Those sick wheels and tires you just dropped a fat stack of cash on can be ruined before you get the chance to enjoy them if they don’t properly clear the inner lip of your fender. Before going with any aggressive wheel/tire package, you should evaluate the clearance between the tire and fender and consider “Rolling” the inner lip of your fenders. Many people have reservations about this, and there are a lot of misconceptions and misinformation about when and why you should roll your fenders and how it’s done. That’s why we’re taking a few moments to discuss the virtues of rolling your fenders, so you can make the decision of whether it’s right for you.

Why You Should Roll Your Fenders

What Is Fender Rolling?
Fender rolling is a process by which the inner lip of a car’s fender is rolled from a L shape into a tight V shape using a heat gun and a special mechanical tool that flattens the lip. By flattening the lip, the tire has more clearance in the wheel well. Lowered vehicles must often “roll” their fenders to prevent their tires from being slashed to pieces by the inner fender lip.

Fender Roller Mounted To Wheel Hub

Fender Roller Mounted To Wheel Hub

Here you can see the flattened fender lip behind the roller wheel with the unrolled lip ahead of the red wheel.

Photo Credit: bmwdiy.info

Rolled Fenders allow extra clearance for the tires, so your car can sit extra-low for that stanced look or run extra-wide tires for enhanced grip performance.

Rolled Fenders, as seen on this VW, allow extra clearance for the tires, so your car can sit extra-low for that stanced look or run extra-wide tires for enhanced grip performance.

Top 3 Reasons To Roll Fenders
1. Fender Rolling prevents the fender from rubbing against the tire’s sidewall. The metal lip on the inside of your fender is a lot sharper than it looks. If you are running an aggressive wheel/tire package or have a lowered car, You can easily ruin a new set of tires if the sidewalls get cut and worn from coming into contact with your inner fender lip and wheel well. Not only can you damage your tires, but the tire coming into contact with the fender will wear the paint away and can cause your car to rust prematurely as a result. If you are concerned about your tires coming into contact with your fenders, you should seriously consider rolling them.
2. The flattened inner lip allows more vertical clearance for “slammed” or extremely lowered vehicles who want a flush look
3. The flattened inner lip also allows more horizontal clearance to run wider wheels/and tires for more grip/performance.

Recommended Methods of Fender Rolling
Contrary to popular belief, few people actually use a baseball bat to roll the inner lips of a fender – this is generally regarded as the ghetto, “jerry rigged” way to roll fenders. While this method may have worked for some, it is nowhere near consistent and the end result may not be evenly rolled – and can easily make your otherwise nice build look like a total hackjob. Typically, a professional shop trained in fender rolling mounts a specialized Fender Rolling machine to the wheel hub in place of the wheel, so that the machine is firmly affixed to the car and can provide solid, consistent leverage outwards. The painted fender lip is then heated up using a heat gun, then force is applied onto the lip of the fender as the roller wheel is run along the fender as it swings perfectly round arc, rolling the fender lip over it over until it is flat.

Don't do this.
Photo Credit: https://forums.pelicanparts.com/porsche-911-technical-forum/397752-fender-rolling.html

The Right Tools For Rolling Your Fenders

Photo credit: lmike007 / APM Racing

Is Rolling My Fenders Safe?
Yes! As long as it’s done by professionals using proper equipment (if your shop is using a baseball bat, find a new shop), rolling your fenders is perfectly safe – and even enhances safety if you are running an aggressive fitment or are lowered. That said, if your car has previously been in an accident and been repaired with body filler, use caution, because the fenders and quarter panels will move and flex during the rolling process. Body filler will typically crack and release its bond from the metal during the fender rolling process. Experienced installers report seeing this happen often when paint has been applied to a car in an unprofessional manner and the body filler cannot maintain its bond to the metal of your car. So, if your car has not previously been in a wreck, having a professional roll your fenders is perfectly safe.

rolling-fenders-honda-tuning-1

Photo Credit: Honda Tuning Magazine

Can I cut my fender lip off instead of rolling it? Is Shaving the Fenders better than rolling them?
While it’s sometimes necessary to cut the fenders when customizing a car (like when installing overfenders aka bolt-on flares), it is not a good idea to cut off the lip. In some cases, it may not be possible to roll the inner fender lip completely, and shaving the lip may be necessary instead. However, in most cases the fender can be rolled. Cutting the lip weakens the metal of the fender itself and exposes the metal to the elements, subjecting you to premature rust on your fenders, not to mention that the cut edge is extremely sharp. It is not a good idea to cut the lip off of your fender and the end result will look like a hack-job. For these reasons, rolling the fenders is almost always the better option.

An enthusiast using a grinder to shave the fenders. This method is best left to professionals.

An enthusiast using a grinder to shave the fenders. This method is best left to professionals.

Can I roll my fenders myself?
You probably can, and some people will tell you that you can “easily” do it yourself, but the reality is that unless you’re an experienced professional using PROPER fender rolling equipment, you probably shouldn’t, and you definitely shouldn’t do it yourself with a baseball bat in your driveway if you want a good looking end result. This is a precision process and it is very easy to overdo it and damage your fenders.

An E36 with Rolled Fenders

Rolling fenders allows for ridiculously narrow clearances between the tire and fender, as shown here.

Photo Credit: Stance Works

Story by Nicholas Gregson

Images used in an educational context.
http://forums.pelicanparts.com/porsche-911-technical-forum/397752-fender-rolling.html
http://imageshack.us/photo/my-images/135/46z4n13wy3.jpg/
http://www.bmwdiy.info/fender-rolling/
http://www.stanceworks.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/rolando-civic-41.jpg
http://my.is/forums/attachments/f221/318-tutorial-how-shave-your-fender-mini-grinding2.jpg
http://www.hellastanced.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/eastwood-fender-roll-hellaflush.jpg
http://s721.photobucket.com/user/lmike077_photobucket/media/APM%2520Racing%2520Customer%2520and%2520Shop%2520Cars/FenderRoller.jpg.html
http://www.stanceworks.com/forums/showthread.php?t=7714