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Chrome plating removal from Aluminum Wheels

adv.   Metalx nickel stripper

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Q. I have four Aluminum wheels that have been "acid chromed" I would like to remove the chrome. The wheels are peeling and blistering. So removing the chrome is a must and I'd like to polish these wheels or paint/powdercoat.

I was told that a chemical removal will leave the Aluminum very rough and it may require a lot of work to polish. I was also told to sand/media blast the wheels and just paint them.

Can anyone comment on my situation and suggest the most economical route?

RFQ: And a shop that can help me in the NY/NJ metro area... Thanks

Peter Sdeleted
- Westbury, New York
outdated


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A. Doing a good job of chrome plating alloy wheels is hard, and it is common to buy rims from which the chrome peels. But if the supplier feels that it is too difficult to plate wheel rims reliably he should get out of that business. As a plating industry professional I'm tired of consumers encountering this problem. The chrome is not supposed to peel. Period! Demand your money back!

If they are too old to return, and you want to strip and polish, I would not suggest sandblasting because the aluminum is much softer than the material you are trying to blast off, so you'll probably end up with a spongey pockmarked surface and a poor start towards polishing.

I think you're on the right track wanting to send them to a plating shop for chemical stripping. The plating is actually multiple layers, probably electroless nickel plating, followed by copper plating, followed by nickel plating, followed by a very thin plating of chrome. Although the chrome per se can be readily stripped in muriatic acid, the nickel plating, and especially the electroless nickel plating are hard to remove even with aggressive and toxic chemicals. Good luck.

pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey

Lowrider's Handbook


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thumbsdownYour problem wouldn't be chrome plated aluminum wheels from a Ford Probe GT, would it? I just put $800 into tires, only to be told the rims of this 4 year old car were scrap and the tire beads would no longer seal, requiring new rims due to the severe blistering of the chrome!

Mike Wdeleted
- Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania


similarly ++

Q. I bought some used alloy wheels and the chrome is peeling. What would be the best way to remove the chrome. After the chrome is removed what would be the best way to refinish the wheels.

Mark Hdeleted
- Elkton, Virginia


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Q. How can I remove the chrome off my 20" Colorado Custom rims cheaply? They are peeling like crazy.

Gary Bdeleted
- Los Angeles, California USA


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A. Mark, Gary: The chrome per se is removable relatively quickly with muriatic acidamazoninfo. But, such wheels are actually nickel plated and then chrome plated, and most of what you are looking at is actually nickel.

It may be possible to sandblast them, but sandblasting is not good for aluminum and you'll never get it smooth again. Chemically stripping the nickel requires proprietary or toxic chemicals that aren't easily available to or usable by consumers.

I think your best bet is to take the wheels to a plating shop or powder coating shop for stripping the nickel and applying a chromate conversion coating before painting or powder coating. Best of luck.

pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey

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Q. Ted,

That's an interesting answer, you obviously know what you're doing. It's a pity Harley-Davidson doesn't use your company. I have a set of H-D chrome slotted wheels ($800 each approx.) with the same problem. They're only about two years old and the chrome is flaking all over the place. I know it's a major problem because I've seen lots of them on Ebay with the same symptoms. They're obviously out of warranty now but, as you said, this should not happen. I can't believe they are still selling these wheels.
Looks like I'll have to scrap them as there does not seem to be an easy solution.

Peter Hargreaves
- Lytham, Lancashire, England


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Q. Ted answered a lot of the questions that I had about stripping chrome off aluminum wheels. How about these? What strength[s] acid do I use in the process? Do the stripping basins need to be aluminum as well? Can I reuse the acids? Where do you buy these? I would appreciate anything you can share.

Allen Mahal
hobbyist - Morristown, New Jersey


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A. Normally you would use muriatic acidamazoninfo, probably between full strength and half strength to strip the chrome per se.

It should be used in polyethylene, polypropylene, or vinyl containers. Remember that acids can burn, blind, or poison you; so use with good ventilation and appropriate personal protective gear; and re-read your high school chemistry text if you find no warnings on the bottle. Also, muriatic acid releases fumes, and you'll read many horror stories on these pages of the effect of those fumes on stainless appliances in the house, etc.

To an extent, the acid can be reused. However, its power is consumed by the work you ask it to do, so it gradually weakens; and HCl is volatile and will slowly escape an open-top tank over weeks or months.

When you're done, the chrome will be off, but the nickel (and possibly copper) will still be there and you'll only be up to step two of several. Next you'd have to go to concentrated nitric acid or cyanide or a proprietary stripper to remove the nickel. You can contact Metalx about getting a nickel stripper, but I think it would be worthwhile to take them to a plating shop for stripping, rather than getting involved with this. Good luck.

pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey

February 26, 2008

Q. Can anyone give a solid answer on how to remove the Chrome? I have some 20 inch rims also that seem to be cast aluminum and the rims look terrible. They are peeling really bad and I would like to have the chrome removed. I would like to do this personally but don't have to. Someone help me please.

Corey Hatcher
Auto Body & Repair - Albany, Georgia

March 30, 2008appended

Q. Hi I have a set of aluminum rims that are covered with chrome, the chrome is peeling and oxidizing also.
I want to know what's the best solution to remove the chrome so I can polish the rims to a great look.
All comments are welcome.
Thanks, Edwin

Edwin James
hobbyist - Brooklyn, New York


July 4, 2008

Q. I have read several posts on how to remove Chrome from mag/alum rims. I would like to get a good solid response on how to do it the right way. I have seen everything from oven cleaner to sand blasting. I am trying to get this done on a budget. Can someone please help me with this. Thank you

Steven Humphrey
Just starting out in this - Fulton, Illinois


July 2008

A. Hi, Steven. The question has already been answered on this thread. When answers lack solidity, it is often because the questions are a bit vague :-)

First, real magnesium wheels are different from aluminum alloy wheels, and pressure cast aluminum alloy wheels are very different than rims machined from billet aluminum -- which do you have? The answer also depends on what you expect to do with the wheels after removing the chrome. Do you want to prepare them for replating, or leave the nickel plating on them for a warmer more classic look than chrome? Are you trying to prepare the wheels for powder coating, or trying to mirror polish the billet wheels and leave them as polished aluminum?

People also have different ideas; some think that sandblasting is best, some think that chemical stripping is best --it may depend on how much training you've had with toxic chemicals, what kind of personal protective equipment you have, and whether you already have a sandblast cabinet. Asking for "the right way" can be like asking whether you should buy a Porsche or a Kenworth without giving us much other info :-)

Powder coaters have told me of their success with a light sandblast that removes the chrome and etches the nickel. It's a fine answer if you want to powder coat, but not if heavy layers of nickel are peeling. In that case you must chemically remove the nickel and you can't easily do that yourself; you might want to take them to a plating shop because you can't dissolve nickel into chemicals commonly available to consumers, but try contacting Metalx. Oven cleaner is useful for removing anodizing but not nickel plating -- it'll dissolve the wheels instead of the plating! Sorry. And best of luck with it.

Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey

September 10, 2008

Q. Perhaps you can help...and I hope I am clear in my question unlike so many others I have just read about in this thread.

I recently purchased 20" Chrome Forged wheels. They are brand new, perfect condition. There are 12 spokes in alternating widths as part of the design characteristic. I was considering how the wheel would look if each smaller spoke were painted to match my vehicle color. Based on the previous responses, would this intended result require a full removal of both the nickel and Chrome using the chemical process mentioned, or could the sand-blasting and etching of the nickel be the only required steps to ensure a long lasting finish?

Thanks!

Jason Sieben
- LaGrange Park, Illinois


September 11, 2008

A. Hi, Jason. Although I don't claim great artistic taste, that sounds to me like an interesting look. Too bad the manufacturer doesn't offer the wheels with the smaller spokes primed to facilitate what you want to do. Make the suggestion and maybe they'll do it for you as a test market :-)

The ideal prep is to get the aluminum alloy all the way down to base metal, then chromate conversion coat it and paint it -- but that may be difficult even for a metal finishing shop. So I'd say the practical approach is to lightly blast to remove the chrome and etch the nickel; I can't guarantee the level of adhesion, I can only repeat that some powder coating shops claim good success. Best of luck.

Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey

September 16, 2008

thumbsup2Thanks for the quick response Ted. I appreciate the help.

Jason Sieben
- LaGrange Park, Illinois



August 1, 2009appended

Q. My wheel lips are chromed; I was wondering how to get that dull brushed aluminum look without spending a lot.

ed adeleted
- los angeles, California


May 10, 2012appended

Q. Hello everyone. My name is Jared and I'm a powder coater. My question to you all is I have a set of "chromed" aluminum wheels in my shop to powder coat and the chrome and nickel is literally coming off in sheets on the inside of the rim and I can peel it off the outside with my fingers. Is there any way for me to chemically assist in the removal of this failed plating so I can get back to bare aluminum substrate so I can powder coat these wheels. The nearest de-plating facility is over 2 hrs away and I'm not interested in shipping them. Only other option I can come up with is to take them to a commercial blasting company and have the plating blasted off, then I would be worried about the heavy blasting pitting or damaging the substrate. Any help, opinions, advice would be greatly appreciated.

Jared Strehl
Powder coater, hobbyist restorer - Owensboro, Kentucky USA

May 11, 2012

A. Hi Jared. I suggest you call Metalx and see what they say; they may know a stripping shop closer to you, or may be able to sell you their proprietary nickel stripper and advise you how to do it yourself. Good luck.

Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey

April 19, 2013

A. I work at a tire shop I see this stuff daily...people with this issue with newer rims just simply don't take care of them properly, most have never heard of a car wash. I have rims that are 10 yrs old that aren't peeled or blistered, but I wash them weekly in winter and not with an automatic car wash as they don't direct enough water to the wheel. Instead, don't be lazy; find a self service car wash or buy a pressure washer and hose them off.

Jeff Peeterman
- Green Bay, USA


April 21, 2013

A. Hi Jeff. It's good advice to wash away corrosives regularly. But it has nothing at all to do with peeling, which is a manufacturing defect.

Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey

April 23, 2013

A. Perhaps but peeling doesn't happen if properly taken care of

Jeff Peeterman
- Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA


April 23, 2013

A. Sorry Jeff, but that's simply not true. If you have a laminate which is missing glue, it will come apart no matter how you baby it. And when the plating layers are not properly activated, you have no "glue" holding them together.

The fact that your wheels are kept clean and don't peel doesn't mean that other wheels that are kept clean won't peel, or that letting wheels get dirty will cause them to peel.

Again, keeping things clean is great and can prevent rust, corrosion, pitting, and other problems . . . and is very important! But it has no effect on peeling.

Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey

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