The Right Kind of Flare: MCE's Narrow JK Fender Review
One of the biggest challenges when building a trail-worthy four-wheel-drive is balancing a large tire with a low amount of lift. The concept of maintaining a low center-of-gravity is a universal theme for most automotive disciplines, but can be particularly beneficial to 4x4s traversing difficult off-road trails. For many builders, the biggest challenge for packaging a large tire with a modest lift has to do with the size of the wheel wells. This often results in expensive custom fenders or serious sheetmetal trimming.
Thankfully, 4x4s such as the Jeep Wrangler JK are fit from the factory with extremely large wheel wells. This is one of the reasons you’ll see many Jeeper’s running 35- and 37-inch-tall tires with just a few inches of lift. While the stock JK flares offer plenty of tire coverage, they can been limiting when attempting to cycle a taller tire. An easy solution is to use one of the many aftermarket fender sets.
One of our favorites comes from Modern Classic Enterprises (MCE). The company specializes in lightweight bolt-on flares for the Jeep Wrangler YJ, TJ and JK platforms. Aside from a lightweight and durable plastic construction, the flares high-clearance design offers an ideal solution for those looking to increase the tire size on their Jeep, but don’t want to increase the suspension lift. We recently picked up a set of the MCE’s narrow series fenders to install on our heavily modified ’07 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon.
While the video above walks you through the fender transformation on the JK, we’re diving more into the details below.
The stock JK fenders offer a substantial amount of tire coverage on the stock Jeep. Since this JK is equipped with 1-ton axles from a Ford Super Duty and BAD Wheels, the tires stick out far beyond the fender’s reach. While this JK has been equipped with modified stock fender flare for some time, we had an OE set that we attached for a point of reference.
The inner fenders on this JK were long removed, so it only took a quick pull of the fender to pop the plastic clips off. To install MCE front fenders, you’ll first need to secure them to the JK via the front three bolts, then use a sharpie to mark the remaining holes. To make the necessary holes, you can use the provided self-tapping screws along with a power drill.
With the holes drilled, you can now install the fender using the provided hardware. Since it only weighs a few pounds, it’s an easy one-man job.
Out back, you’ll remove the inner fenderwell and discard. Like the front, the rear fender will need to be test fit so the holes can be marked. Using a 9/64 drill bit, you can drill the appropriate holes with the flare off of the vehicle. When installing the rears, MCE recommends adding a dab of RTV silicone to the screw to ensure the tub remains sealed after the faster is installed. Note: Since the flare attaches in the factory location, there was no interference with the Jeep’s corner armor.
If you would like to retain your stock inner fenderwell, it is possible with a little trimming. Again, ours was long gone. Like the back, the front flare runs along the same fender arch as the OE flares.
All MCE fenders come with a ¾-inch LED side-marker light that can be mounted in a variety of spots. We opted to drill out this small inner fender tab to secure them in place.
Since these are the Narrow version of the MCE fenders, the front set swoops tightly in towards the nose of the Jeep. MCE also offers an OE-width set for those looking for additional coverage.
MCE states its fender sets will allow you to run a 35-inch-tall tire with no lift on a Jeep Wrangler JK. With a little over four inches of lift, the flares offered ample room for this JK’s 40x13.50R17 Nitto Trail Grapplers to tuck without hitting.
Since the rear fender remains tucked tight to the JK as well, there wasn’t any tire interference. If the flares do happen to tangle with the tire or some obtruding obstacle, the MCE-spec TPO plastic is flexible enough to absorb the impact. This is a major benefit as many steel flares can often transfer the impact to the Jeeps sheetmetal.
MCE offers an OE-like black-textured finish on the Gen II flares we’re running and a glossier carbon-fiber look on the Gen III flares. Though the flat-style flare isn’t going to offer a tremendous amount of debris protection, they’re an excellent choice if you need some extra space for your treads to travel.