Chrome Wheels Vs. Polished Aluminum

by William Zane

Alloy car and truck wheels come in a variety of finishes, including chromed, polished, painted and powdercoated to name a few of the alternatives. Chrome and polished aluminum finishes are two of the most popular and common finishes and can actually look quite similar. While both have their good and bad points, both can be effective looks for an alloy wheel.

Chrome Finish Description

Chrome Finish Description

Chrome is a plating process for wheels and other parts that involves applying several layers of metals, including nickel and sometimes copper, followed by the chrome plating. The end result is a mirror-like finish and a brilliant shine.

Chrome Benefits

Chrome Benefits

Chrome is relatively easy to keep clean, since the finish is extremely hard and durable. Simply wash the wheels with soap and water periodically, and then polish the finish with a high quality chrome polish to maintain the brilliant luster of the chrome. A chrome finish can last a long time when properly cared for.

Chrome Drawbacks

Chrome Drawbacks

Chrome wheels have a couple of potential drawbacks, one of which is the weight that the chrome finish adds to alloy wheels. Chroming is made up of several layers to achieve the desired finish, so the weight adds up, which can potentially negate the performance advantage that lightweight wheels can bring to a car. Chrome is durable, but the chrome can start to flake off of the wheel if it is not properly cared for or it was a cheap, poorly done chroming job, If that happens, the only solution is to strip the chrome finish and have the wheels rechromed. One other potential drawback (though it's more subjective) of chromed wheels is that they can look too bright and "blingy," as opposed to polished aluminum, which has a more refined appearance.

Polished Aluminum Finish

Polished Aluminum Finish

Polished aluminum wheels are polished, rather than plated. The polishing process involves sanding the finish of the wheels so that the alloy is completely smooth, and then polishing the finish with a polishing compound to bring out a brilliant shine.

Alloy Benefits

Alloy Benefits

Polished alloy wheels have a beautiful finish that is more rich in its appearance than chrome thanks to the hand-polished look. Polishing does not add any weight to the wheel, which is why you see polished lightweight racing wheels, but you don’t see a lot of chromed lightweight wheels. Another benefit of polished wheels is that when the finish becomes dulled and tarnished, they can simply be repolished.

Alloy Drawbacks

Alloy Drawbacks

Polished alloys have very few drawbacks, but they can be more difficult to care for and maintain in their original appearance than chromed wheels because of the fact that the finish on the wheels is not plated. Polished aluminum wheels should be cleaned more often and carefully polished with a high-quality alloy metal polish.

References

About the Author

William Zane has been a freelance writer and photographer for over six years and specializes primarily in automotive-related subject matter among many other topics. He has attended the Academy of Art College in San Francisco, where he studied automotive design, and the University of New Mexico, where he studied journalism.

Photo Credits

  • photo_camera ecobo/iStock/Getty Images