What’s the Point of Aftermarket Fender Vents?

By Chris Haak

08.21.2009

300c_ventContinuing the series in which I question certain aftermarket automotive trends (since the guys with the lifted trucks seemed to enjoy the first installment of this series so much), today I turn my attention to tacked-on fender vents.  Some vehicles have these vents – sometimes called air extractors – from the factory, and some brands have featured them for decades.  Take Buick’s VentiPorts, for example, which have been featured on all new Buick models for several years, and are now an entrenched part of the brand’s design DNA.  Some OEM fender vents, however, are obvious styling afterthoughts, such as the ones tacked onto the Cadillac Escalade and STS, the ones on the 2009 Ford Taurus and Super Duty pickups, and the ones on the Chevy Aveo.

My inspiration in writing on the subject came to me quietly enough.  My family and I were sitting in our car, ready to back out of a parking space, and a previous-generation Honda Odyssey minivan pulled into the space in the row facing us, one space over from us.  This particular Odyssey, however, had custom-installed J.C. Whitney-type fender vents, and I had a perfect vantage point to check out the vents added to the Odyssey.  Frankly, they looked ridiculous on a minivan.

I’m convinced that fender air extractors are the tailfin of the early 21st century.  But while both tailfins and air extractors are basically useless styling flairs, you didn’t see guys in the 50s who owned ’49 Mercs slapping tailfins on a car that wasn’t originally designed with them.  And yet, we have people like the owner of the Odyssey that I saw at the mall last week today.

Perhaps it’s the barrier for entry that’s too low.  Affixing fender vents to a car could be as simple as peeling the tape backing off of the ones linked above from J.C. Whitney, but no more complicated than cutting a hole in the fender to allow for a true air extractor.  Of course, the question remains:  just how much air really needs to be extracted from under an Odyssey’s hood?  Isn’t the Odyssey’s standard grille large enough to accommodate all of the engine’s cooling needs?

Of course, I’m being facetious as I pick on the example of the Odyssey with fender air extractors, but as ridiculous as they look when tacked on by the factory as a styling afterthought (think more of the 2000 Park Avenue Ultra’s application rather than the 2007 Enclave’s), they’re even worse when they are applied to a car that never had them from the factory. Just like the chrome-plated, stick-on plastic door-edge guard that stands out like a sore thumb (calling attention to seams that designers would prefer are invisible), they’re generally poorly-fitting, crookedly-applied, and serve to do nothing but to interrupt the lines that the car’s designer painstakingly penned.

After all, the Chevy Aveo3’s otherwise such a looker, right?

My only request is that you think twice if you’re considering the installation of aftermarket fender vents.  Tacking them on might get you more attention than you’d get with a bone-stock car, but it’s not really the kind of attention you want to be getting.

COPYRIGHT Autosavant – All Rights Reserved

Author: Chris Haak

Chris is Autosavant's Managing Editor. He has a lifelong love of everything automotive, having grown up as the son of a car dealer. A married father of two sons, Chris is also in the process of indoctrinating them into the world of cars and trucks.

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10 Comments

  1. Well, air scoops on performance cars rarely do anything functional, either. At least not on modern cars. But it real go-fast stuff, yeah.

  2. Same could be said about dual exhausts, one on each side, in a 4 cylinder car.

  3. How about rear wings on front wheel drive cars? Yeah, gotta have maximum downforce to help that 1.6L Honda get the power down.

  4. Vents that don’t push air to the brakes must actually decrease performance because a hole in the body has to increase the drag coefficient of the car.

    You want as smooth a surface as possible to get your drag coefficient number down. I’m sure it doesn’t move the number on a Honda minivan very much, but it can’t be a positive thing.

  5. This has bothered me for some time now. It’s run amuck so that even automakers (see Ford Focus) think it’s cool. I saw an F150 with the tree Buick portholes the other day.
    Tasteless. Make it stop…please people.

  6. On the way to work yesterday morning, I saw a 90’s Jeep Grand Cherokee with them. I thought they were so fetching, I am considering putting them on my 1962 Morris Mini Cooper. They look hot and chixdiggit.

    Seriously, though, I do not get it. Tacky and worse than useless. And if I ever put them on my Mini, may the ghosts of Issigonis and Cooper torment the rest of my days.

  7. rear spoilors on economey cars are worst

  8. Looks like there are lots of suggestions for future issues of “What’s the Point of…”!!

    Let’s be realistic, there’s a big difference between a proportionately designed factory spoiler, rear wing, or whatever you want to call it on any car and a peal-and-stick piece of chrome painted plastic purchased from Wal-Mart for 4 bills 99.

  9. Those are speed holes, Chris. They make the car go faster. Surprised you didn’t know that.

  10. My sentiments are with you, Chris. However, I think the vents on the side of Maseratis are pretty original and tasteful.

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