The Great Mud Flap Debate

Who knew mud flaps could be so controversial!

Catch this week’s Car Talk? Ten years of mud flaps on his Nissan Sentra have made a skeptic out of John from Minneapolis. His thesis: mud flaps are useless salt and sand traps that cause more corrosion than they prevent. (You can catch the call right here.)

Back Off
Whaddya mean mud flaps are useless? (Flickr image by safoocat)

Ray, however, was quick to point out the perils of blinding mist kicked up by “un-flapped” tires in heavy rain–though maybe his aging vision is to blame? Tom, meanwhile, developed a little conspiracy theory that, well, only Tommy could develop.

What do you think? Would we be better off un-flapped? Are mud flaps just another gimmick from the auto-industrial-complex, or a useful addition to every car?

Share your comments right here-- and thanks!

Mud flaps are for large trucks only. If you have them on a passenger car or truck then you now know to remove them.

I actually feel quite guilty about not having mudflaps on my 1965 Land Rover.

When I bought the car, it only had one mudflap on, so my son bought me a set of new mudflaps for my birthday. I put them on and drove for a while before I noticed that one of them was starting to come off. I didn’t know why, but it had started to rip where the fasteners bolted to the bracket. I tried to re-attach it as best I could.

Then, during a trip up into the mountains, I discovered the problem. At one point, we had to turn around on a narrow trail so I backed the Land Rover a little ways up the hill at the side of the trail. We pulled forward again leaving a mudflap behind. As I had backed up, the mudflap tore off when it got caught between the wheel and the hill.

I know that a responsible vehicle owner would have mudflaps, but I can’t really afford to replace them every time that they get torn off so I now drive it mudflap-free.

Mud flaps on every thing I’ve owned.
Wish everybody did.

80s Volvos had mud flaps. Those Sweds are smart. SUVs and trucks have more tire exposure and throw up more mist.

I have come to the conclusion that no matter how safe we build roads and automobiles, driving will never be safe as long as humans are operating the vehicles. Unfortunately there are no IQ or mental health exams for obtaining a drivers license.

I could see an ill-fitting generic mudflap causing more corrosion.
Every car I’ve had since the '80s could get sturdy and tight OEM flaps.

First, if you can’t see because of mist, all you have to do is use some Rain-X. Don’t blame other drivers.

Second, mud flaps on semis are mandated to cover at least 50% of the tire’s rear exposure. Most cars don’t have enough exposed rear tire to warrant mud flaps.

Lastly, if you install mud flaps on a car that doesn’t need them, expect them to rub against every speed bump you drive over. All the mud flaps I see on cars are bent backward from rubbing against speed bumps. You spend your money, you install the mud flaps, and then after a while, just as much tire is exposed as if you didn’t have the flaps at all, making them a complete waste of money.

If I drove a pickup truck, I might consider installing them, but on passenger cars, they’re useless. Look at the name “mud flaps.” Do you drive in the mud? Do you drive off-road? I don’t. If you were to ask me about water flaps, I might take a different position.

EDIT: As I was driving in the rain yesterday, it occurred to me that most SUVs probably need mudflaps, but most cars probably don’t. It looked to me like most of the mist being kicked up came from SUVs and pickup trucks, not from passenger cars.

I’ve had too many broken windshields, even with a good gap between vehicles. Yes to mud flaps, especially where the roads are sanded in the winter. I wouldn’t travel without them!

Mud flaps should be required on all vehicles to prevent spray/mist during rain. It can be blinding to drive behind someone without them in the rain.

Some folks who live in rural areas will say to move away from a spraying vehicle. Not possible in a metro area when the highways are congested and there are many cars causing spray hazard.

(for Whitey, we can call them “water flaps”)

My 2009 RAV4 sport has the factory “Spray Guards”. I have considered mounting mud flaps to those, which saves me the trouble of drilling into any sheet metal.
Having driven a semi for over 35 years, I do know that a lot of spray is diverted by the flaps, as well as small stones being kicked up by the tires and the like. Sure, spray does get around the flaps, but having seen the occasional truck or trailer that is missing a flap, it would be a LOT worse without them!

I drive a 4-lane, 60 mph limit highway to work. Since the rest of the world has gone over to urban assualt vehicles for transport, those of us choosing economical non-assualt-type transport are in tremendous danger on rainy roads. I can see NOTHING when all those ridiculous monsters are racing past, hurrying to get somewhere (probably to make the next payment on their gas card, poor things). I first noticed this on an interstate, and sorry, but RainX does not keep the window clear when surrounded by a non-stop spray from those big guys. Traction vs. visibility of every other car on the road with you - it’s not an easy needle to thread, I’m sure. Kinda like those new, intensely bright blue head lights that make the road more clear but are blinding to small cars in the oncoming lane…

Mud flaps on cars do not help the driver behind them, they don’t extend down past the body of the car. They are there to protect the cars fender from abrasion from kicked up road debris. Where corrosion has occurred around them, it would have anyway, the debris from the road would have worn away the paint.

On trucks and some SUVs, they do help the driver following them. We had a big debate here a couple of years ago about whether mud flaps on trucks affected their gas mileage. That one really drew a lot of opinions, but no one was able to cite a scientific study where this has been tested.

Rain-X does help. It helps a lot, but it has to be applied correctly and renewed every 2 months but if you do a lot of driving in bad weather, it is worth it. You still have to give a swipe with the wipers every time a big rig goes by though.

JanetSu, I feel for you, I too drive a small car. When it comes to headlights, its not so much the intensity of the bulbs, around here so many trucks are jacked up with oversized tires so the head lights are mounted several feet higher than they were designed for, that puts the cutoff for those lights above the eyes of even the average car. It also puts their bumpers so high that they will go over the safety devices in a car and kill the occupants.

I’m OK with anyone who wants to jack up their truck or SUV, but they should be required to lower the bumpers and headlights to the legal height off the ground. Big rigs are required to have their bumpers and headlights at the legal height.

Sometimes manufacturers put small mudflaps on cars to improve aerodynamics too. Attached is an example.

Mud flaps are problematic for some vehicles I drive. Yes they do stop spray but they do get hung up and ripped off when backing up in rough terrain. I know that’s not everyone, but in this day of high economy, I’m wondering what the mileage penalty they would be for an econo car.