How to De-Chrome Rims

by Floyd Drake III
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Chrome plating on wheel rims is applied using an electroplating process. Of the two types of plating, hard and decorative, wheel rims are considered decorative plating, consisting of a thin chromium layer on top of a thicker nickel plating. The combination of these two metals produce chrome's characteristic shine, with most of it coming from the nickel plating. Although chrome is best removed by electroplating professionals, it can be removed at home, provided the proper equipment is at hand and proper safety precautions are taken. Before removing the rim's chrome plating, remove the wheels from the vehicle and the tires from the rims. You can immerse the rims in a corrosive liquid or blast off the chrome finish, either method will work.

Acid Removal

Step 1

Fill a container large enough to hold the rim with muriatic acid. The acid level should be sufficient to submerge all the chrome on the rim. Be sure to read all product warnings for muriatic acid and have the proper safety equipment. Muriatic acid is highly corrosive.

Step 2

Let the rim soak in the acid until it stops bubbling. This should effectively remove the thin chromium layer.

Step 3

Remove the rim from the solution and rinse it off with water. As muriatic acid is thinned hydrochloric acid and considered a hazardous substance, be sure to properly dispose of it at your local recycling center. What remains is the nickel plating on the wheel rim.

Sandblasting Removal

Step 1

Get a small, portable sandblasting machine if you do not already have one. Sandblasting machines can be rented at your local equipment rental store.

Step 2

Purchase blasting material. A number of different materials are used to de-chrome wheel rims through sandblasting, including sand. However, aluminum rims may require blasting with glass beads, since they cause less damage to the underlying surface below the plating.

Step 3

Sandblast the wheels using the sandblaster and air compressor. Connect the sandblaster to the compressor, start the compressor and fill the sandblaster's hopper with blasting material. When the compressor pressure gauge reads sufficient pressure, begin sandblasting the rim. Many smaller sandblasting units require only 80 pounds per square inch (psi) to 150 psi of air pressure.

Step 4

Don proper safety equipment, including safety glasses and breathing mask before sandblasting. Point the sandblaster gun at the rim and blast until the plating is completely removed. Repeat this process to de-chrome other rims.

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