Fender flares can look pretty awesome on your truck. But besides giving it a distinct look, fender flares serve many other purposes: keeping your truck street-legal with larger tires or replacing damaged OE flares, for instance. Some drivers install them to hide rust and body damage around the wheel well, but is this a wise move? This quick guide can help you learn more about fender flares, rust, and steps you can take to care of your truck.

How Does Rust Form?

It’s no secret that regular driving can get your truck dirty. Road salt, puddles, mud, and debris can all damage its finish. UV rays are another culprit, disrupting chemical bonds and causing surfaces to break down or fade. But there’s another potential problem – rust, caused by the oxidation of iron.

Water is a key part of the process, breaking up the oxygen molecule so that iron more readily reacts with it. Iron and oxygen attract each other because they have opposite charges. Iron eventually loses some of its electrons to oxygen, forming that familiar dingy red coating. Besides looking ugly, it also breaks down iron’s structural integrity.

Can Fender Flares Cause Rust?

You need water and oxygen to make iron rust. Fender flares can keep gravel and debris out of your wheel well, but they’re not watertight. After they’re installed, they form a very small gap between the flare and your truck’s body panel. Water can get trapped inside that gap. Since it can’t easily evaporate, it stays on your body panel surface. When you add salty runoff to the mix, this can create ideal conditions for rust to form. Left unattended, you could end up with serious damage.

Can Mud Flaps Help Prevent Rust?

No one’s telling you that you can’t install fender flares. After all, they do offer some great benefits. But while you’re at it, you should consider adding some truck mud flaps. These accessories help shield your fenders from dirt, salty water and mud. And as a bonus, they also block rocks and road debris from hitting the undercarriage of your vehicle. Both your fenders and underbody stay cleaner: Less rust and denting mean less money spent on repairs.

What Kinds of Mud Flaps Can I Buy?

Mud flaps come in a wide range of styles. Most versions are made from stainless steel, aluminum, polyurethane, rubber or plastic. Many types of finishes are available, giving you some options to choose from. You’ll also notice several styles – hitch-mounted, truck style and dually, just to name a few. Those doing heavy-duty driving may want to choose hitch-mounted flaps, which hang from the truck’s ball mount. Dually flaps are designed for trucks that have four tires on each axle.

Where Can I Buy Mud Flaps?

You can find mud flaps at many auto parts dealers. Some offer them with other exterior accessories such as nerf running boards or trailer hitches. When you buy tonneau cover, mud flaps, fender flares, or other accessories, choose a trustworthy retailer with a wide selection, excellent customer service, and transparent returns and exchange policy.