How to Shine Chrome on a Boat

chrome. courtesy perko.300

All the chrome bits on your boat need protection from the elements. Dirty or pitted chrome can lead to greater loss of value on the used market. Photos courtesy of Perko.

Most of the steel bits on boats are stainless, and for good reason. But some is chrome, and if not cared for properly, it can really detract from the boat’s appearance. Often, when that happens, the owner is no longer quite as enamored with his boat, and it ends up on the servers at BoatTrader.com.

That’s where you come in. With a bit of sweat equity and know-how, you can bring back the shine and keep the metal looking good for years to come — and savor the memory of the deal you got on the boat in the first place.

As simply as I can put it, chroming is an electrolytic process. Say we’re talking about a engine compartment hinge or some similar large metal object. Plating workers will make the hinge itself into a cathode by making it the negative end of an electrical connection. Plating takes place in a bath or solution of copper and nickel or chrome. The solution becomes the positive end of the electrical connection — or anode — by using a conductor with the proper electrical connection to a power source. When the electricity is turned on, the piece attracts the plating solution. The first step in the plating process is nickel, which gives chrome plating its finish and brightness. Then comes a plating of chromium which gives chrome its brilliance. Here’s a pretty neat video of the process:

If not maintained, chrome has a tendency to pit, especially in the harsh marine environment, and if left unattended, pitting will ruin the piece so that it cannot be re-chromed. Hopefully you’ll catch it before that point.  You can eradicate small pits with Collinite’s No. 850 Metal Wax, which  has an abrasive that cleans the surface and removes small pits. For more stubborn pitting, use Brillo or SOS.

Once the chrome is ship-shape, a high-quality polish such Mother’s Chrome Polish or Meguiar’s Marine RV Metal Polish will clean brighten and protect it.

What’s more, these procedures apply to any chrome around your home, whether it’s car bumpers or a toaster.

- Brett Becker

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