Here at L.A. Wheel and Tire, we use state-of-the-art technology, proven methodology, and the best-performing, most environmentally-focused chroming facility in Southern California (a state that also happens to have some of the most stringent environmental policies in the world). From our semi-bright and particle nickels (the most expensive part of chrome plating), to our special anodes that allow chrome to get into all nooks and crannies of the wheel, we spend on average 20-30% more to chrome plate a wheel than just about anyone else out there. That's a difference you can see, and as they say, "seeing is believing."
It all begins with a simple aluminum wheel...
Each one is individually inspected on a high speed balancer to make sure it's perfectly straight and round and within factory tolerances. Any wheel that fails this inspection is scrapped. Wheels that are cracked, corroded, have been welded or involved in an accident are also automatically scrapped. Once a wheel passes this inspection, it is engraved with a unique number for tracking purposes and is then sent off to get stripped. All of the dirt, grime, brake dust, paint, clear coat, and any other finish is completely removed, so you're left with a totally bare, "raw" aluminum wheel.
This "raw" wheel is hand polished in our own in-house polishing shop. Most companies outsource their polishing due to lower cost, but we do it ourselves to make sure the end result is a perfect wheel, one that has a mirror-like appearance. Hand polishing removes any imperfections on the surface of the wheel and prepares it for the plating process. Plus, we are very picky (because we know you are) and it's very hard to control quality of another polishing shop.
At the first stage of the actual plating process, the wheel is cleaned in a special soap bath to remove any polishing compound and then rinsed again in an alkaline bath. After this, the wheel is placed into a zincate bath, after which it is rinsed again to prepare it for a second zincate bath. All of our wheels go through a double zincate bath in order to achieve the tightest, most uniform application of zincate, which will then result in the smooth surface.
(Continued after the break)
After the second zincate bath and subsequent rinse, the wheel then goes to the Sulfamate nickel strike bath. This is a very important step, and also the step most companies skip, since this special type of nickel is very expensive (some use the less expensive Watts nickel). We do not dilute this solution with any other chemicals, and we also keep the nickel strike bath very clean to ensure the best possible bond of nickel to the aluminum surface of the wheel. Compare this layer of nickel to a primer paint laid down first. If this step is not done properly, the chrome finish will not stick to the wheel, just like paint won't stick to the body of your car if it's not primed first.
Coming out of the nickel strike bath, the wheel is placed into a copper bath. This bath is filled with a special type of copper called "Acid Copper". Acid Copper helps fill any imperfections in the metal of the wheel. Then this copper layer is hand buffed to smooth out the surface to a high luster finish.
After this bath, the wheel is ready for the most important step:
Nickel bath (or actually baths)!
This is what makes or breaks the chrome wheel. L.A. Wheel and Tire uses FOUR types of nickel! The wheel is first submerged in a semi-bright nickel bath for 15-20 minutes (depending on the size). Most companies will only leave a wheel in this bath for 5-10 minutes to save money on nickel, and then completely skip the other 2 nickel baths (more on that later). Nickel is very important, since it's the only thing that gives a wheel it's corrosion resistance.
Imagine yourself going to the beach every day, in the blazing heat, without any sunscreen. Sooner or later you will get sunburn...or worse (hopefully not, though). Nickel is like a sunscreen for the wheel: it protects it from the elements such as brake dust, car wash chemicals, harsh weather conditions and much more. The semi-bright nickel bath is then followed by 14-16 minutes of bright nickel and then 1-2 minutes of micro-porous nickel. These last two are the ones most companies skip altogether, leaving you with a wheel that's prone to corrosion and peeling. In order to give you a 5 year warranty, all of our wheels go through ALL 3 of these nickel baths.
Believe it or not, the wheel is still not ready yet...
Following two more rinses, the wheel finally goes into the chromium bath! This is what you know as the "chrome" look and is what gives the wheel that amazing "bling bling" shiny appearance.
This step is quite easy, since it was all the preceding steps that had to be done right in order to prepare the wheel for it. Just 1.5 minutes in this chromium bath is all you need. Of course the wheels are still rinsed twice again, and then hand polished and inspected for any defects before being boxed up and shipped to your door step. Ta Da! All your neighbors will run over and ask you where you got your wheels from.
We hope you enjoyed the tour!
Want wheels like these? Please visit us at: