Rechrome plating information for aluminum alloy wheels.
This page contains all the information you need to send your wheels in to be rechromed at California Chrome Wheel Inc.
Rechroming of an existing chrome wheel is a very special procedure. Unlike chrome plating an original OE (Original Equipment) painted wheel, extra steps and extra care need to be taken to process a previously chrome plated wheel.
How do I determine what kind of wheels I have?
Read our illustrated Wheel Type Guide.
Why do you want to rechrome your wheels?
From slightly to severely damaged, we can fix it! If you have a chrome wheel that has rubbed against the curb or flat spotted from a pothole, we can repair and refinish the part for far less than it would cost to purchase a new one. We offer paint match, powder coating, clear coating, and rechrome plating.
How do we rechrome a wheel?
Before the procedure begins, all wheels we receive are inspected, photographed, and catalogued to evaluate their current condition. If any specified instructions accompany the wheels, these are reviewed at this time (please remember to include a Customer Instruction Sheet and review these helpful shipping instructions).
The cost on a rechrome starts at $200 per wheel for up to 20" plus an additional stripping charge, which starts at $35 per wheel. For 22" and larger wheels, costs start at $250 per wheel plus an additional stripping charge, which starts at $50 per wheel. All wheels are thoroughly inspected once received. Due to the nature of telephone estimates, we can only quote the work that you are describing that needs to be performed. If upon our physical inspections, we determine that additional work is required, and the actual repair cost is differ from original assessment, we will contact you with an exact figure based on our professional examination of the wheels. It is our job as a professional in this field, to determine all necessary re-chroming / repairs that need to be done. An example of this is, you may send wheels noticing only curb scraping and were requesting a rechrome. Being unable to check the wheel at speed, you would be unable to see a lateral runout condition or flat spots on the back side of the wheel. You as the customer ultimately make the decision on how much work is to be performed.
Our process starts by removing the chrome plating and other base metals to bring the wheel into raw form. At this point, we inspect the wheels for trueness and for any repairs that might be necessary. Repairs, if needed, start at $75 depending on the severity. Also, a concern is any possible corrosion or pitting damage that was not apparent prior to the removal of the plating. Similar to the damage caused to wood by termites, some damage may not be visible from the outside. Aluminum alloy wheels are a softer material than the metals plated on them and corrosion will attack the softer metal first.
Secondly, because this is only decorative chrome plating, our concerns for rechrome preparation are only on the face and exterior window area of the wheel. In order to bring the wheel back to a bright and shiny finish, polishing and buffing are done only to the face and exterior window area of the wheel prior to the application of the plating. We do not concern ourselves with the backside of the wheels although the entire wheel is plated. The barrel side of the wheel is not visible once the wheel is installed on the vehicle and is therefore not polished to reduce the final cost. Only in special show car applications and upon request do we ever prepare the backsides or barrel sides of the wheel at a substantial additional cost and virtually never on a rechrome.
Unique to aluminum, our copper plating process helps in filling the porous surface of the base wheel material. The length of time required for this step is dependent upon how much copper plating the wheel requires to ensure the highest quality possible.
In some cases, upon inspection, the wheels may require a second copper plating cycle in order to proceed to the next step. This will add additional processing time, which would not be required with an OE painted wheel.
Upon completion of the final plating steps, nickel and chrome, the wheels undergo a final inspection. In some cases, photos are taken of the completed wheels and sent to the customer to discuss the finished product.
In conclusion, when we rechrome a wheel, the rechroming process adds only a cosmetic finish. We do not refabricate, recondition, restructure, or otherwise restore the base metal of the wheels. All of our rechroming is done on a best-effort basis. Even though we are the industry quality leader, it is difficult for us to guarantee perfect results. The finished results will depend on many factors, including but not limited to the age, the condition, and the general suitability of the wheels as we received them. Keep in mind that the chrome plating will be new, however, customers' expectations of a rechromed wheel can be unrealistic since the chrome plating reflects any and all imperfections in the base material of the wheel.
Corrosion, Porosity and Pitting
Please note that rechroming a wheel does not guarantee a perfect wheel. Your wheels may appear to be in good condition but may have corrosion pitting or porosity in the wheel casting which canít be seen until the finish has been removed or are just below the surface which may be exposed during processing.
These casting flaws from porosity and or corrosion pitting in the aluminum alloy base metal if large enough may not be completely filled in during chrome processing and may show through the new chrome as a pit. This porosity or pits are a defect or damage to the base metal of the wheel casting and not due to the chrome plating. Chrome and Rechrome plating is completed on a best effort basis. We will do the best we can to make the wheels look as good as possible. We process thousands of wheels every year with excellent results.
A further detailed example of the porosity and corrosion process is shown in the images below.
What about inner barrel polishing on a rechrome?
As explained in the sections above, rechroming of an alloy wheel is a difficult process. In performing the rechrome, the main focus is on the front side of the wheel. We virtually never offer inner barrel polishing on a rechrome order. If the inner barrels of the wheels have been previously polished, we may offer to repolish this area of the wheel to make it bright and shiny like the face of the wheel. If corrosion occurs on a chrome plated alloy wheel, it can often times affect the inner barrel more than the face of the wheel. This is due to several reasons. This area of the wheel is most susceptible to brake dust built up, it is the area also where road salt tends to settle, and it is the most difficult area of the wheel to keep clean.
Because of the protective shell that chrome plating provides to the base alloy wheel, it is sometimes difficult to see corrosive damage to the base substrate. Aluminum alloy is softer than the chrome plating that has been applied to the wheel, therefore the corrosion will attack the softest material first. Once the chrome is removed we will be better able to determine whether inner barrel polishing will be available. This decision is somewhat subjective and based on our experience and expertise.
What is corrosion? Unlike steel, which oxidizes and turns to a rust color, corrosion on aluminum dissolves the material. Once the material is gone, it is difficult to polish or grind the area smooth, without compromising the thickness and integrity of the wheel. Unlike a painted wheel, in which the corrosive pits may be filled with bondo, on chrome plated wheels these pits will still show due to the reflectivity of chrome plating.
Polishing swirl marks from hand tool polishing may be visible in areas difficult to access and may vary due to wheel size and design.
At California Chrome Wheel Inc. every attempt is made to produce the highest quality finish available. However due to all of the circumstances which are beyond our and your control, all rechrome work is done on a best effort basis. If you are unsatisfied with the results, requesting us to rechrome the wheel again will only amplify these problems. This explanation is to give you the facts about rechroming. Understanding these facts hopefully prevents an unrealistic expectation of the results of rechroming an alloy wheel.
Shown in the photos below, are examples (front and back) of completed rechrome inner barrel polishing (see A and B). Compare to a wheel without inner barrel polishing (see C).
How do I send my wheels?
Please refer to our Shipping Instructions guide.
What paperwork do I need to send in with my wheels?
When sending in your wheels to be re-chrome plated, we do require that a form be sent in along with the wheels. The Customer Instruction Sheet can be found here or by clicking the link to the right.
This contract is in place to assist in communications between all parties to help insure a smooth re-chroming transaction. Please make sure you fill out and send with your wheels for re-chrome.
You will need the Adobe Acrobat Reader to view and print this document. If you do not have Acrobat installed, please follow the link below for the free download.
How and when do I pay? How long will it take?
Upon receiving your wheels, we will review the re-chrome contract information you have sent to us, along with your wheels, and determine all charges required to perform the work requested. We will estimate and contact you if there is any additional work needed. Full payment (except shipping charges) is required before beginning any procedures. Payment can be made in one of three ways. For domestic customers, you may send us your personal check and upon us receiving the funds, and the check clearing, the procedures will begin at that time. As an alternative, to expedite time, you can send a cashiers check / money order. For international customers, wire transfer is available as well. Credit card / PayPal payment is not available on re-chrome plating and repairs. Any remaining balance, such as freight is due upon completion.
Total processing time may vary and is approximately 10-20+ work days depending on how difficult your wheels are to process, any repairs that may be necessary, and our current work load. Please do call for more info.
Aftermarket wheels with Cosmetic Rivets for Chrome or Rechrome.
Important information for Aftermarket Wheels with Cosmetic Rivets. The cosmetic rivets will need to be removed before chrome plating. Please remove the rivets before shipping or they will be drilled out and lost. There is a $25.00 per wheel rivet removal charge. You may want to contact the manufacturer to see if replacement rivets are available before shipping the wheels to us. We may be able to supply replacement rivets at an additional cost but the replacement rivets may not match the original size and design. Some rivets may not be available at all.
How badly damaged are my wheels?
If your wheels have sustained minor curb damage (scraping), more often than not, your wheels will be able to be plated. The photos below are examples of acceptable curb damage that we are able to blend in during our polishing procedure at no additional charge.
Tire and wheel bead sealing issues
Many times the reason for rechroming can be an air leakage problem. This is where the plating has lost the adhesion between the tire and wheel assembly (bead). Often times this condition is found when having new tires installed to older chrome plated wheels. Many factors can cause this issue, such as older plating, improper tire mounting solution, or fix-a-flat tire sealant. When performing a rechrome we will first remove the plating to examine the corrosion damage to the base material of the wheel. Unfortunately the damaged area may reveal more pitting/corrosion than was apparent with the old plating on the wheel.
During the rechrome process every effort is performed to provide as much copper plating time to help fill in the porous holes caused by the corrosion. Due to the severity of the corrosion, this area may still be a concern once the new plating has been applied. Keep in mind, the chrome plating will be brand new, but the end result is only as good as the base material that it is plated on. If the corrosion is very severe, there are additional remedies we can provide to help seal the tire and wheel assembly. Pictured below is an example of a corroded bead area that was successfully rechromed.
We recommend wheels with corrosion and pitting be bead blasted to help reduce some of the smaller pits and give the wheel a more uniform look. The bead blast cost starts at $25.00 per wheel.
Severely damaged wheels (unable to rechrome)
If the wheels you want to send have sustained extensive damage, they may not be able to be processed for rechroming. The photos below are examples of wheels that cannot be rechromed due to various types of damage.
Wheels With Cosmetic Rivets
*Important information for wheels with cosmetic rivets.* The cosmetic rivets will need to be removed before chrome plating. We can remove and install the rivets starting at $25.00 per wheel. Most rivets can be removed and reinstalled. However, some rivets may need be drilled out and lost. You may want to contact the manufacturer to see if replacement rivets are available before shipping the wheels to us. We may be able to supply replacement rivets at an additional cost but the replacement rivets may not match the original size or design and some rivets may not be available at all.
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