What is a Fender on a Car?

Thom Blackett | Nov 11, 2020

Today's vehicles are so complex that repair technicians are more similar to computer programmers than old-school mechanics. As a result, as from basic driving skills, modern drivers need to learn little more than how to connect their Bluetooth phones or tell the navigation system where they want to go in order to operate an automobile. But despite significant technological advancements, we still manage to get into plenty of accidents and collisions, or what are commonly referred to as fender benders. That's when it's helpful to have a basic understanding of what a fender is and is not.

What is a Car Fender

What is a Fender?

Simply put, a fender is the exterior body panel that surrounds a car or truck's front wheel. These would've been made exclusively of steel in the past, but in modern cars, they may be aluminum, carbon fiber, or some other type of composite material that is lighter or less expensive to produce than steel. 

A fender usually has a front vertical or horizontal seam that meets a headlight housing or bumper. This varies as many pickup trucks use traditional bumpers, whereas passenger cars and SUVs use plastic bumper covers. There's a horizontal seam where the fender aligns with the hood on the top edge, and the rear of the fender shares a seam with the front door. For most vehicles, the fender will be attached with hidden bolts, allowing for relatively quick and easy replacement.

In addition to the outer fender, an inner fender (or what some call a fender liner) surrounds much of the tire. It prevents the tires from flinging rainwater, rocks, or debris while the car is in motion. Many trucks, SUVs, and crossovers also add an outer fender flare or lip molding to give the vehicle a more aggressive appearance or accommodate a wider tire's width.

Fender vs. Quarter Panel vs. Rocker Panel

While fenders surround the front wheels, quarter panels cover the rear wheels. The exception is pickup trucks, which use a fleetside or flareside bed panel. In almost every respect, quarter panels mirror fenders, as they share seams with the doors, trunk lid or liftgate, and either a rear bumper or taillight housing. 

In relation to newer cars, you won't hear this term often used outside of a body shop, but it will come up frequently when discussing the repair or restoration of an older vehicle. It's common to hear of a 1970's Chevy, for example, that "is clean but needs quarters," likely due to rust caused by road salt. Again, this is referencing the body panels around the rear wheels.

Since we're on the subject, it's also worth taking a second to touch on rocker panels. Seldom confused with fenders, a so-called "rocker" is the horizontal panel that lies at the bottom edge of a car door and essentially acts as a bridge between the fender and quarter panel. On pickup trucks, the rocker panel serves the same purpose but connects the fender to the cab or cab corner's rear section.

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