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Wheel Type Guide

Use the following list of wheel type descriptions and illustrations to guide you in determining your wheel type.

One-Piece Aluminum Alloy Wheel

There are three major types of single one-piece aluminum alloy wheels. They can be low-pressure cast (fig. A1, A2), high-pressure forged (fig. A3), or solid billet alloy material (fig. A4). To identify this type of wheel, the wheel is solid with no assembly bolts or rivets holding the wheel together. There are also no welds on the back wheel holding it together. Most alloy wheels from the Original Equipment (OE) manufacturers and many aftermarket wheels are one-piece in design. These are the most economical and least difficult to chrome-plate of all wheel designs.

Chrome One Piece Cast Aluminum Wheel Front
A1. One Piece Cast - Front
Chrome One Piece Cast Aluminum Wheel Back
A2. One Piece Cast - Back
Chrome Forged Aluminum Wheel
A3. Forged Wheel
Chrome Billet Aluminum Wheel
A4. Billet Wheel

Click for information on chrome plating your one-piece wheels.

Two-Piece Aluminum Alloy

There are many different designs in two-piece aluminum wheels. You must look at the front and the back of the wheel to determine the type of multi-piece wheel that you have.

Simulated Two-Piece Aluminum Alloy

Some manufacturers try to simulate a two-piece or multi-piece wheel by taking a one-piece wheel and adding rivets or assembly bolts, thus we call this design a two-piece simulated wheel. This wheel will have assembly bolts on the face of the wheel but they serve no function and are only cosmetic. How can you determine this? By attempting to remove one of the rivets or bolts. If the bolt appears to be made of plastic or merely spins in place as you try to remove it, then these fasteners are only cosmetic decorations applied to the wheel in order to simulate a multi-piece wheel. Some simulated Two-Piece wheels have removable screws. However, these do not fasten or secure pieces of the wheel together and are merely decorative.

Chrome Simulated Two Piece Wheel

B1. Simulated Two-Piece with
Removable Decorative Screws

Chrome Simulated Two Piece Wheel Front
B2. Simulated Two-Piece - Front
Chrome Simulated Two Piece Wheel Back
B3. Simulated Two-Piece - Back

There is no problem in plating this design except that the decorative fasteners may be damaged in the process if they are plastic. Replacements may need to be purchased from the manufacturer and re-installed in the wheel upon completion. If the fasteners are metal, they can usually be reinstalled after the plating is completed.

Click here for information on chrome plating your simulated Two-Piece Aluminum Alloy wheels.

Two-Piece Welded Aluminum Alloy

This design has been popularized by many aftermarket manufacturers who take an aluminum alloy outer barrel and combine it with a custom center section. This allows many different offsets to be created by placing the alloy center section into the barrel of the wheel and welding it across the backside.

Chrome Two Piece Welded Aluminum Wheel Front
C1. Two-Piece Welded Aluminum
Wheel - Front
Chrome Two Piece Welded Aluminum Wheel Back
C2. Two-Piece Welded Aluminum
Wheel - Back
Chrome Welded Aluminum Wheel Visible Weld
C3. The weld on the back of wheel
is visible upon inspection
Separated Wheel Center for Chrome
C4. Separated wheel center
mounted to chroming anode
Discoloration from chroming at seam
Discoloration from chroming at seam

Many chrome platers will refuse to plate this design because, without the proper tooling, shadowing or discoloration will be seen upon completion where the seam of the center section and outer barrel meet. This is from two piece welded aluminum wheels which are manufactured with the frontal seam too wide.

This is where either the base material or the underlying layer of the base plate shows through the chrome, leaving a yellow hue around the seam. Since this area does not receive the proper corrosion protection, it can lead to a blistering, or peeling condition in the seam down the road.

The Difficulty in plating two piece welded alloy wheels

Nickle Shadow At Aluminum Weld Seam

The most common way to chrome plate multi-piece, two and three piece wheels is to disassemble them into their components, individually chrome those pieces, and then re-assemble them once plated. While the accepted way of processing two piece welded steel wheels is to cut the welds, process the parts individually, and re-weld them together upon completion of the plating. Unfortunately, this does not work for two piece welded aluminum wheels. Because aluminum is such a great heat conductor, it makes getting a localized area to weld-able temperature difficult. This is one of the reasons aluminum is so difficult to weld, and it can discolor or even burn the new chrome plated surfaces.

Because of the difficulty in re-welding a two piece welded aluminum wheel once plated, most plating manufacturers will attempt to chrome plate the wheel fully assembled. This method can lead to unsatisfactory results due to the seam between the two pieces on some manufacturers wheels being too large. Even with our auxiliary anodes attached to the wheels, often times there is just not enough plating material deposited into the seam. This causes what's referred to as 'nickel shadowing' where either the base material or the underlying layer of the base plate shows through the chrome, leaving a yellow hue around the seam. Since this area does not receive proper corrosion protection, this usually leads to a blistering, and or, peeling condition in the seam down the road.

CalChromes solution to two piece welded wheel plating

Seam of Welded Two Piece Wheel

Here is an image showing a new, raw, two piece aluminum wheel. The blue arrow points out the seam where the center section meets the outer barrel. The seam in this example is too large, and would yield poor results.

Budnik Seam Welded

The wheel is prepped and the front groove is welded completely around, thus eliminating the seam. The welded seam is then machined and polished in preparation for chrome.

Chrome Budnik Welded Two Piece Wheel

The wheel can now go through our full chroming process normally. But the real benefit that has been created is that since there is no seam, no re-welding after the plating is required, and the shadowing has been prevented. This service is unique to California Chrome Wheel Inc. To prevent peeling or nickel shadowing, this process is a requirement for most two piece welded wheels. This procedure will ensure the show quality chrome plating that Calchrome is known for, and provides a trouble free, long lasting, and easy to maintain product. Depending on the design of your wheel, this method may or may not work for you. Please call for a quotation.

Click here for information on chrome plating your Two-Piece Welded Aluminum Alloy wheels.

Polished and Chrome Budnik Wheel

Polished wheel on the left, vs a newly chromed wheel on the right.

Two-Piece Assembled Aluminum Alloy

Chrome Two Piece Assembled Aluminum Alloy Wheel
D1. Two-Piece Assembled
Aluminum Alloy Wheel
Chrome Two Piece Assembled Aluminum Alloy Wheel
D2. Two-Piece Assembled Wheel
Face and Window

Unlike the simulated two-piece, this wheel design truly is a two-piece wheel where the center section design is bolted into the outer barrel. How can you determine? When you try to remove one of the bolts or rivets, it actually has the function of holding the wheel together. Many high-end manufacturers, such as AMG, BBS, and Brabus, etc, utilize this design for their wheels.

Chrome Two Piece Assembled Aluminum Alloy Wheel
D3. Back of Two-Piece
Assembled Wheel
D4. The backside of a Two-Piece
Assembled wheel has a visible seam.

Chrome plating of this design requires the disassembly and removal of the center section from the outer barrel. These two items are prepared and chrome plated separately and then reassembled upon completion. Many times, machining is required to allow for the plating thickness that is applied so that the wheel can be reassembled upon the completion of the plating.

Two-Piece Wheel Assembly

Chrome Two Piece Wheel Before Assembly

Before Assembly

Two piece Bentley Continental GT wheel that has gone through CalChromes full chroming process as individual pieces, and is now ready for re-assembly by our technicians.

Chrome Two Piece Wheel Inspection


Here the two pieces and the 18 assembly bolts are gathered, inspected and prepped, prior to the pieces being put together.

Technician Secures Outter Wheel Barrel

Beginning of assembly

Here a technician has mounted the outer barrel in one of our Hunter TC3500 tire changers. This state of the art machine was designed with ultra high end wheels in mind, ensuring proper handling of the chrome surface. Most tire and wheel shops use older models which can easily damage the new chrome.

Technician Aligns Two Pieces Before Assembly

Adding Inner Portion

The two pieces of the wheel can now be safely put together. Proper alignment is critical in this step as any slight offset could lead to noticeable vibration in the wheels. Certainly not something you want on a high end luxury or performance vehicle.

Two Piece Wheel Ready for Assembly

Awaiting Bolts

Once properly aligned the wheel is ready for assembly bolts to be installed.

Installed Assembly Bolts Into Two Piece Wheel

Installing Assembly Bolts

All assembly bolts are then installed into the wheel, and finger tightened.

High Precision Torque Wrench

Precision Torque Wrench

A high precision torque wrench is used to tighten down the assembly bolts.


Torquing Assembly Bolts

Each bolt is torqued precisely to the manufacturers spec, ensuring proper pressure without damaging the new surface.

Fully Assembled Two Piece WHeel

Wheel Fully Assembled

The wheel has now been fully assembled, torqued and spun, and is now ready for tire installation and balancing.>

Completed Assembly of Two Piece Chrome Wheel

Final Product

Final product, with chromed center cap and badge. Click image for larger detail.>

Note that this style of multi-piece wheel can be dis-assembled and re-assembled many times since it is bolted together. This allows for repairs of either the inner or outer portion without affecting the other.

Click here for information on chrome plating your Two-Piece Assembled Aluminum Alloy wheels.

Three-Piece (multi-piece) Aluminum Alloy Wheels

Disassembly and machining are required to process the components as individual pieces. The pieces are then reassembled upon completion of the plating work. These wheels are very similar to two-piece assembled wheels with the difference of separating the outer barrel into two halves, which allows varying offsets, rim widths, and outside lip widths. This design is very popular in racing applications and has found its way to the general public because of its light weight and unique design.

Three Piece Aluminum Wheel
E3. Example of Three-Piece
Aluminum Alloy Wheel
View of visible separation of pieces
E4. There is a visible separation in
a Three-Piece Aluminum Alloy Wheel

Chrome plating a three-piece wheel is similar to a two-piece wheel where disassembly, machining, and reassembly are required upon completion of the plating work. Upon request, any pieces of the wheel (outer lip, center section, or inner barrel) can be selected to be chrome plated. Alternatively, the piece can be finished using most any of our other plating services or left in its stock form. In effect, this can create many unique variations.

Silicone Seal on Three Piece Wheel

E5. The silicone-sealed seam in
the barrel of this wheel
indicates that the wheel is 3-

Custom Three Piece Wheels

E6. Custom 3-Piece Wheels

Click here for information on chrome plating your Three-Piece (Multi-Piece) Aluminum Alloy wheels.

In the examples to the left, these high-end 3-Piece wheels have been finished differently. The outer lip and center have been chromed, and the outer barrel has been Fusion Coated to match the vehicles paint. This creates a very unique and eye catching combination!

Individual Parts of High End BBS Three Piece Wheel

E7. Example of the individual parts of a high end BBS 3-Piece wheel.

Steel Wheel

Chrome Plated Steel Wheel

F1. Example of a Steel Wheel

Steel wheels are found on many older foreign (e.g. Austin Healey, Porsche) and domestic vehicles (e.g. American muscle cars such as Buicks, Chevys, Fords, Pontiacs , etc.) prior to the mid-1980s. Unlike aluminum alloy wheels, steel wheels are magnetic and can be checked to verify they are so by using a magnet.

During the manufacturing process of most steel wheels, the center section, and the outer barrels were prepared and plated separately and then welded together. This ensured that there was complete chrome coverage across the front of the wheel.

Close up view of the back of a steel wheel

F2. A close-up view of the weld on the back of a steel

In order to re-chrome plate a steel wheel correctly, the wheel needs to be separated by removing the center section from the outer barrel. At this point, we can remove the old plating, polish, and re-chrome plate both individual pieces to ensure complete coverage on the visible portion of the wheel, which consists of the front side only. Upon completion of the plating, we will reposition the center section into the outer barrel and weld the two pieces back together. This is the same method that the original manufacturer performed during the initial assembly of the wheel.

Click here for information on chrome plating your steel wheels.

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