Wheel Type Guide
Unsure on whether your wheels are one-piece or two piece? Use the following list of wheel type descriptions and illustrations to guide you in determining your wheel type. If you cannot determine what type of wheel you have, don’t hesitate to contact us!
What is the difference between a One-Piece, Two-Piece, and a Three-Piece Wheel?
A One-Piece-Wheel as the name implies is going to be one continuous piece. Two-Piece Wheels on the other hand are going to be a separately manufactured centerpiece along with a separate outer barrel attached to each other. And finally, Three-Piece Wheels have a separately manufactured centered piece along with two separate shells all attached to each other. There are many different types of one-piece, two-piece, and three-piece wheels. Information to follow will help determine which wheel you have.
One-Piece Aluminum Alloy Wheel
There are three major types of single one-piece aluminum alloy wheels. They can be low-pressure cast (fig. A1, A2), high-pressure forged (fig. A3), or solid billet alloy material (fig. A4). To identify this type of wheel, the wheel is solid with no assembly bolts or rivets holding the wheel together. There are also no welds on the back wheel holding it together. Most alloy wheels from the Original Equipment (OE) manufacturers and many aftermarket wheels are one-piece in design. These are the most economical and least difficult to chrome-plate of all wheel designs.
Types of Two-Piece Aluminum Alloy
There are many different designs in two-piece aluminum wheels. You must look at the front and the back of the wheel to determine the type of multi-piece wheel that you have.
Types of Two-Piece Wheels
Simulated Two-Piece Aluminum Alloy
There are many different designs in two-piece aluminum wheels. You must look at the front and the back of the wheel to determine the type of multi-piece wheel that you have. Some manufacturers try to simulate a two-piece or multi-piece wheel by taking a one-piece wheel and adding rivets or assembly bolts, thus we call this design a two-piece simulated wheel. This wheel will have assembly bolts on the face of the wheel but they serve no function and are only cosmetic. How can you determine this? By attempting to remove one of the rivets or bolts. If the bolt appears to be made of plastic or merely spins in place as you try to remove it, then these fasteners are only cosmetic decorations applied to the wheel in order to simulate a multi-piece wheel. Some simulated Two-Piece wheels have removable screws. However, these do not fasten or secure pieces of the wheel together and are merely decorative.
There is no problem in plating this design except that the decorative fasteners may be damaged in the process if they are plastic. Replacements may need to be purchased from the manufacturer and re-installed in the wheel upon completion. If the fasteners are metal, they can usually be reinstalled after the plating is completed.
TWO-PIECE ASSEMBLED ALUMINUM ALLOY
Unlike the simulated two-piece, this wheel design truly is a two-piece wheel where the center section design is bolted into the outer barrel. How can you determine? When you try to remove one of the bolts or rivets, it actually has the function of holding the wheel together. Many high-end manufacturers, such as AMG, BBS, and Brabus, etc, utilize this design for their wheels. Chrome plating of this design requires the disassembly and removal of the center section from the outer barrel. These two items are prepared and chrome plated separately and then reassembled upon completion. Many times, machining is required to allow for the plating thickness that is applied so that the wheel can be reassembled upon the completion of the plating.
TWO-PIECE WELDED ALUMINUM ALLOY
This design has been popularized by many aftermarket manufacturers who take an aluminum alloy outer barrel and combine it with a custom center section. This allows many different offsets to be created by placing the alloy center section into the barrel of the wheel and welding it across the backside.
Many chrome platers will refuse to plate this design because, without the proper tooling, shadowing or discoloration will be seen upon completion where the seam of the center section and outer barrel meet. This is from two piece welded aluminum wheels which are manufactured with the frontal seam too wide.
This is where either the base material or the underlying layer of the base plate shows through the chrome, leaving a yellow hue around the seam. Since this area does not receive the proper corrosion protection, it can lead to a blistering, or peeling condition in the seam down the road.
THE DIFFICULTY IN PLATING TWO PIECE WELDED ALLOY WHEELS
The most common way to chrome plate multi-piece, two and three piece wheels is to disassemble them into their components, individually chrome those pieces, and then re-assemble them once plated. While the accepted way of processing two piece welded steel wheels is to cut the welds, process the parts individually, and re-weld them together upon completion of the plating. Unfortunately, this does not work for two piece welded aluminum wheels. Because aluminum is such a great heat conductor, it makes getting a localized area to weld-able temperature difficult. This is one of the reasons aluminum is so difficult to weld, and it can discolor or even burn the new chrome plated surfaces.
Because of the difficulty in re-welding a two piece welded aluminum wheel once plated, most plating manufacturers will attempt to chrome plate the wheel fully assembled. This method can lead to unsatisfactory results due to the seam between the two pieces on some manufacturers wheels being too large. Even with our auxiliary anodes attached to the wheels, often times there is just not enough plating material deposited into the seam. This causes what’s referred to as ‘nickel shadowing’ where either the base material or the underlying layer of the base plate shows through the chrome, leaving a yellow hue around the seam. Since this area does not receive proper corrosion protection, this usually leads to a blistering, and or, peeling condition in the seam down the road.
Two-Piece Wheel Assembled (Bolted Together)
Three-Piece (Multi-Piece) Aluminum Alloy Wheels
Disassembly and machining are required to process the components as individual pieces. The pieces are then reassembled upon completion of the plating work. These wheels are very similar to two-piece assembled wheels with the difference of separating the outer barrel into two halves, which allows varying offsets, rim widths, and outside lip widths. This design is very popular in racing applications and has found its way to the general public because of its lightweight and unique design.
Chrome plating a three-piece wheel is similar to a two-piece wheel where disassembly, machining, and reassembly are required upon completion of the plating work. Upon request, any pieces of the wheel (an outer lip, center section, or inner barrel) can be selected to be chrome plated. Alternatively, the piece can be finished using most any of our other plating services or left in its stock form. In effect, this can create many unique variations.
In the example pictures, these high-end 3-Piece wheels have been finished differently. The outer lip and center have been chromed, and the outer barrel has been Fusion Coated to match the vehicle’s paint. This creates a very unique and eye-catching combination!
Is My Wheel a Steel Wheel?
Steel wheels are found on many older foreign (e.g. Austin Healey, Porsche) and domestic vehicles (e.g. American muscle cars such as Buicks, Chevys, Fords, Pontiacs , etc.) prior to the mid 1980s. Unlike aluminum alloy wheels, steel wheels are magnetic and can be checked to verify they are so by using a magnet.
During the manufacturing process of most steel wheels, the center section and the outer barrels were prepared and plated separately and then welded together. This ensured that there was complete chrome coverage across the front of the wheel.
In order to re-chrome plate a steel wheel correctly, the wheel needs to be separated by removing the center section from the outer barrel. At this point, we can remove the old plating, polish, and re-chrome plate both individual pieces to ensure complete coverage on the visible portion of the wheel, which consists of the front side only. Upon completion of the plating, we will reposition the center section into the outer barrel and weld the two pieces back together. This is the same method that the original manufacturer performed during the initial assembly of the wheel.