Chrome Plated Vs Polished Aluminum Wheels. What’s The Difference? (With Pictures)


Wheels come in many different types, and drivers are spoilt for choice when shopping for them. Each type is made from different materials, with unique benefits and drawbacks. Chrome-plated and polished aluminum wheels are often compared to each other, so what are their differences?

Chrome-plated wheels consist of several layers made from different metals. Chrome is used for the final layer, giving the wheel its mirror-like finish. Those wheels are heavier and, therefore, more durable, and they’re easier to maintain. Polished aluminum consists of bare metal polished until shining. They offer a more natural look and reduced weight, which helps the vehicle maximize its acceleration. 

This guide will help you understand the differences between chrome-plated and polished aluminum wheels. First, you’ll discover both wheels individually before learning about their specific differences.

What Is A Chrome-Plated Wheel?

Firstly, let’s explore the concept of a chrome-plated wheel. As the name suggests, this is a wheel that has been plated or coated with additional materials.

More specifically, a chrome-plated wheel includes several additional layers of materials on top of its base metal. Those layers include materials like nickel and copper. However, the actual chrome plating forms the final layer visible on the wheel’s exterior.

That chrome plating is applied onto the wheel’s surface electrochemically. To put that in simple terms, the chrome layer is applied using electricity and chemicals, which allow it to adhere much stronger to the metal surface.

Chrome-plated wheels are a popular option with many drivers thanks to the benefits they offer, including the following:

  • Mirror-like surface: Chrome-plated wheels are a top choice among buyers partially because they offer a mirror-like finish, especially with polishing. That goes along well with the design of many late-model vehicles, therefore adding to the car’s aesthetics.
  • Hard and durable: As you read earlier, chrome-plated wheels consist of several additional layers of material. That also makes the wheel hard and durable, capable of withstanding much damage.
  • Long-lasting finish: Overall, the shiny finish on a chrome-plated wheel will last a long time as long as you maintain it regularly.

Naturally, chrome-plated wheels also have their fair share of cons or drawbacks. For instance, compared to other options, you can expect to pay a higher price for chrome-plated wheels.

Besides that, a failure to maintain those wheels will lead to the chrome finish flaking off the same way rust would. Wheels in that condition can be restored but at a very high cost.

Read: The Difference Between Alloy Wheels Vs Premium Wheels (With Pictures)

What Are Polished Aluminum Wheels?

Chrome-plated wheels are often compared to polished aluminum options. So, let’s take a closer look at what they are.

Polished aluminum wheels are much more straightforward compared to chrome-plated ones. These are simply alloy wheels that are polished and buffed to produce a very shiny surface.

Polished aluminum wheels don’t have mirror-like surfaces. However, they still produce a bright shine that complements the vehicle’s overall look. Overall, these wheels are chosen by many drivers because of their more natural look.

Some of the benefits that come with polished aluminum wheels include the following:

  • Lighter: As you read earlier, these wheels consist of bare metals without any extra materials. Due to that, polished aluminum wheels are relatively lightweight, helping to improve the car’s performance.
  • Easy to restore: Polished aluminum wheels eventually lose their luster like any other polished surface. However, that’s an easy problem to reverse, as you can simply polish them again to achieve their optimal look.
  • Hand-polished look: Lastly, polished aluminum wheels offer a ‘hand-polished’ look. In other words, these wheels have a much more natural appearance compared to chrome-plated products.

As excellent as polished aluminum wheels are, there are also some traits about them that people do not enjoy. For example:

  • Maintenance: Firstly, polished aluminum wheels require a lot more frequent maintenance. In this case, you’ll have to polish them more often to maintain their optimal look.
  • Prone to damage: The lightweight quality of polished aluminum wheels also means that they are less durable than chrome-plated options. As a result, they can suffer more damage from impacts, such as when driving over potholes or hitting kerbs.

Still, for many car owners, polished aluminum is a much better option, and the benefits outweigh the drawbacks.

Read: What Causes A Steering Wheel To Be Off-Center? How To Correct It?

Chrome Plated Vs Polished Aluminum Wheels; What Are The Differences?

Chrome-plated and polished aluminum wheels are both excellent options overall. However, your choice between the two will boil down to your preferences and needs.

So, here’s a closer look at the differences between chrome-plated and polished aluminum wheels:

1. Materials

The first and most significant difference between these two wheels is the materials used to make them. Polished aluminum wheels only consist of the bare metal wheel without anything added on top of it.

However, chrome-plated wheels include several layers of different materials, like nickel. Those layers are topped off by the chrome layer that provides the aesthetic benefits people expect from these wheels.

Read: Does Changing Tires Affect Wheel Alignment?

2. Maintenance

Both wheel types also differ in terms of the maintenance they require.

For instance, the luster on chrome-plated wheels lasts significantly longer than the one on polished aluminum wheels. Therefore, you don’t have to spend as much time maintaining those wheels throughout their overall lifetime.

However, the chrome finish on a wheel can eventually flake off if you neglect them. Once that happens, restoring the wheel’s appearance requires professional help, as buffing them won’t make them look the way they used to.

Read: Symptoms & Causes of a Bad Wheel Alignment

3. Durability

The material makeup of each wheel also affects how durable they are. 

Remember: chrome-plated wheels consist of multiple layers, while polished aluminum is only the bare metal.

The additional layers give chrome-plated wheels more durability and allow them to withstand more impact than their polished aluminum counterparts.

However, the added durability is a tradeoff that takes away in other areas. 

As you’ll see below, the additional durability is not necessarily an advantage if your priority is performance.

4. Weight

Again, here’s another trait that’s affected by the wheel’s materials. The additional layers in chrome-plated wheels add to their durability, as you saw in the previous section, but they also make the wheels significantly heavier.

Meanwhile, polished aluminum wheels do not have that problem and are relatively lightweight compared to them.

Drivers have different preferences; some might prefer a lighter wheel even if the heavier one offers more durability.

Read: 3 Reasons Why Steering Wheel Can be Loose – What To Check?

5. Performance

Last but not least, the difference between chrome-plated and polished aluminum wheels is in terms of the performance benefits they offer to the vehicle. These benefits are related to the previous point regarding their weight.

Polished aluminum might not be as visually appealing or durable as chrome-plated wheels. Still, they do help improve the car’s performance. Due to them being lightweight, they maximize the car’s acceleration.

As such, a driver who prioritizes performance is better off with polished aluminum wheels instead of chrome-plated ones.

Final Thoughts

Overall, chrome-plated and polished aluminum wheels are both excellent options. So, it’s not a question of whether one is better. Instead, it’s a question of which one will suit your needs better.

Chrome-plated wheels are heavier, more durable, easier to maintain, and they look better with their mirror-like surfaces. However, polished aluminum wheels offer a more natural look and are lighter, which maximizes your car’s acceleration.

The bottom line: choosing one over the other depends on your priorities when it comes to your wheels.

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