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Powder coating vs Electroplating, which is better?


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July 21, 2021

Q. My husband has a 2018 Anniversary Edition Harley Trike.
His front rim is aluminum and is starting to corrode pretty badly. He is interested in what would be the best coating for looks and durability. Should he go for chrome or powder coating? And what about a hard anodize? Is that something that he should consider too? We're located in Central Texas; his trike is kept under the carport

Kathleen Ferraz
- Austin Texas

"Powder Coating Complete"
by Nicolas Liberto
from Abe Books

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July 2021

A. Hi Kathleen. Nothing looks as good as chrome, but there are lots of potential problems with it...

• Any corrosion pits must be completely removed before plating, which means turning down the metal.
• Super quality chrome can last decades, low quality chrome can last only weeks, and they look pretty much the same.
• It's possible to chrome plate aluminum wheels, but they're not really an ideal substrate.
• There is no small, local, repair possible in the event of curb rash or other damage -- it's start over.
• Onesy-twosy chrome plating is horribly expensive, such that swapping or buying new wheels may be best.

So if the look of powder coating satisfies him, that's probably a better way to go.

The wheels can't be hard anodized, but they can be polished and clear coated. If you want your husband out of your hair for weeks on end, suggest that he polish and clearcoat them himself and introduce him to polishing by searching the site for "polish motorcycle wheels" :-)

Luck & Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey

Closely related historical postings, oldest first:


Q. We are trying to determine the advantages & disadvantages of powder coatings vs electroplated coatings of zinc with chromating for high pressure steel tubing applications in construction equipment. Concerns about which provides better protection for corrosion resistance, durability, and appearance. Does anyone know where or how to acquire this type of information or analysis?

Jeff Dailey
Steel hydraulic tube assemblies for construction equipment OEMs. - East Peoria, Illinois, U.S.A.


A. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so it is hard to say whether a powder coated or zinc plated tube offers a better appearance. Powder coating will look essentially like paint, so you have many options for color. Zinc plating is metallic looking--not as bright as nickel-chrome plating, but bright.

If the part has threads or otherwise needs a close tolerance, or mechanically strong fit-up, you may have to use zinc plating because powder coating or painting could result in stray paint chips, loss of joint tightness, or just a "no go" fit. But zinc plating is usually too thin for rough exterior use anyway.

Powder coating is a barrier layer process whereas zinc plating offers cathodic protection. This means that the function of the powder coating is encapsulation of the metal so corrosive elements can't reach it, whereas the function of zinc plating is to sacrificially corrode. An unscratched powder coated surface will easily outlast a zinc plated surface; but if the coating is scratched the underlying steel has no protection. A scratched zinc plated surface will generally not rust significantly as long as there is zinc left to sacrificially protect it.

Ted Mooney, finishing.com
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey


A. With an adequate pretreat (chromate conversion) and a well formulated powder coat (super-durable TGIC) you may be pleasantly surprised with the results. If you need a metallic appearance, many powder manufacturers can provide a "premium priced" but easily reclaimable and consistent product that may fit your need.

Reference Qualicoat.org for pretreat recommendations, and tailor them to meet your application needs.

Andy Peal
Automotive Components - Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA

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