Understanding Metal Choices for Aftermarket Wheels

Car wheels come in two basic metal options, steel and aluminum alloy. As they are lighter and stronger, aftermarket wheels tend to be aluminum alloys. However, not all alloy wheels are the same. There are numerous metal finishes from which you can choose, each with its own pros and cons. Here is what you should know.

Metal Choices for Aftermarket Wheels

Powder Coating

Powder coating sprays electrically charged particles of color and resin onto the wheel’s surface. The wheel is then cured in a specialized oven to create a durable and attractive finish that is highly resistant to chipping, scratching, and rusting. Powder coating is available in a variety of colors, but later recoating to change colors is not recommended.

Powder coated wheels can be cleaned with plain soap and water or a mild, non-acidic wheel cleaner. Never use harsh products such as bleach or rust removers.

PVD

PVD stands for physical vapor deposition. This finish is an alternative to traditional chrome plating. After priming, the wheel enters a vacuum chamber, where a very thin metallic coating is electrically bonded to it. A clear acrylic powder coating is added to seal and protect the finish.

The wheels are lighter than those that are chrome plated, improving fuel economy and responsiveness, and they are available in a wide variety of colors. The clear coat protects the wheels from salt and chemicals, reducing the pitting that can occur on chrome wheels. PVD finishing is also more environmentally friendly than chrome plating.

Drive-through car washes and high-pressure washing can damage the clear coat and void the wheel warranty. Use mild soap and water with a soft cloth and follow up with a gentle polish detailer and protectant.

Bare-Polished Finish

Bare aluminum wheels can be hand-polished or machine-polished for a deep shine. There is no added weight, boosting handling and fuel economy. If bare-polished wheels start to lose their luster, they are easy to re-polish.

It is vital to clean and polish these wheels frequently to avoid oxidation or pitting. Use a dedicated wheel and tire cleaner followed by a wheel polisher.

Clear Coating

Clear coating is a common protectant for many types of finishes. Bare metal wheels can be machined and then clear coated for a unique, high shine look that is well protected.

Note that you should use only soap and water or mild, non-acidic, water-based cleaners. Never use harsh products or metal polish on wheels that are clear-coated.


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