Automotive Talk: What Exactly is “Chrome”?


Sleek, shiny, and gives anything a polished coating, chrome is one of the most common platings you can find on any automobile today. Highly valued in vehicles such as cars and motorcycles, there are few things that can convey “slick” quite like chrome can.

However, chrome isn’t just a status symbol. It can do many good things for your vehicle, not just give it a mirror polish. So, the next time you’re browsing for a Baileigh tube bender for sale, give some thought as to what the materials you’ll be using went through.

Chrome, Chromium, and Chrome Plating

It’s important to get terminologies right. Since we see them all the time in vehicles and most metalwork, many people tend to categorize chrome, chromium, and chrome plating as being “chrome” when there are specific differences among these terms.

The metal itself is actually called chromium: a hard, brittle, yet shiny metal that’s valued for its resistance to tarnishing. A major component of stainless steel, chromium is used in a variety of applications, from home utensils to industrial equipment manufacturing.

Chromium is one of the most common metals that we use and it appears in most of our metalworking materials. Strong and resistant to corrosion, this metal is often combined with other materials such as iron, nickel, and copper, which make it versatile for a variety of uses.

On the other hand, chrome plating refers to either the process or the finished product of attaching chromium to another metal. This is done through a process called “electroplating”, where the chromium is electrically treated to meld with the metal it’s being applied to. The process used to be very expensive until modern technology caught up and chrome plating started to appear on other industries aside from automotive.

Why chrome plating is applied

chrome plating

There’s a simple way to know if something contains chromium. If it’s shiny, doesn’t rust easily and is very solid, it’s probably coated with chromium in some way. Those three characteristics are often the reasons chromium is applied, like in the following cases:

Aesthetics: Chrome plating adds a lot of visual appeal to whatever it is applied to. This is especially true for consumer products, such as silverware and automobiles.

Resistance to corrosion: As one of the main components of stainless steel, chromium plating is valued for its ability to resist rust. This is useful for metal objects that often come into contact with liquids, such as medical equipment.

Hardness and durability: Depending on the thickness, chrome plating is a good defense against weathering, flaking, and impact damage. This is particularly important for industrial applications where metal components often need extra protection.

Chrome isn’t just a shiny polished layer on some ride. It’s an extremely versatile, useful metal with a wide array of applications in our daily lives and can be found in more places than you’d think. If you own an auto repair shop, you probably know things about chrome and other types of finishing because your customers have these in their vehicles.

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