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How good is the PVD process for "chrome plating" wheels


I came across a company offering a process called PVD (Physical Vapor Deposition) that offers a type of chrome-look painting process for wheels. They claim it is a lot better than real chrome wheels.

Have you heard of this process? Any opinions?



Edward Gorkes
- Ambler, Pennsylvania, USA
April 25, 2008

Hi. First, the historical perspective, Ed. In the 1960s and 70s, vacuum metallized plastic was widely used on dashboard and other interior parts of autos; it consisted of a base coat, vacuum metallizing with aluminum, and a topcoat. It didn't look as good as real chrome but it looked okay; but it very quickly wore off, leaving the armrests and such, of rather new cars, an ugly yellow orange plastic. You would see the same technology on the rings in Cracker Jax prizes and on the bumpers of plastic model cars. So, when we old timers see the same concept and the same steps (but admittedly with better topcoats) being promoted as superior to nickel-chrome plating, you have to allow us a good belly laugh before we can actually consider the claim.

But after the laugh, yes, this may be a viable alternative today because some durability seems to now be offered; and in addition to being durable, the clear topcoats reportedly don't yellow prematurely anymore. Although I feel that nickel-chrome still has some great things going for it in many cases, the fact is that nickel chrome plating of aluminum pressure cast wheels has always been a problem because aluminum is hard to plate onto, because the quality of the castings is always a problem, and because the relatively noble metal nickel will cause galvanic pitting of the aluminum after a scratch, pinhole, or perforation.

So, personal opinion? This new technology is as good or better for aluminum wheels than nickel-chrome plating. That doesn't mean that I think it's anything approaching the equal of nickel-chrome plating for all applications. Again, personal opinion.


Ted Mooney,
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey
April , 2008

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