Again, I have our current coronavirus pandemic to thank for helping me have the time to finally fix the fenders of our resident 2010 Toyota Corolla SE. That single-owner beast has clocked over 192,000 miles. I’ve told its owner that our mission is to get it past 300,000 miles. And, yes, it’s quite doable with regular maintenance.
Through some spirited driving and just plain having a car for a decade, the fenders became seriously misaligned. The owner insisted she would take it to a shop to do the body work. In the meantime I used some industrial packing tape to hold the fenders in place. The tape actually worked better than expected, initially. Eventually, the all mighty Arizona sun and car washes took their toll on the tape.
Before the pandemic hit, I decided the Corolla would need a more permanent fix, that maybe I could do myself. After some YouTube and Internet research I was blown away by how relatively straight-forward re-securing the fenders would be.
I already had a drill (don’t know how I made it through life so long without one).
I thought I may need the fender retaining kit which you can typically get at an auto parts store. Not finding what I thought I may need at my local Auto Zone, I order the OEM parts online.
I added my wrench, hammer, and screwdriver to the team to complete the ensemble.
I started with what I presumed would be the hard part first. This was to replace the retaining clip on the front fender, on the passenger’s side. It turned out the clip itself was fine, but the lock pin was useless. The fender and wheel well plastics were warped, and misaligned, so the plastic lock pin didn’t have a chance. Rather than replacing a still useful retaining clip, I widened the existing hole for the lock pin with the drill, and used a metal screw instead.
Depending on the climate where you live and the type of driving you do, you’ll want to treat metal screws (if you choose to use them) with an anti-corrosion solution (e.g. WD-40). I didn’t do that, since I live in the desert, but it’s generally a good idea.
The front fender on the passengers side turned out much better than I expected. I was able to properly align the existing clip, and use the drill to place the screw.
Due to the warping of the wheel well cover plastic, as I mentioned earlier, the single fender retaining point would no longer be sufficient to hold the fender in place securely. So, I created another retaining point.
What I didn’t mention earlier, is that I had injured by thumb prior to this project, so I’d been wearing a brace on my dominant hand. There was no way I had the dexterity to apply a new retaining clip. So, I decided to just drill and screw.
The top part of the wheel well cover was still separated from the fender due to the warping, so I had to hold the cover and fender together and drill a hole to place another screw. After I used a narrower drill bit for a pilot hole, to line the plastics up, I used a wider drill bit to fit the screw. Finally, I used the drill (with a screwdriver bit) to fasten the screw in place.
The front, driver-side fender was a bigger challenge, as the entire wheel-well cover plastic had been ripped off in an accident. So there was only the single, topmost plastic of the wheel well cover, where it meets the topmost part of the fender. I ended up using a plastic screw anchor along with a metal screw to reinforce that point.
This together with the self-locking fender mechanism, did the job.
Last, was the rear, driver-side fender. It was missing the single screw holding it to the body of the car. That was easy enough to replace and fasten.
In The End
What I actually did, didn’t match what I envisioned. That’s the way it goes sometimes. However, part of doing the work myself was to learn and improvise where needed, and build confidence in the process. I just felt really good doing the work myself, using what I had on hand.