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Putting a Shine On

Putting a Shine On


How would you like to have wheels on your hot rod that look shiner than chrome and feature a coating process that lasts much longer than chrome plating? What we are talking about are wheels finished with a Particle Vapor Deposition (PVD) coating.

According to Dick Niborski of Winona PVD Coatings, LLC, his company applies PVD coatings on both OE wheels and aftermarket wheels.

“Let me give you a little background,” Niborski said. “In a nutshell, PVD is similar to powder coating or painting; I’ll call it a painting process. It was developed in England because the European Common Market came up with a regulation called the End of Life Law for cars. It stated a vehicle could not have lead or chrome when it’s useful life was over.”

Chrome plating was replaced with PVD, which proved to be much more durable than chrome. However, the original “recipe” had some drawbacks because the coating had orange peel and looked dull. It did not turn people on in the United States.

For the US market, Winona devised a new recipe. As Niborski explained it, the wheel is painted or powder coated, except for the back mounting pad area. The powder coat or paint seals the wheel, which is then placed into a chamber. In the chamber are “targets.” These are three blocks of aluminum.

A computer removes a little bit of the aluminum. It then takes the aluminum and vaporizes it. The vapor is deposited back to the paint and gets converted back to a metal that is then clear coated. So, you wind up with a wheel that looks like it’s covered in very shiny chrome, even though it has the durability of a painted wheel. Some say PVD will last five times longer than chrome.

Niborski said that Winona has done 980,000 wheels for Ford. They are cast in Mexico and shipped to Winona’s plant in Warsaw, Ind, to be PVD coated. According to Niborski, aftermarket wheels for hot rods are done the same way. “My specialty is the aftermarket wheels,” he said. “Because they meet the same standards as the OE wheels, the PVD coated aftermarket wheels have the same shiny finish and long-lasting durability as the OE production rims.