Chrome Plating Your Car Or Auto Parts 1, 2, 3
It can be said about chrome plating your vintage or hot rod car parts that “All that glitters is not gold”. What are the basics of chrome plating your parts well? What are the ABC’s of chrome plating your auto car parts for best results, appearance and long durable wear?
First and foremost it is vitally important to know and understand that chrome is just one facet of the process known as “electroplating”. What this means is the deposition of a metallic coating upon the surface of a base metal through the application of electric current. More simply put a thin coating of chrome (nickel, copper, brass etc.) Is applied to a part when it is connected to a piece of the plating metal which acts as the positive pole in a full and completed and working electric circuit. As with most basic explanations there is a lot more involved , when you get down to partialities , in this case of chrome plating your precious car or auto components that you want to display and / or protect in the best way possible – both materially , in a long lasting manner and within your cost budget.
It is always the first step that before a part can be chrome plated it must be clean. Actually super clean. The first step on the part’s chrome plating process is a bath of a hot caustic solution for the most thorough removal of all grease, paint, dirt and grime. Naturally if a part has a thick coat of 40 year old paint on it; it will take a long time, or even a couple attempts of this caustic process to soak off this coating down to the bone. In addition if you can prepare your parts initially, by removing any overlaying grease, heavy dirt or soiling yourself first. In addition to the time saving there will be a cost saving from the charges of the chrome plating service or technicians if you pre clean the metal parts yourself.
If your part has previously been metal plated, it must first go into another tank to be “de-plated”, which is the exact opposite of the metal plating process itself.
After the one or two initial steps in the plating process have been accomplished the part will make the first of several trips to the “polisher”. Here a series of buffing wheels (coarse first and initially, and then progressing on to finer and finer buffing wheels). The skills of the operator are to remove small nicks and scratches on the surface of the metal to be plated and prepare the surface to be plated. The skills and experience of a well chosen and trained operator can make all the difference in the world in the quality and appearance of your finished part. It is a tough, dirty job which when done well will make your pride shine. If not done well – then your part can be appear be finished poorly and possibly even ruined. Remember that when you drop off that rusted piece of “vintage tin” off for bright treatment, you are going to be paying for the polisher to stand there knee deep in emery dust hour after hour trying to make it worth saving.
After polishing the part is again cleaned to remove polishing residue. Finally the chrome plating process for your car or auto part is about to begin. Any threads are marked with special tape and a wire hanger is attached to allow immersion into tanks. The first and base coat plating is a coat of copper metal. This acts as a primer for the nickel metal to follow and fills any minor imperfections in the part. Many new cars manufacture and some plating shops have reduced this copper plating step, as a means to reduce and control costs. However this also cuts down on the luster and longevity of the finished product. Generally, in terms of a time frame, depending on the size of the part, it will remain in the host copper tank anywhere from 20 to 45 minutes.
The newly copper plated part is again rinsed and washed by hand and returned to the polisher. Polishing of the copper coat helps fill minor imperfections and provides the basic luster of the finished job. Once more the part is scrubbed and washed and a hanger attached for another plating bath.
Next stop on the route is the nickel tank. This is the real basis of a bright, quality chrome job. Depending on the size and shape of the part, a stay of around 30 minutes in the nickel tank results in about a .001 to a .002 ( 1/1000 to 1/2000 ) inch coating. Another quick rinse and we are finally able to hit the “chrome” tank. Amazingly after all that preparation the part will only remain in the chrome plating tank for 30 seconds. In the end the most major part of the chrome plating process is the extensive and thorough preparation – not the chrome plating step in itself.
In the end the sheer beauty and polish of the chrome plated part is more than worth the effort.
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