Painting chrome wheels

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by: Cobalt327, Jon, Valkyrie5.7
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[edit] Removal of chrome

When refinishing wheels, painting is commonly known as the least long term solution. In regards to painting chrome wheels, the biggest hurdle to overcome is painting over the chrome itself. As chrome is a very hard protective finish it is difficult to remove.

[edit] Electrolysis

In the case of a quality OEM plating, the most thorough method requires removal via electrolysis. It is known to produce harmful byproducts. Because of this, finding a shop to do this work for you can be difficult.

The following is from the Caswell forum:

OK...For the record, this is how I easily and effectively stripped my chrome paintball parts.
Materials Required
  1. Caswell Anodize & Chrome Stripper
  2. 12 volt manual battery charger
  3. Stainless steel cathode (I used a 3 x 5 piece of 1/8 thick 316 s/s)
  4. 2 x 5 gal pail (or something large enough to submerge the part in)
  5. Nitric Acid
  6. Stainless steel pot (large enough to submerge part)
  7. Tap water
  8. SAFETY GEAR (goggles or shield, rubber gloves, apron, ect...)
Procedure Utilized
  1. Mix the Caswell Anodize & Chrome stripper in one of the 5 gal pails (room temp).
  2. Fill the other 5 gal pail with water (for rinsing).
  3. Connect the negative lead of the battery charger to the stainless steel cathode and suspend the cathode in the stripping solution.
  4. Connect the the positive side of the battery charger to the chrome plated part which is to be stripped and suspend the part in the stripper solution (with the battery charger off).
  5. Making sure there is no contact between the cathode and the part to be stripped, turn the battery charger on (I used the 2 amps setting to strip a paintball marker trigger).
  6. Bubbles will form in the solution as the chrome is being stripped. Pull the part out from time to time and rinse it in the rinse pail in order to check the progress. (I found it difficult to know when the chrome was completely off so I can not provide an exact duration but I would estimate about 10 minutes).
  7. Once the chrome is stripped, the nickle which is left behind must be stripped. Mix a 50% Nitric Acid and water solution into the stainless steel pot. CAUTION : Always mix acid into water, never water into acid. Mix slowly.
  8. After rinsing the stripped part in the rinse pail, submerge it into the Nitric Acid solution. It should turn colors (almost black) as the nickle and copper (which is under the nickle) is being stripped off. CAUTION : Do not breathe fumes and strip in a well ventilated area. Dispose of waste accordingly.
  9. The nickle and copper are removed when the color fades from black, bronze to dull grey (this is the aluminum etching - I think). Rinse the part and re-polish or treat as desired.
I don't think I left anything out...Good luck and BE SAFE! Please dispose of waste accordingly!!

[edit] Under chrome

Chrome generally not the only metal plated to a wheel during the plating process. Often there are layers of copper and nickel underneath that will have to removed via electrolysis as well to get down to the base metal. "Triple chrome plating" actually refers to a base plating of copper, followed by a plating of nickle, followed by chrome.

[edit] Chemical Bath

As well electrolysis, it has been noted that it is possible to simply soak the wheel in a acid bath to remove chrome. The benefits are less chance of harmful chemical byproducts.

[edit] Common chemicals

  • Hydrochloric acid, aka muriatic acid. Muriatic acid is ~32% hydrochloric acid It's available at Lowes and Home Depot, and many hardware stores. It can be bought in a 20% solution as "The Works" bathroom bowl cleaner.
  • Pickle 2- If you are removing plating from a base metal other than an iron/steel or steel alloy is when you would use Pickle 2. Pickle 2 is 2:1 muriatic acid:water. It will work to remove plating either by a long soaking or by using electrolysis.
  • Caswell Anodize and Chrome stripper solution

Caswell Anodize and Chrome Stripper.png

[edit] Abrasives

Another option is to use an abrasive to texture the chrome so that paint has a higher chance of adhering to it. This is often the most common procedure done by the shade tree mechanic as it is simple and the least hazardous method.

[edit] Common abrasive medias

  • Sandpaper
  • Media Blasting
  • Wire Wheel


[edit] Preparation work


[edit] Epoxy Primer


[edit] Self-etching primer


[edit] Painting Wheels


[edit] Tips for painting surface


[edit] Longevity and Durability of Finish

Compared to re-plating or anodizing wheels, paint is going to have the lowest tolerance to damage and wear over time,

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