of the flare is spot welded to the outer wheel house at the flange that is just inside of the wheel well. These two panels together form the complete double wall constructed flare.

The procedure requires drilling a total of 16 holes at the bottom of the flares. Here is what I think you'll need to do this procedure:

  • An electric/pneumatic drill
  • 3/32 drill bit.
  • 5/32 drill bit.
  • sharp hole punch
  • hammer

Look inside the wheel well at the forward and bottom corner of the left flare. You will see the bulge in the metal that begins about 1 to 1 1/2inches above the flange where the two sheets of metal are bent 90 degree sand spot welded. That is where the dirt and water is trapped.

Look carefully at how those two sheets come together before they make the90 degree bend. The object is to drill straight-up between the sheets without drilling into the outside flare (that would mare the paint!). My holes are approximately 1/4 inch from the outside flare measured from the face of the outside sheets toward the wheel well. Your hole positions may need to be placed differently depending on manufacturing tolerances, which were pretty loose on Full-Size Jeep (FSJ) bodies.

I was only able to get one hole drilled in the lower front of the left flare. There was not enough space between the two panels for the second hole. I didn't know until I tried to drill the hole and all that happened was, I drilled a hole harmlessly through the flange.

Each corner will get two holes with the 5/32 drill bit. The first holes should be about 3 inches in from the outer edge of the flare going toward the middle of the vehicle. The other hole should be outside of the firs thole as far as practical. The second hole should be at or just inside of the bend at the bottom of the flare.

Okay, make your best guess and mark where you will drill the holes using the hole punch. Mount the 3/32 drill bit and drill straight-up (maybe angled a few degrees toward the inside panel). Now drill the outside ho lethe same way. Repeat for the other three bottoms taking care to get right in between the panels.

Once those holes are complete, change to the 3/32 drill bit. Look inside of the wheel well again and find the bulge I mentioned earlier. It starts1 to 1/2 inches above the flange.

Drill two more holes, from inside the wheel well, as close to the bottom of the bulge as you can safely get. Be careful not to dimple the outside flare when you break through the inside metal. Repeat for the other three and your done.

You can consider the smaller holes drilled in the last step as optional. I actually drilled them first when I did this procedure. I then took a cup of water and poured it into the flare from inside. The water did not drain very fast and some of it was left standing at the bottom of the flare. I could see it using a flash light and a mirror.

I then figured out how to drill the larger holes right into the very bottoms of the flares. The water went out about as fast as I could poor and none was left standing.

As long as you have the drill out, you could also remove the rear interior panels and drill some drain holes at the lowest point in the bottom of the quarter panels aft of the wheel wells? Just equate rust prevention in FSJs with bridge painting. Hope this helps you keep your Cherokee rust free.

Michael Baxter

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