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What is a Cladded Chrome Wheel?

June 15th, 2012

The Change from Chrome Dipped to Chrome Clad Rims

parts of a clad chrome wheel

Here you can see the different layers of a cladded chrome rim

Many people have started noticing in recent years that their GMC and Dodge trucks are now coming with these things call “chrome clad” or “cladded chrome” wheels. At a glance it looks just like the chrome wheels you’re used to, but to the touch it feels like plastic. Many consumers are outraged once they realize that the 20” wheels that they just paid extra for have something that looks like a plastic hubcap when they thought they were getting a chrome wheel.

Clad Chrome Steel Wheel

Cladded Chrome Steel Wheel

“Chrome Clad” wheels are actually nothing new. They have been using the process on steel wheels for a number of years. The traditional process of chroming was expensive and impractical to do on standard steel wheels so to spruce them up manufacturers started offering them with basically a permanent full wheel skin. It was fairly durable and resistant to corrosion. This same exact idea is now being used on most of the chrome wheels being offered, especially for the large trucks.

The Advantages to Cladded Chrome Wheels

Although many people may feel like they just got scammed there are advantages to the cladded chrome over traditional chrome wheels. They don’t have corrosion issues like chrome dipped wheels. This is really the biggest advantage. Anyone that has had chrome wheels especially somewhere with harsh weather knows that even with good wheel care they will start to corrode after just a few years. The chrome will begin peeling off the face of the wheel. After awhile the chrome can even start peeling off the back of the hub from salt and break dust.

Eventually your chrome will begin peeling around the tire bead. Once this happens your tires will begin leaking air and the only thing you can do is either get your wheels re-chromed or replace them. A wheel can only be put through the chroming process so many times before the quality will degrade so eventually you would have to replace your rims.

On these new clad chrome wheels the chromed part is actually plastic so they do not corrode as easily. They will also not have the pitting or bubbling issues and there is even the potential to make the wheels even lighter with more elaborate designs.

The Disadvantages of Chrome Clad Rims

backside of clad chrome

From the back you can see the different layers of the clad chrome as well

With all of these positives there must be a reason that people are so upset over this new method of chroming. There are definitely disadvantages and the biggest one is that the whole design of the face of the wheel is in fact made of PLASTIC. This plastic cover is virtually impossible to repair or replace. Unlike a standard hubcap that just clips on and can be replaced this clad cover is bonded to the underlying aluminum wheel structure.

With traditionally chromed wheels if you ran a little too close to a curb you could bring it to a shop and they could usually grind it back out and rechrome it to look just like new. Although the process was never cheap it was significantly cheaper than buying a whole new wheel.

The cladded cover cannot be replaced or repaired and although it’s a fairly durable plastic it can still be scrapped, cracked, or shattered by an unexpected curb and these wheels are not cheap to replace.

The Verdict

Well the verdict on this is you really don’t have much choice unless you want to buy standard wheels and get them chromed yourself. It seems to be a growing trend with Chrysler/Dodge and now GMC and others will likely follow. If you want to upgrade to a 20″ chrome wheel for your Sierra Denali 1500 most of them are cladded chrome now. There are definite advantages, but unless you’re a really careful driver you’ll likely be paying extra out of pocket to replace damaged rims.

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