It wasn’t long after making the jump to 33′s that I knew I had to trim my fenders to get the tires to fit. Actually, I knew before I got the 33′s that I’d have to do trimming, I just didn’t know exactly how much or where it would have to be done. A quick flex on a nearby hill showed me exactly where the rear would need to be trimmed and (to my surprise) how little I’d have to do.
To run 33′s on an XJ, you need 5-6″ of lift (most people recommend 6″), but with the trimming you have to do to fit them off-road, you could probably get away with only 5″ of lift. Right now I’m running 5.5″ of lift to clear the 33×12.5′s and it seems to be a great combo. If you run narrower tires, like 33×9.5′s or 33×10.5′s, you can get away with slightly less lift (like 4.5″-5″) and less trimming.
The rear fender is made of two pieces of sheetmetal that are tack-welded together, and if you trim too much you run the risk of these two pieces seperating. For some people this may not be a big deal because they’ll just weld the gap shut. This wasn’t an option for me so I had to be careful what I did.
|The front part of the fender didn’t require as much modification as the rear did. Again, you can see where the paint chipped away where I bent the metal.|
|After I’d gotten the metal bent back and was satisfied I’d done enough, I decided to paint the fenders to keep the metal from rusting, and to make it look a little better. I used some plain masking tape to tape off the fenders and painted them with some Rustoleum flat black enamel to match the rest of the trim.|
|The paint really made the fenders look much better I think, even though the would be covered up once I put the flares back on.|
|Here you can see the entire fender, modified and painted, before I put the flares back on.
The flares themselves required almost no trimming, just a little along the bottom corners was all that was needed.
|This is a flexxed up shot I took before I painted the fenders and put the flares back on. The tire isn’t quite stuffed all the way yet, but you can see the 33′s tuck just perfectly into the wheel well now.|
Now that I had the rear fenders “trimmed”, it was time to move to the front fenders, which I knew for sure would require cutting sheetmetal. If you have a ’97+ XJ though, your front fenders will be chopped from the factory, so you’re a step ahead of the game there. If you still have the stock front bumper on you will have to trim the end caps though.
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