Are Mud Flaps Worth it?

Cars are evolving daily, and many advancements are being made in the automotive industry. But rarely, you can see that some parts are just eternal. One of them are mud flaps. But are mud flaps worth it today?

Have you ever wondered what that flap behind your tires really does? You might even have skipped this accessory for a time or two, thinking it had no use. Maybe you want to end the rubber versus plastic mud flaps debate?

In this article, we’ll look at mud flaps and their function in your vehicle. Whether they are worth it or not will depend on your vehicle, location, and driving habits.

What are Mud Flaps?

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A mud flap is a large flap made of various materials like rubber, metal, PVC, etc. It is typically located at the back and underside of a tire.

It is usually considered an accessory because not all vehicles come fitted with mud flaps but are bought and installed aftermarket. But, most of the larger trucks and SUVs are factory-fitted. This is because, compared to normal vehicles, the tires of SUVs and trucks are more exposed.

Mudguards, mud flaps, and splash guards are the same. But in some places, there are slight differences. Some people say that mud flaps are flexible, whereas mudguards are not flexible.

Either way, they all serve the same purpose. There is no doubt that mudflaps are an underrated accessory, and they are 100% worth it. Mud flaps are usually made from materials that cannot be destroyed easily with rocks or other flying debris.

Why are Mud Flaps Used?

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When driving through any terrain in any vehicle, the tires press down on the ground flinging dirt and debris in various directions. This is more frequent in cars with larger tires like SUVs and trucks, which kick up a lot of dirt.

This debris can be compared to a projectile repeatedly hitting the fender well of the vehicle as well as other vehicles behind you. The continuous action of debris on the fender of a car can lead to the gradual damage of the inner parts of the fender. In addition, dirt and debris can get stuck in the wheel well and cause damage over time.

If this is uncontrolled, it may result in costly repairs to the paint job and even lead to corrosion of various parts. It is for these reasons that a mud flap is usually employed.

Mudflaps also prevent drivers from splashing pedestrians and other drivers with mud and debris. It can also help prevent such from happening to the passengers inside the car(if the windows are left open)

Types of Mud Flaps

There are a variety of mud flaps in the market, and they can be classified according to the type of materials used to make them, their size, and their use. [1]

According to the type of material;

1. Rubber Mud Flaps

Rubber is the most flexible type of mud flap. It can easily bend and move about, making it very effective in redirecting flying debris.

Soft rubber is typically galvanized to make it stronger and more durable. These toughened flaps can last in any weather condition because it is usually adaptable to the surrounding temperature. That is, if the weather is too hot, it will become soft, and if the temperature drops, it becomes hard.

Rubber mud flaps are relatively inexpensive with low maintenance costs. They can be easily cleaned or washed when dirty. They can also be replaced if damaged or cracked.

They are fitted to the back of the wheel well through pre-drilled holes and nuts, so it is quite easy to install them. If holes are not already drilled, you can drill them yourself. But I would recommend getting a professional to do it if you do not have any experience.

This type of mud flap can hang low. Even if it grazes the road surface, there is not much of a problem as it is flexible.

2. Plastic Mud Flaps

Plastic is less flexible when compared to rubber mud flaps. Regardless of this, the reason that it is often used is due to its hard thermoplastic properties. This makes the mud flaps tough enough to take heavy hits while protecting your vehicle and still look undamaged at the end of the day.

An advantage of plastic mud flaps is that they can stop large projectiles easily, which their rubber counterpart cannot do.

Now that we’ve looked at the advantages, let’s talk about the disadvantages of this type of mud flap. First, plastic is very brittle and can easily break under too much pressure. But like rubber, it can expand when put under stress.

Another disadvantage is that it cannot be hung too low because if it makes contact with the road surface during movement, this will lead to automatic mud flap breakage and possible damage to your wheel well.

3. Metal Mud Flaps

These are the strongest and the least flexible of all kinds of mud flaps.

They are mostly made with sturdy stainless steel because of steel’s natural ability to resist corrosion. Mud flaps made with stainless steel can withstand continuous and repeated impact with flying debris projectiles, regardless of size or quantity.

Another material that is used is aluminum, which is light and cheap to acquire and handle. They seem desirable when going on harsh terrain, but they can be easily bent or dented because of their inflexible nature and design. But, in the event of a massive dent or crack, the whole flap can be removed and replaced without costing you too much cash.

According to their function they could be:

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1. Universal Mud Flaps

These are the flaps factories make to fit almost any vehicle, from SUVs to sedans and pickups.

They can be easily swapped out and installed from your old vehicle to a new one comfortably without much difference.

They can be made with rubber, plastic, metal, or a combination of all three.

2. No Drill Mud Flaps

These types of flaps are made using thermoplastic material. As a result, you will not need to have your tires removed before installing them.

They use Digital Fit Technology and a quick turn fastening system to ensure these mud flaps stay in place. They can also be customized to your taste.

They are easy to mount as it only takes a few minutes. An example is the Weathertech mud flaps, which make a perfect fit for your vehicle.

3. Hitch Mount Mud Flap

They can only be attached to your vehicle via hitch mounts. They do not need to be connected to wheel wells. These flaps are wide and hang low to capture all dirt and debris. They can be used when towing trailers or other vehicles to offer maximum protection.

Pros and Cons of Mud Flaps

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Pros:

  • Mud Flaps protect your car’s paint from being chipped due to the kick-up of dirt and debris.
  • They keep dirt and grime from reaching sensitive parts of your car, like the chassis, frame, axle, and other fittings underneath your vehicle.
  • Mud Flaps protect pedestrians from being struck by gravel or mud.
  • They can withstand most weather conditions.
  • Mud flaps will keep your white car cleaner.
  • They are relatively inexpensive and can be easily replaced
  • Mud flaps are easy to install
  • They’re also easy to clean and maintain; use a brush to scrape off mud and wash them.
  • They can be customized to your taste.

Cons:

  • Mud flaps can cause significant drag if they’re not a specific fit for your car. But mud flaps can now be aerodynamically engineered to lower air drag and improve airflow.
  • If you don’t install it properly, it could fall off or, worse, get stuck in the wheel of your car. So, take your time during the installation process.
  • A bad mud flap fit can cause them to rub against the road. This would lead to the mud flaps curving backward. Not only will this make the flaps ineffective, it will also cramp your vehicle’s appearance.
  • Some cars don’t come with holes for the installation of mud flaps

Are Mud Flaps Necessary?

Yes and no. No, because you don’t really need them before you can drive. In the short term, they don’t really stop you from using your vehicle. Mud flaps or no mud flaps, you can still drive your car with no immediate consequences. But long term, it is necessary for your vehicle’s long life. Without it, you’ll be setting yourself up for many problems.

Are Mud Flaps Required by Law?

In some American states, yes. Eleven out of Forty-Seven states have laws governing mud flaps on cars. Three out of eleven states, California, Louisiana, and Nebraska, require vehicles to have mud flaps. Eight of Eleven, including Connecticut, require mud flaps if there is no rear fender.

Final Thoughts

Many innovative advances have been made in terms of automotive technologies,  but mud flaps can never go out of style. Even though mud flaps seem only great for offroading, that is not true. Mud flaps are as much of a necessity when in rough terrain as well as on smooth paved roads. Jeep offer mudflaps even today, as part of their accessories. [2]

Mud flaps indeed have the ability to cause a slight amount of drag, but their usefulness and benefits overshadow this. Plus, they don’t cost a lot.