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topic 8881

Chrome plating removal from Aluminum Wheels

A discussion started in 2001 but continuing through 2020


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 S [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Westbury, New York

affil. link
"Lowrider's Handbook"
from Abe Books



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.

Ted Mooney, Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. - Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live Aloha


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 W [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

similarly 2002

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 H [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Elkton, Virginia


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

Gary B [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Los Angeles, California USA


A. Mark, Gary: The chrome per se is removable relatively quickly with Muriatic Acid [affiliate link to product info on Amazon] . 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.

Ted Mooney, Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. - Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live Aloha


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


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


A. Normally you would use Muriatic Acid [affiliate link to product info on Amazon] , 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 [a supporting advertiser] 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.

Ted Mooney, Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. - Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live Aloha

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, 2008 -- this entry appended to this thread by editor in lieu of spawning a duplicative thread

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 due to their expertise in different areas; 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 a Porsche or a Kenworth is the right vehicle to buy 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 [a supporting advertiser]. 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.


Ted Mooney, Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. - Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live Aloha

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?


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.


Ted Mooney, Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. - Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live Aloha

September 16, 2008

thumbs up signThanks for the quick response Ted. I appreciate the help.

Jason Sieben [returning]
- LaGrange Park, Illinois

August 1, 2009 -- this entry appended to this thread by editor in lieu of spawning a duplicative thread

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

ed a [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- los angeles, California

May 10, 2012 -- this entry appended to this thread by editor in lieu of spawning a duplicative thread

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. The very thin top layer of chrome can be removed by a dip in muriatic acid, but the only 'generic' chemicals that will dissolve nickel are a cyanide stripping solution or concentrated nitric acid, neither of which is at all practical. So I suggest that you call Metalx [a supporting advertiser] and see what they say; they have a much less toxic proprietary nickel stripper, and they may either know a stripping shop closer to you, or they may be able to sell you their product and advise you how to do it yourself. Good luck.


Ted Mooney, Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. - Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live Aloha

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. Thanks Jeff. It's certainly good advice to wash away corrosives regularly, as they can dull the chrome wheels, or pit and corrode them. But count yourself lucky because peeling is a manufacturing defect having nothing to do with storage or use conditions.


Ted Mooney, Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. - Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live Aloha

April 23, 2013

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

Jeff Peeterman [returning]
- 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 in spots, it will come apart no matter how you baby it. And when the multiple plating layers (zincate, electroless nickel, copper, semi-bright nickel, nickel, chrome) were not properly activated, you have spotty "glue" holding them together instead of a continuous sheet of good adhesion.

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, nor 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 whatsoever on peeling. I don't enjoy being argumentative, but I have to because we can't let manufacturers ship defective products and get away with blaming it on the consumer. Peeling is a manufacturing defect, period.


Ted Mooney, Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. - Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live Aloha

January 25, 2015

Q. Hey guys here is my question regarding chrome wheels...

I have a custom motorcycle with a 17 x 12 wide 3 spoke (aluminum & chromed) rim in the rear.

The center of rim is peeling and a little pitting.

What is the reason a lot of plating shops do not want to rechrome this rim?

They say its due to its width.

Please tell me why is a wide rim hard to do and who can do it in NJ area???

orlando orla
none - westfield New Jersey

A. Hi Orlando. After decades of harassment from NJ DEP there are only a handful of plating shops left in NJ, and I highly doubt that any of them can/will do this chrome plating for you. Usually custom lead fixturing is required for chrome plating such wheels (to make the electricity go where you need it to go). And they probably don't have it on hand for such a rare job, and can't afford to build it for plating one wheel. A replacement wheel is probably much cheaper than replating the one you have. Sorry.


pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET - Pine Beach, New Jersey
Aloha -- an idea worth spreading

March 30, 2016

Q. I know this is a old post but I have a set of 20 inch alloy wheels that look to be black powder coated wheels, and it looks to me as someone tried to chrome plate them, but it almost looks like the type of chrome plating that would go on plastics. The Chrome is flaking in several places I assume because the wheel wasn't properly prepped before plating. I guess what I'm trying to ask is what would you recommend using to remove the chrome, also I will add that the black underneath the chrome looks brand new and not scuffed or anything

Aaron Ergle
- Cullman, Alabama

March 2016

A. Hi Aaron. Real nickel and chrome are never plated onto painted or powder coated wheels. That tells me almost for sure that what you are describing is not real nickel-chrome plating, but "chrome-look paint" or PVD coating. This is a 3-layer system of: a smoothing base coat; a layer of aluminum flakes or reduced silver for the shine; and a clear top coat.

So you are trying to remove paint from paint/powder, and the hard part will be to try to dissolve the one layer without hurting the other (I don't know whether it will even prove possible). But the general approach is that you should be looking at paint strippers rather than blasting or the chemical strippers you would use for removing nickel plating.

Although I suppose it's possible that the paint under the shiny layer is robust, I wouldn't count on it because it wasn't intended to be good against abrasion and UV. Good luck.


pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET - Pine Beach, New Jersey
Aloha -- an idea worth spreading

September 4, 2016

thumbs up signTed, thank you for sharing your knowledge as a coatings specialist, Best solution was taking rims to plating shop and have them remove the chrome; its well worth it to do it the right way instead of half ass'ed

bobby bean
1966 - Lafayette Colorado america

December 13, 2016

Q. Hello, I have a set of chrome rims that I plan on having stripped and redone. My question is this. Obviously we all know what chrome finish looks like, but what would the finish look like if I just left it at nickel? Would it need a sealant or protectant, or would they be more susceptible to damage or tarnish? Thanks

Adam Wills
- Coon rapids, Minnesota

March 2017

A. Hi Adam. Before 1930 there was only nickel plating on car parts. If you get to Virginia you can see Woodrow Wilson's 1919 Pierce Arrow with its beautiful nickel plating at the museum in Staunton. But unless you are willing to polish every day or two, or clearcoat it, you probably won't be happy with nickel plating.


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Ted Mooney, P.E. RET - Pine Beach, New Jersey
Aloha -- an idea worth spreading

Stripping both powder coating and underlying chrome plating from auto rims

October 7, 2017

Q. I'm sure you've been asked this question a 1000 times. I just can't find the answer on all your threads.
I have a pair of 18" rims that are discontinued. I bought them chromed and later powder coated them. Is it possible to strip off both the Chrome and Powder coating without totally destroying the rims?


Deron T Johnson
- Chicago, Illinois

October 2017

A. Hi Deron. The powder coating can be removed with aircraft stripper, or hopefully something less toxic and more environmentally friendly. The chrome plating per se can be removed with muriatic acid. The nickel plating, which is always below the chrome, can be removed with various strippers. But finding a shop who can do it, let alone at an affordable price, may not be easy; and you don't want to mess with a whole bunch of very toxic chemicals yourself that you're not trained in. Blasting is probably a poor idea because the plating is much harder than the underlying aluminum. Good luck.


pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET - Pine Beach, New Jersey
Aloha -- an idea worth spreading

October 17, 2017

A. I have tried grinding off the chrome and this works to a certain extent along with a Stanley knife to peel off the bigger sections which are not well attached. Extremely time consuming and easy to scratch or indent the aluminium alloy. Taken very carefully this is possible.
However, I am handing in some alloy motorcycle parts to be stripped of the chrome /copper/nickel plating tomorrow. I'll get back to you when this is done to see how the job affects the aluminium alloy

- Glasgow UK

November 12, 2017

Q. Here is my conundrum. I have a 2009 Cadi CTS-V with every option including the very light Alloy rims which were Chrome (and then Black Chromed over). They far outlasted the 3 year warranty on the BC and looked incredible. But now 8 years later all the chrome has deteriorated and I had to get aftermarkets since factory replacements were $6k.

New ones look great but are about 30 lbs heavier and dramatically affect performance both acceleration and braking due to the unsprung weight differential. I have invested a significant amount of time/work and the car is mint with less than 40k miles and @ 712 on the dyno. But I have lost almost 30 HP and noticeable breaking distance from the change. It's something only I notice, but it bothers me.

I really want to redo the Alloy Rims for summer but no shop on the east coast will touch them. I was going to blast with the 25 grit shells instead of 12 grit that is recommended, but still worried about destroying the aluminum ... which leaves acid bath treatment and then repolishing alloy once chrome is removed. Will never go with chrome again. I have the time and extensive mechanical knowledge (even some patents on my car). What I need to know is where I can acquire the correct stripping chemicals, the proper sequence/application to use them, AND the proper dilution ratios if any. Disposal guidelines are already addressed. I realize this is far more detailed than any other questions, but all my research effort has led to inadequate knowledge or incapable shops (on the East coast). West Coast is cost prohibitive and a refusal to share info. Hoping you can help. Paul

Paul Kaufman
- Saddle River, New Jersey USA

November 2017

A. Hi Paul. There is no way the plating is adding anything like 30 lbs. The plating is unlikely to be much more than 0.001" thick, tops. If the surface area plated were, say, 7 sq. ft. per wheel (and I doubt it's more), that would be roughly a cubic inch of metal, for a weight of about 0.3 pounds per wheel.

But you can contact Metalx [a supporting advertiser] and see if they can sell you nickel stripper, along with instructions for its use.

One thing to be careful of, of course, is that people (possibly including the wheel vendor) sometimes toss around the word 'chrome', using it describe any shiny finish. There are a lot of 'chrome wheels' out there that are not nickel-chrome electroplating, but 'chrome-look paint' or PVD metallized, etc.


pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET - Pine Beach, New Jersey
Aloha -- an idea worth spreading

November 20, 2017

Q. Ted, I think you misunderstood my reason for a 30 lb difference. I bought a new set of aftermarket rims but they are not Aluminum Alloy they are polished/painted steel because buying Alloy for the odd wheel dimensions on the 2009 CTS V led to very few choices and prices starting at the 6k range. Even with steel rims the choices are few. I want to redo my original Alum. Alloy rims because of the weight differential between Alum. & Steel. That's why the 4 wheels added up to a 30lb. difference. The stock factory alloy's are almost 7k. So,refinishing them and using only as summer wheels is worth it if I am able to properly do it. Plus the performance difference is a benefit. Anyway, thanks for your info.

Paul Kaufmann
- Park City, Utah USA

November 2017

A. Okay, understood. It's hard to know exactly what the finish on your wheels consists of, and therefore how to remove it. And there is also the question of whether the underlying aluminum alloy will polish well, but I think Metalx is your best hope for chemically removing the nickel plating and the possible electroless nickel underlying that. Some high quality alloy wheels are done with the following process: zincate, electroless nickel, copper plating, nickel plating (possibly multiple layers), chrome plating. The chrome is easily removed with muriatic acid, but the nickel and electroless nickel are tough. (And Metalx might even know an East Coast shop which will strip them for you).


pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET - Pine Beach, New Jersey
Aloha -- an idea worth spreading

Want to powdercoat Corvette wheels but save Chrome center hubs

January 31, 2020

Q. I have a set of 1988 Corvette wheels that have been plated. The wheels are two piece. The centers are cast aluminum and the rims are thin and not cast. The problem seems to be a combination of the plating not getting down into the seam between the rim and center and the rims flex. This has caused areas where the rims are corroding under the plating and it is popping off down to the bare aluminum. The plating on the center section is fine so I would like to attempt to remove the plating from the rim only and powdercoat just the rims. I could probably carefully remove the chrome with muriatic. Chrome is pretty hard to grind so would the copper and nickel be easier to sand? Also how long does it take the muriatic to work? Are we talking minutes or hours? My name is Kim, I am in Orlando.

Kim Buelich
- Orlando, Florida USA

January 2020

A. Hi Kim. The chrome will come off in minutes, probably less than a minute. What I would consider doing if I were you would be to send the wheels out for fixing. The plating shop can probably carefully mask the good chrome on the center, then chemically strip the chrome and the nickel and the copper (if any) and the electroless nickel (if any), chromate the aluminum, powder coat the wheels, and remove the masking protecting the chrome in the center.

If you want to do it yourself, this as least gives a guide to the plating layers you may see. Plating on aluminum starts with an immersion deposit of zincate which does not offer as much adhesion as electroplating, so I think you are right that a thin and flexing section of an aluminum wheel is likely to lead to non-adherent and unsatisfactory plating.


pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET - Pine Beach, New Jersey
Aloha -- an idea worth spreading

February 1, 2020

thumbs up sign  Thank you; I did not think masking would be an option .

Kim Buelich [returning]
- Orlando, Florida USA

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