Wheel Well Guide: From Covers to Liners, Replacement, Protection & Repair
The wheel well of your car or truck is the recess inside the fenders housing one of your wheels. Its purpose is to prevent tires from projecting sand, rocks, dirt, gravel, salt, and other types of road debris into the air and potentially back at your car.
Each wheel well typically features a protective element such as a wheel well guard, cover, or liner, designed to prevent road spray and road debris from accumulating under your vehicle. This debris can cause costly damage to critical parts.
Here’s everything you need to know about wheel well covers, how they work, whether you need them, and how to install or replace them on your car or truck.
Wheel Well Guards vs. Liners vs. Covers: What’s the Difference?
If you look under a truck’s fenders and check inside the wheel well, you may find a black or dark-colored piece of plastic lining the interior. This element is the wheel well guard. Although other manufacturers may refer to it as a wheel well liner or guard, there is no difference; all three terms refer to the same protective piece.
For example, Ford refers to the pieces designed to protect an F-150 as wheel well liners, whereas other manufacturers may call them using other terms, such as wheel well guards, wheel well covers, or fender liners.
How do wheel well guards work?
Every car and truck has four-wheel wells, one for each tire. The guard is effectively a shield separating the tire from the underside of your car’s bodywork. It provides some degree of protection from rust and impact damage.
When you drive over any surface that can create road spray, such as water, mud, sand, gravel, snow, winter slush, or rocks, your tires will project some debris upwards and into the wheel well.
The guard’s purpose is to catch these projections before they can hit your car’s underside. For instance, water and mud stop on the liner, whereas rocks, sand, and other hard debris bounce off it.
Most cars and trucks possess wheel well guards attached to your vehicle via a set of screws, clips, or securing tabs. Older cars may use simplistic liners made of metal, prone to rusting and corrosion if not regularly replaced or repaired. Modern vehicles employ liners made of impact-resistant thermoplastics immune to rusting and corrosion.
Do I need wheel well guards? Are they a good idea?
Wheel well guards are necessary on all vehicles, whether you drive a small hatchback or a large truck, even if you do not regularly drive on dirt or gravel roads. All road surfaces can project debris, meaning your wheel well needs protection.
The worst cases of vehicle rust and corrosion typically happen on the underside’s surface, and wheel wells are among the most favorable environments for rust formation due to the large surface area. A wheel well guard protects these areas by preventing or limiting contact between the bodywork and rust-causing elements.
What are the benefits of using wheel well guards?
Besides providing your wheel wells with a degree of rust and corrosion protection, wheel well guards protect your vehicle’s underside from hard impact damage. Debris can scratch, dent, or puncture the bodywork or other crucial parts.
Guards are also easier to clean than unprotected wheel wells, making maintenance easier. Specific models may also feature a carpeted outer surface designed to reduce road noise.
What You Should Consider When Choosing Wheel Well Guards
Although many cars come with stock wheel well guards, you may find it beneficial to choose a different model. The quality of OEM wheel well guards varies significantly; some may employ durable materials such as HDPE or ABS, while others may use cheaper, less durable materials prone to damaging or breaking more easily.
Besides ensuring they are made using durable materials, it is critical to select wheel well guards designed explicitly to fit your vehicle’s specific make and model. The shape and design of a vehicle’s wheel wells can change even between different model years of the same model (e.g., well guards designed for a 2015 Dodge Ram 1500 will not fit a 2007 Ram).
How Much Do Wheel Well Guards Cost?
Wheel well guards are typically sold in pairs, one for the front wheels and one for the rear wheels. A complete pair of OEM guards, including fastening hardware, typically costs $80 to $120, depending on your car or truck’s make, model, and production year.
Therefore, replacing all four guards costs between $160 and $240. You can also find single wheel well guards for $40 to $60.
Higher-quality guards usually fetch higher prices, ranging from $90 to $150 per pair, due to their more durable construction.
See our Wheel Well range:
|Ford F150 / Ford F150 Raptor||14-22|
Installation and Application Guide
Although the installation process may vary slightly depending on the make and model of your vehicle, here are the general steps you should follow to install a new pair of wheel well guides. The same steps apply for replacing a damaged or broken wheel well liner.
- Acquire the appropriate tools (Torx screwdriver, Phillips head screwdriver, socket driver, etc.)
- Ensure your new wheel well guards are compatible with your vehicle and come with corresponding fastening hardware (screws, U-clips, etc.)
- Clean the wheel wells thoroughly before beginning the installation process.
- Remove the fastening hardware on your vehicle’s existing factory wheel well guards, and pull the guards out of your wheel wells. If your car doesn’t have any, skip this step.
- Insert the new guards into the wheel well openings. You shouldn’t need to remove the tire or the wheel to do so.
- Push the guards into the openings until they clip into place, then insert the lower flaps into your fender well lips.
- Align your guard’s screw holes with the factory screw locations and install all screws (and, if needed, U-clips) before tightening.
- Tighten all screws and verify that the wheel well guards are correctly aligned and installed.
How to enhance your wheel well guards’ protection
Although high-quality wheel well guards should be sufficiently durable to resist impacts and road spray for years, they are not intended to last for the vehicle’s lifetime. Over time, they will eventually wear and break, requiring replacement.
You can improve your guards’ durability by using a high-quality truck bed liner, such as Durabak-18. Use roll-on or spray-on Durabak on your new wheel well guards before installing it to improve its longevity and ensure it lasts for several years past its intended lifetime.
You can also apply a layer of Durabak to rejuvenate an old and worn out guard without cracks or holes, restoring it to factory-fresh durability. The Durabak layer restores your guard’s protective capabilities, improves its sound-dampening effects, and doesn’t flake, peel, or lose integrity even if you regularly drive in adverse conditions.
Trust Durabak to Protect Your Car and Truck
Pairing high-quality wheel well liners with a spray-on or roll-on truck bed liner such as Durabak is one of the best and most cost-effective ways to ensure your car or truck’s wheel wells remain protected from rust, impacts, and general wear and tear for many years.
Protect your vehicle and give it the care it needs with Durabak, the high-performance truck bed liner trusted by the U.S. Navy.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I drive without a wheel well liner?
Yes, you can drive your car or truck without wheel well liners installed. However, it isn’t recommended because it leaves the wheel wells’ metal surfaces exposed to road spray. Damage to these surfaces is much more expensive to repair than damage to a wheel well guard, especially if you frequently drive on dirt or gravel roads.
How do I keep my wheel well from rusting?
If you live in the Salt Belt or in another area where your vehicles’ wheel wells and undersides are vulnerable to rusting, your wheel well guards may not be sufficient. In this case, your wells will benefit from additional protection.
One of the most efficient solutions to protect your wheel wells from rust is to apply a layer of Durabak on the wheel well. Durabak Marine was designed for boats and marine surfaces, giving your wheel wells exceptional protection against rust and corrosion.