What are Fenders?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Fenders are panels on a car that are located on the sides of the car in front of the doors. They serve a number of functions, not least of which is aesthetic. Drivers may be most familiar with the fender in the context of a “fender-bender,” a minor accident in which the fenders of a car are dented or damaged as a result of a collision. Many cars have been designed with easily replaced fenders because such collisions are quite common.

Motorcycles have fenders to keep dirt out of its wheels.
Motorcycles have fenders to keep dirt out of its wheels.

One of the primary functions of a fender is to keep dirt, dust, and road debris away from the wheel and front braking system. Many have small flaps or wings that are designed to enhance this protective function. The fender will also help to keep debris off of the rest of the car as well, which be useful when a car throws up a rock or stick from the road.

Fenders can add style and function to bicycles.
Fenders can add style and function to bicycles.

Depending on the design, fenders can also act to make a car more aerodynamic. Many sports cars have very sleek fenders for this reason, and they may have additional features such as grooves or grillwork which are designed to enhance the car's performance at high speed.

Sports cars usually have very sleek fenders.
Sports cars usually have very sleek fenders.

The other function of fenders is of course aesthetic. Most people do not want to look at the framework of a car, and the panels cover the frame and the sides of the engine block. They can also be used to add flair and style to a car; many cars in the 1950s, for example, had bubble fenders, which stuck out prominently to create a desired look. They can have a wide variety of design features which make them more interesting or stylish to look at.

Depending on the make of the car, fenders may be made from fiberglass, steel, or other materials. Many of these materials are designed to crumple in a crash, distributing the impact across the frame of the car to make the crash more survivable for the occupants of the vehicle. Depending on the materials used, fenders can sometimes be bent back into shape after a minor accident; in other cases, they will probably need to be replaced.

In addition to being seen on cars, fenders can also be found on bicycles and motorcycles, along with other wheeled methods of transportation. Many companies make specialized custom fenders with designs like flames, pinstriping, and other decorative features, for people who want to replace their factory-standard panels with something a little more exciting.

A fender-bender is a minor collision in which the fender of the car is damaged.
A fender-bender is a minor collision in which the fender of the car is damaged.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


@eidetic - I've actually seen people driving around with a cover on both the front bumper and the fenders. It's not common, as far as I know, but I think you could probably find something like that for your car if you looked around enough.


I think it's true that fenders are the part of the car that's damaged most frequently. I think this is especially true if you live in the city. People sometimes aren't that careful about parallel parking and things like that, and it's pretty common for people to bump into each other's cars a little bit in parking garages.

I actually saw someone with a little protective thing over the bumper of their car the other day. I think this is a great idea, and it would be neat if there was something like this for the fender too.


@Pharoah - Having a little fender-bender is much better than having a huge accident, I agree. And damage to the fender isn't as noticeable as damage to some parts of the car. I damaged my fender myself awhile ago, and I haven't gotten around to getting it fixed yet because you can barely notice the little scratch.


@aplenty - That's interesting. It makes sense that there would be different concerns for bigger vehicles with bigger tires.

Anyway, like the article said, I'm most familiar with fenders in the context of the fender-bender. Whenever anyone tells me they've been in a car accident, I hope the next thing they say is, "It was just a fender-bender."

Usually people don't get hurt in fender-benders. The worst that happens is that they need repairs on their car. And as the article said, fenders are repaired fairly easily. It's still not fun if you have to pay for it, but better than paying for extensive repairs.


Fenders also serve to protect other drivers on the road. This is especially true for truck and SUV fenders. Most states have laws regarding fenders. It is illegal for a vehicles tires to stick out a certain distance beyond their fenders. This is why lifted trucks or trucks with wide tires often have extended fenders. Extended fenders make the vehicle road legal.

The danger of having tires stick out more than a couple inches beyond the fenders is that rocks and debris can be thrown at pedestrians and vehicles behind the vehicle.


Very good article.

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