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If you are anything like The reader‘s editors, you take your car outside and let it discover the world – no locked up garage here. He breathes in the neighborhood air, smells of the local sidewalk, and gulps gas at freeway exit gas stations. It also gets wet and dirty and becomes chemically unstable.

Many metal parts of a car are susceptible to weather, road conditions and salt, and the unsightly result can be rust spots. It looks especially terrible on chrome parts, which become dull and pitted. Luckily, in the same way that you can fix your paint, you can also do a chrome fix yourself at home.

If your chrome has light corrosion, and not chips or scratches, you should be able to make it shine with a few simple products and quick steps. The readerOCD’s editors are here to help guide your microfiber towel along the way, so let’s get to it.

What is Chromium?

Chromium is a shiny hard metallic coating primarily composed of chromium. It is usually clad on the surface of another metal such as steel for decoration and protection. On cars, it is most commonly found on wheels, bumpers, grilles and trim.

Why Does Chrome Get Rusty?

Over time, the metal encounters oxygen and water and begins to oxidize, causing rust.

The Basics of Rusty Chrome Restoration

Estimated time needed: 1 hour to 1 weekend

Competence level: Beginner

Vehicle system: Outside


Working on your car can be dangerous and messy, so here’s exactly what you’ll need to ensure you leave the garage in the same condition you entered.

Everything You’ll Need to Restore Rust From Chrome

We’re no psychics, nor are we snooping around your toolbox or garage, so here’s exactly what you’ll need to get the job done.

Tool list

By organizing your tools and equipment so that everything is easily accessible, you will save precious minutes while waiting for your handyman child or your four-legged helper to bring you the sandpaper or the blowtorch. (You still won’t need a torch for this job. Please don’t ask your child to hand you a blowtorch—Ed.)

You’ll also need a flat workspace, such as a garage floor, driveway, or street parking that’s also well-ventilated. Check your local laws to make sure you’re not breaking any codes when using the street, as we don’t get your ride all at once.

Here’s how to restore your car’s chrome

Let’s do this!

  1. Wash and dry your car.
  2. Paste your car paint or parts near the area you will be working on.
  3. Apply a small amount of chrome polish to your applicator pad or cool microfiber towel.
  4. Start with a small area and work the polish into the chrome.
  5. Wipe off the polish with another fresh cloth.
  6. Repeat steps 4 and 5 until your wheel, bumper or trim is complete and back to its shiny glory.

Can I use steel wool?

Opinion on this topic seems to vary from person to person. Some people say that bronze wool, brass wool or 0000 steel wool (fine grade) can be used with chrome polish to help remove dirt, stains and rust, as long as it is is real chrome. Others suggest that using steel wool will leave micro-scratches and possibly dull the surface.

As for us, we’ll stick with the chrome polishing compound, because at the end of the day, steel wool on chrome plating is still metal on metal. If you choose this method, use extremely light pressure and try it on a small, less visible spot as a test first.

Rusty Chrome FAQ

Q. Does WD-40 remove rust from chrome?

WD-40 directly claims that it can remove rust from chrome, but we’ll stick with chrome polish for auto parts.

Q. Okay, what about vinegar?

A. Vinegar has some acidity, which might slowly remove rust, but it will likely take longer and doesn’t have a built-in sealer like commercial chrome polish.

Q. So does coke remove rust from chrome?

A. The acid in Coca-Cola can break things down, but we prefer to use the products specially formulated for the job.

Q. What about toothpaste, does it remove rust from chrome?

A. Toothpaste is abrasive, so it’ll probably do the trick, but we recommend a chrome polisher. They have abrasive properties designed for the job and include built-in sealants.


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