Protecting chrome wheels

October 1, 2010 | By Richard Prince


I own a 2001 Lincoln Mark LT and every year my Lincoln dealer has replaced my chrome-plated wheels. I would like to protect them in the bad winters I have in the Cleveland area. I remember using Cosmoline 45 years ago. Could you tell me of something that I can use to protect the chrome wheels now?


First of all, if your chrome wheels are deteriorating to the point where they need to be replaced after just one winter or normal use it is very likely that there is something wrong with the quality of the chrome plating to begin with. If the wheels are not cleaned and prepared for plating properly then the plating will not last as long as it should. If the plating is poorly done, with contaminated chemicals, insufficient current, overly-thin layers of plating, insufficient time in the tanks and so on, then the chrome will not hold up as long as it should. If the dealer is replacing the wheels under warranty and not charging you then the only problem is the nuisance of wasting your time getting the wheels changed. If you are paying for new wheels each year then I strongly suggest you find another supplier, preferably one that will guarantee the chrome for longer than one year.

As far as protecting the chrome, a lot of people rely on high-quality wax, the same type of wax used to protect cars’ paint, to shield chrome from the elements. In many instances, whether on wheels, bumpers or other parts, the deterioration of the chrome begins on the underside or other places that aren’t seen when the part is installed. This is because plating shops often devote considerably less attention to preparing and plating the areas of the parts that aren’t seen. This makes them susceptible to corrosion, however, and corrosion that starts on the backside or in unseen areas can rapidly creep into the visible areas. Good preparation and plating of the entire part, including the areas that aren’t seen when the part is installed, is one more thing that separates high-quality plating from low-quality plating. Of course, it’s also one more thing that makes high-quality plating very expensive.