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I recently noticed that my front fender liner was broken which exposed the internal parts (see attached image). There was no impact to the car as I am the only person driving this. I have not even hit a hard bump or pothole, AFAIK in last few weeks.

So I thought this must be a manufacturing defect, where the fender liner has fallen off by itself. But my dealer's body shop guy thinks, something might have hit it at an angle to break it off or it might be an act of vandalism. Now, given that I have been driving on paved roads only and I have no known car vandalists' -

Could this really be a manufacturing defect?

What are the odds of something hitting a fender so hard to break it off on paved roads?

If I chose not to replace the fender, could water get into the engine and damage it?

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Could this really be a manufacturing defect?

Could this be a defect in the part which was put on your car? Possibly, but not probable. When cars are put together they are put through a lot of different tests to ensure parts are put on correctly and are done correctly. Union people tend to take pride in their work ... at least lately they seem to be. I would suspect this vehicle's construction is no different.

What are the odds of something hitting a fender so hard to break it off on paved roads?

With you being from Minnesota? And assume you've had this vehicle at least a year and drove it on the roads in the winter time? I'd suggest pretty good. You may not have even noticed it. Even if the part didn't fall off during the winter time, it surely could have been damaged during this time.

If I chose not to replace the fender, could water get into the engine and damage it?

I don't think water is your main concern. I'd say road grime and small debris are going to be of much greater concern. The fender well also protects from small rocks which get thrown up routinely by the tire tread. The parts which are visible will take a huge beating if you don't put a new one in.

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