Types of Wheel Finishes
Wheels are made with a variety of different finishes, and each type of finish has its own advantages and disadvantages. Some finishes make the wheel more durable and corrosion resistant. Other finishes are less durable but come in a wider variety of color options.
Powder coating is the process where a powder coat is electro-statically held to the grounded parts of the wheel. Heat is then applied to flow the powder together and cure it, resulting in a smooth durable finish.
- Powder coated wheels are very durable and resistant to chemicals, chipping, scratching, and fading.
- Because there are no evaporating solvents used in the finishing process, no holes develop in the finish, making powder coated wheels very corrosion resistant. This makes them great for exposure to the elements.
- Powder coated wheels are eco-friendly. The finishing process uses fewer volatile organic compounds.
- Powder coating is quickly becoming one of the fastest growing finishing processes in the industry.
- It is difficult to make a thin layer of film with powder coating, so this type of finish tends to be thicker.
- While there are a lot of color options available, it can be very costly to customize your wheel color.
The finish on painted wheels is airbrushed on, enabling the manufacturer to create a variety of color options and styles.
- Paint can be formulated to meet any color specification, and is available in a huge array of colors and types.
- Painted finishes are available in bright metallic colors, with aluminum flakes.
- Colors can be mixed to achieve different color variations and visual affects.
- Variations in spray equipment, line conditions, and any other day-to-day processes used can cause irregularities in color and finish.
- Pearlescent mica and metallic flakes reflect light and scatter it in random patterns, making exact uniformity unobtainable.
- Colors can also shift and change depending on the angle and distance from which you view the wheel.
A polish-finished wheel is a raw aluminum wheel that has been buffed to a mirror-like shine.
- Polished wheels have a true, mirror-like shine, and unlike chrome wheels, there is no bluish tint.
- Polishing is relatively cheap in comparison to chrome.
- Scratches and dings can be spot repaired for a minimal cost.
- Polished wheels are very prone to being scratched and dinged. Care must be taken when washing and or buffing your wheels because as little as a single grain of sand can leave your wheel scuffed up.
- In order to maintain their polished finish they need constant upkeep. The porous nature of aluminum makes the wheel vulnerable to oxidation, making it necessary to wax the wheels after they have been washed.
Mirror machined wheels are very similar to polished wheels. The primary difference is that a clear coat finish is applied on top of the bare aluminum. This clear coat application protects the finish and makes it more durable.
Chrome wheels are finished by adding layers of copper, nickel, and chrome to the wheel, resulting in a very reflective, mirror-like finish.
- Chrome finishes produce a true mirror finish with a very distinctive shine and slight bluish tint.
- Chrome is very tough and is resistant to scratches and dings.
- Chrome wheels are very easy to care for and can be washed and polished without fear of scratching.
- Chrome plating is typically more expensive compared to the other finish types.
- Although chrome is very scratch resistant, if the finish does get scratched or dinged, it cannot be spot repaired like a polished wheel. The only way to fix the damage is to have the wheel stripped and re-chromed.
- The process of chrome plating adds more metal, creating a thicker finish. If there are very tight tolerances between the wheel and the brake caliper, the thicker layers of chrome plating may cause fitment issues.
- The chrome layers also add weight. If you prefer a lighter wheel, a chrome finish may not be the best choice for you.
- It is possible for moisture to permeate through the layers of chrome, potentially causing corrosion. If this happens, it can cause the tire to lose its ability to properly seal onto the wheel.
- Chrome wheels are also prone to peeling due to salt and winter weather conditions.
Choosing Your Wheels
When deciding on new wheels, knowing the finish type and its advantages and disadvantages can be very helpful. Regular maintenance plays a big role in maintaining your wheel's finish. It is best to choose a wheel based on your style preferences and practice a routine care plan.