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AutoAmenity Chrome Wheelskins Hubcaps Home > FAQ > Hubcap Materials -- Which is better: plastic or metal?

Hubcap Materials

Our fathers’ and grandfathers’ hubcaps were gleaming orbs of chrome plated steel, glittering wire spoke patterns, or flat chrome Frisbee look-alikes. Before 1980, chrome plated steel was the only material that was available to do the job. Unfortunately, plated steel light enough for hubcaps was easily dented, and if scratched or driven in winter, i.e., on salted roads, was likely to rust.

ABS plastic (Acrylonitrile-Butadiene-Styrene) was introduced as a standard material in plumbing pipe in the 1970s, and became the universal material in hubcaps by the mid 1980s. ABS has the attributes of rigidity, strength, and high resistance to salt, chemicals, heat, cold, and impact. It has excellent resistance to breaking, scratching and chipping, even at low temperatures. ABS parts weigh only a fraction of their steel counterparts. These qualities make ABS an ideal material for hubcaps, wheel covers, and many other automotive parts. In addition, ABS can be painted or chrome plated for a range of visual effects.

Today, almost all hubcaps and wheel covers for passenger vehicles are made of ABS plastic. In fact, the majority of non-structural auto trim items, including company logos, lettering, grills, cowlings, bumpers, frames, bezels, etc, have been made of (chromed) plastic for nearly 20 years.

In our opinion, plastic performs better as a wheel cover due to its lighter weight and corrosion resistance. Metal hubcaps are heavier and tend to come off due to centrifugal force.  Since metal hubcaps are no longer made in quantity, they cost a lot more.

All of our chrome finish hubcaps, Impostors, and Wheelskins are triple-chrome-plated ABS plastic.  A major advantage to this material is that when it gets scratched, it does not degrade further with time and exposure to sun, weather, and salt.  So five years hence, the scratch will look the same as it did the first day.  Whereas chromed metal, either steel or alloy, will react with oxygen and salt, and will rust, pit, scale, or flake after it has been scratched.

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