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Alex Chrome is the market leading chrome restoration shop used by thousands of enthusiasts, hobbyists, diyers, restorers and collectors Worldwide who have a love for restoring old, classic and even vintage items back to life.

What is Chrome Plating?


The chrome plating process is a method of applying a thin layer of chromium onto a substrate (metal or alloy) through an electroplating procedure.


In simple terms, electroplating is achieved by passing an electric current between two electrodes which are immersed in an electrolyte bath comprising of chromic acid. One of the electrodes will be the substrate which is to be plated. During the flow of electricity between the two electrodes, chromium atoms are deposited in a layer on the electrode to be plated.

Alex Chrome is perfect for rechroming parts, just like yours.

How does Chrome Plating Process?


Chrome plating a component typically includes these stages:


    Degreasing to remove heavy soiling

    Manual cleaning to remove all residual traces of dirt and surface impurities

    Various pretreatments depending on the substrate

    Placement into the chrome plating vat, where it is allowed to warm to solution temperature

    Application of plating current for the required time to attain the desired thickness


There are many variations to this process, depending on the type of substrate being plated. Different substrates need different etching solutions, such as hydrochloric, hydrofluoric, and sulphuric acids. Ferric chloride is also popular for the etching of nimonic alloys. Sometimes the component enters the chrome plating vat while electrically live. Sometimes the component has a conforming anode made from lead/tin or platinised titanium. A typical hard chrome vat plates at about 1 mil (25 µm) per hour.


Various finishing and buffing processes are used in preparing components for decorative chrome plating. The chrome plating chemicals are very toxic. Disposal of chemicals is regulated in most countries.

Blistering, peeling chrome?


If your chrome plating is peeling, this is virtually always a manufacturing defect due to insufficient adhesion of the plating to the substrate. Although exposure conditions can certainly harm chrome, and discolour it or make it pit, they won't make it peel! It can be very difficult for a plating shop to get good adhesion on some things (most commonly on alloy wheels because they are not pure aluminium), but if they can't do it they shouldn't sell it.


If your parts have peeling chrome, you should complain and not be deterred by nonsense about chemicals in your garage, how frequently you wash the wheels, etc. We'll say it again, we're that sure: peeling chrome is virtually always a manufacturing defect.

We are very interested in working with you on your plating applications. We're confident Alex Chrome will be your best quote and meet your quality.

Restoration Work


Chrome plating is hardly a matter of dipping an article into a tank, it is a long involved process that often starts with tedious polishing and buffing, then cleaning and acid dipping, zincating (if the part is aluminium), and copper plating. For top reflectivity "Show Chrome", this will be followed by buffing of the copper for perfect smoothness, cleaning and acid dipping again, and plating more copper, then two or three different types of nickel plating, all before the chrome plating is done. Rinsing is required between every step.


When an item needs "re-chroming", understand what is really involved: stripping the chrome, stripping the nickel (and the copper if applicable), then polishing out all of the scratches and blemishes (they can't be plated over and any scratches will show after plating), then plating with copper and "mush buffing" to squash copper into any tiny pits, then starting the whole process described above.


Unfortunately, simply re-plating an old piece may cost several times what a replacement would cost. It's the old story of labour cost. The new item requires far less prep work, and an operator or machine can handle dozens of identical parts at the same time whereas a mix of old parts cannot be processed simultaneously, but must be processed one item at a time. If a plater has to spend a whole day on your parts, don't expect it to cost less than what a plumber or mechanic would charge you for a day of their time.

Advantages and disadvantages


The functional advantages of trivalent chromium are higher cathode efficiency and better throwing power. Better throwing power means better production rates. Less energy is required because of the lower current densities required. The process is more robust than hexavalent chromium because it can withstand current interruptions.[1]


From a health standpoint, trivalent chromium is intrinsically less toxic than hexavalent chromium. Because of the lower toxicity it is not regulated as strictly, which reduces overhead costs. Other health advantages include higher cathode efficiencies, which lead to less chromium air emissions; lower concentration levels, resulting in less chromium waste and anodes that do not decompose. [1]


One of the disadvantages when the process was first introduced was that decorative customers disapproved of the color differences. Companies now use additives to adjust the color. In hard coating applications, the corrosion resistance of thicker coatings is not quite as good as it is with hexavalent chromium. The cost of the chemicals is greater, but this is usually offset by greater production rates and lower overhead costs. In general, the process must be controlled more closely than in hexavalent chromium plating, especially with respect to metallic impurities. This means processes that are hard to control, such as barrel plating, are much more difficult using a trivalent chromium bath.

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