The Art of Rechroming

Car chrome grille pictureNext time you’re checking out all the hot rides at a car show, ask yourself this question:

What makes these cars look so amazing?

Of course, a lot of it has to do with inherent styling excellence. Any Porsche 911’s going to turn some heads based on its iconic sheet metal alone; ditto the C2 Chevrolet Corvette and countless other models I could mention.

But if you take a closer look, you’ll see there’s a pretty common denominator:

Chrome.

Perfectly smooth, impeccably polished chrome.

You’ll see it shining under the hoods of all those old American muscle cars. Check out the bumpers, too, and you’ll see mirror finishes front and back. Bottom line? You’re not gonna win any prizes if your chrome’s not correct. And for me, it’s just a point of pride in general — when I look at my car in the garage, I want to see that chrome shining right back.

If you’re with me on that, then you’re gonna want to fix up your chrome from time to time. The process is called re-chroming, and it’s something every classic-car buff needs to know about. So let’s run through a quick Rechroming 101 course together, whether it’s an introduction for you or just a refresher.

How Do They Do It?

© Copyright General Motors

© Copyright General Motors

Chroming, or technically chrome plating, is just a particular way of finishing a surface. The craftsman starts by cleaning the part’s existing surface thoroughly, and then he “dips” the part in a chrome-plating vat that’s filled with a chromium-based solution. Through a process known as electroplating, electrical current is used to dissolve the chromium atoms and “plate” them onto the surface. The thickness of the plating is determined by how long the craftsman leaves the part in the vat. Once the desired thickness has been achieved, boom — you’ve got your re-chromed surface. Hey, I’m no scientist, but in a nutshell, that’s more or less how it works.

Popular Cars and Car Parts for Re-Chroming

Chrome Tail pipe photoAlthough chrome continues to be featured on some modern cars, it’s more common among the older cars you tend to see at the shows. Chrome bumpers, for example, are pretty much dead and gone these days, unless you count a handful of pickup trucks. And good luck finding chrome headers under the hood; you’re more likely to see a bunch of molded plastic engine covers. When I think of cars that are candidates for re-chroming, I think of the classics — Mustangs, Corvettes, Chevelles, and certainly European luminaries like Ferraris and Lamborghinis if your budget allows.

As far as specific car parts go, you’ve got the bumpers and headers that I already pointed out, but it doesn’t stop there. Wheels are a big one, of course, and since they’re so close to the road with all its dust and debris, they’re gonna need more frequent attention than other parts. Chrome grilles, too, are in a vulnerable spot; you’ll often see pitting and tarnishing up there.

But more broadly, just think about that C2 Corvette I mentioned, for example — there’s chrome everywhere! You’ve got those iconic side-exit exhaust pipes, the fuel flap on the rear deck and various other exterior parts, not to mention all the chrome switches and knobs inside. Back in the day, chrome was a much more significant part of car styling, so if you want to make your classic car tip-top, you might have a real laundry list of parts that need to be re-chromed.

Have You Had Any Car-Parts Rechromed?

You know I’m always looking for people’s real-world experience with the stuff I write about. Have you re-chromed any of your car parts before? Tell us any tips you have in the comments.

Editor’s note: Check out Advance Auto Parts for a wide selection of chrome parts and accessories. Buy online, pick up in-store.

Comments

  1. John blincoe says:

    I need to get parts re chromed for my 71 Pontiac catelina my grill shell and Pontiac emblem 400 emblem and two tail light bezels

  2. Abby Williams says:

    Indeed, Re-chroming is an amazing way of offering a fresh look to older vehicles. It is obvious that with time, car grilles get exposed to various pollutants for which, they lost their original fresh look. So, this beneficial process can be surely applied to those cars that have lost the classy and clean look. However, for auto owners with the urge of purchasing new grilles, you can get a wide range of options available at Autogrillepros.com.

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