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What is the wheel arch/what does it do?

The wheel arch on a car is the arched metal section which sits above the wheel, arching over it, providing a space in the car body, for the wheel to sit.

The wheel arch functions to provide a space which houses the wheel, keeping the wheel within the body of the car, which provides a safety element in a crash by eliminating the risk of the wheels spinning off the car and out into the road and any unsuspecting traffic/pedestrians. The wheel arch also helps with the overall aerodynamics of the car by helping to direct the air flow over the vehicle. Also functioning as a protective barrier, the wheel arch helps to stop mud, stones and other debris from the road hitting the car.

Getting into the details of the wheel arch

Bolted or fixed with clips to the wheel of the car, the wheel arch curves above and follows the contours of the front wheel on the driver's side. It's usually covered with a plastic wheel arch lining or moulding.  Wheel arch moulding is a protective or decorative strip attached to the outer edge of the wheel arch, shaped to cover or line the wheel arch. Wheel arch moulding often meets the bumper moulding, and door moulding, giving the look of a continuous strip, providing a sleek look to the exterior of the car. Wheel arch moulding is often chosen by car owners to enhance the car's appearance and styling. It offers additional protection from minor damage such as scrapes and dings and also adds detail or accents to the car's styling.  The wheel arch moulding  offers protection from day to day wear and tear and offers some protection to the paintwork and the wheel arch itself, helping to shield it from weather damage.  

The wheel arch spat is a side cover for the wheel arch. It covers the upper part of the wheel and tyre, and in some cases hides the entire wheel.  Like wheel arch moulding, the wheel arch spat offers additional protection to the wheel arch and helps it to function as a protective barrier, stopping mud, stones and other debris from the road flying up and hitting the car. And the wheel arch spat also gives a sleek look to the exterior of the car. Wheel arch spats are often chosen by car owners to enhance the car's appearance and styling.

What if something goes wrong with the wheel arch?

Exposed to all weather conditions and susceptible to damage from knocks and scrapes, stones and other road debris, the wheel arch, and parts such as the wheel arch moulding and wheel arch spat, will deteriorate over time. The wheel arch is particularly susceptible to corrosion and cracking and the wheel arches on a vehicle will eventually need replacing. Serious damage can occur to the wheel arch and other wheel arch components if impacted in a crash and this is a common reason for replacement of these parts. The wheel arch moulding could become damaged due to wear and tear, sun damage or minor accidents. Wheel arches, wheel arch spats and wheel arch moulding come in a variety of designs and styles and are specific to car make and model.