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AutoAmenity Chrome Wheelskins Hubcaps Home > FAQ > What is a Wheelskin?

What is a Wheelskin?

Wheelskins: Chrome covers for Styled Wheels

"Wheelskin" is a relatively new term. Wheelskins were invented in the late 1990s to provide an inexpensive way to put chrome on styled wheels.

After WWII, the racing community introduced new technologies and materials to every aspect of race cars to reduce weight and improve speed and handling. One of those improvements, ‘mag wheels’ remains in the vernacular to this day. Halibrand magnesium wheels carried every car that won the Indy 500 from 1946 to 1963. Those early wheels were made of magnesium, which was far lighter than steel, and a third lighter than aluminum. The major downside of the true Mag wheel was the need to polish it regularly, because magnesium reacts rapidly to air and water to produce a heavy greenish surface oxide, which then pits, as seen in the middle picture below. Shifting to aluminum alloys reduced these problems.
Halibrand magnesium wheelHalibrand magnesium wheel70s era racer with Halibrand magnesium wheels

Early aluminum alloy wheels were made in fairly simple designs shown above. As more sophisticated, high strength molding and forging processes were developed, more intricate and artistic designs became common. The original purpose of decreased weight and performance gave way to style and expression. Adoption of “styled” alloy wheels became widespread in high-end street machines of German manufacture, and as expensive aftermarket options for the rest. Finally, major American and Japanese car manufacturers began offering styled alloy wheels first as options, and in the ‘90s as standard features. The top models of even the economy brands offered styled steel wheels.
Styled Aluminum Alloy wheelStyled Aluminum Alloy wheelContemporary street racer with Styled Aluminum Alloy wheels
The advent of styled alloy wheels opened a new range of stylistic expression to auto owners. Spoke and swirl patterns could extend seamlessly to the outer edge of the wheel. As computerized machining technology advanced, it became less expensive to engineer the molds, so a larger selection of designs became available and prices decreased.

Chrome, the final fashion statement, was applied to all varieties of styled wheels. This option is popular but expensive, in the range of several hundred dollars per wheel.
Chromed Styled Aluminum Alloy wheelChromed Styled Aluminum Alloy wheelChromed Styled Aluminum Alloy wheel
Unfortunately, one of the drawbacks of actual chrome plating on auto wheels is its tendency to corrode when exposed to winter salt driving conditions. Hence the fine print caveat in the warrantees of chrome wheel manufacturers: “Do not drive chrome wheels in snow!” and “Salt can deteriorate and corrode your chrome.”

Wheelskins were invented in the late 1990s to provide an inexpensive way to put brilliant chromed plastic covers on styled wheels. Precision molds were designed to produce inexpensive corrosion resistant covers that perfectly match the geometry of styled wheels, and ‘fit like a glove’ or like a second skin. There are several manufacturers of Wheelskins, the two best known are the Impostors™ and the Wheelskins brands. There is only one model of Wheelskin that matches each specific styled wheel, and that Wheelskin does not fit any other wheel.

This series of pictures shows the styled wheel on the left, its chrome Wheelskin right.
OEM Pontiac Grand Am styled alloy Wheel, no chrome hubcapIMP-305X Impostor Pontiac Grand Am Chrome Wheelskins Hubcaps Wheel covers        OEM Chevrolet Silverado Truck styled steel wheel, no chrome wheelskinsIMP-62X Impostor Chevrolet Silverado Truck Chrome Wheelskins Hubcaps Wheel covers
Pontiac Grand Am Styled Alloy and Wheelskin         Chevy Silverado styled steel wheel and Wheelskin

Wheelskins have become the best kept secret in the automotive wheel fashion industry. Once installed, you can only tell the difference between them and real chromed wheels if you know what to look for. Thousands of sets are sold to new and used auto retailers, who mount them on the vehicles on their lots. Those thousands of vehicles are sold to customers who are very happy they have purchased their vehicles with chrome wheels at a bargain price.

Impostors and Wheelskins are two manufacturer's brands of custom chrome wheel covers for styled wheels that we carry. They give styled wheels a “high-end” chrome look and are an inexpensive alternative to chromed alloy wheels that may cost up to 20 times as much. We sell to many dealers that install Wheelskins on NEW vehicles, and we have heard from many customers who thought their vehicle had chrome wheels until they dinged one on a curb.
Dodge Dakota or Durango stock OEM 16 inch Dodge Styled Alloy Wheel, no chrome wheelskinsIMP 306X Impostor Dodge Chrome Wheelskins Hubcaps Wheel covers          New stock Toyota styled steel rim, no chrome wheelskinIMP-19X Impostor Toyota Chrome Hubcaps Wheel covers Wheelskins
Dodge Dakota Styled Alloy wheel and Wheelskin      Toyota Tundra styled steel wheel and wheelskin

Styled Steel or Alloy Wheels do not have the normal recess inside of the bead for standard hubcaps to mount into. Most Wheelskins therefore use metal clips to grab the outer edge of the rim or the wheel, the way a wheel weight does. Many of the newer Impostor Center or Inside Clip models have clips that grab the wheel at the base of its spokes.

Impostors and Wheel Skins are two manufacturer's brand names of Wheelskins that we carry. They give styled wheels a “high-end” chrome look and are an inexpensive alternative to chromed alloy wheels that may cost up to 20 times as much.



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