Common Rim Materials & Finishes – An Overview

The wheel was invented around 4000 BC, originally made from a combination of stone and wood. Fortunately, with advances in rim manufacturing, we can skip the Flintstone-esque wood and stone finishes in favor of the slick new rims available today.

Rims come in various materials and finishes – each with its own advantages and disadvantages.

Rim Materials


Steel rims are the most common type of rims seen in cars. Steel’s durability and strength help it withstand the stresses of daily driving. However, steel rims can be heavy and less aesthetic than other materials. In fact, steel rims typically require a plastic hubcap to be placed over it to improve its appearance.


Alloy rims, a popular alternative to the traditional steel wheels, are made from a combination of metals – commonly aluminum and magnesium or nickel. Thanks to these lightweight metals, alloy rims strike a perfect balance between strength and reduced weight.

Plus, they are resistant to corrosion and can be easily machined into a variety of shapes and designs for a more stylish appearance. This is what makes alloy rims such a popular choice for performance and exotic cars.

Carbon Fiber

Although rare and only well-suited for particular vehicles, carbon fiber rims win the prize for the ultimate weight-to-performance ratio. They are made of strands of carbon fiber – a strong, light space-age material, often found on high-end sports cars and high-tech racing vehicles.

The drawbacks of carbon fiber rims are their cost and propensity for damage when driven over uneven roads or long distances. Plus, they are not repairable using traditional methods of repair.

Rim Finishes

In addition to the material, the finish used can also affect the appearance and performance of your wheels.

Painted Rims

Painted rims are coated in a layer of sprayed-on paint, giving them a smooth and polished look. They are easy to maintain and can be touched up if necessary. But, paint can chip or scratch over time, exposing the underlying metal to corrosion and damage.


Our most highly recommended wheel finish, powder-coated rims are covered in a layer of dry, finely ground pigment. The pigment is applied using an electrostatic process and then cured under heat, creating a durable finish. Powder-coated rims are resistant to chips and scratches and also come in a wide palette of colors.

Chrome Rims

With a layer of chrome finish over a steel or alloy wheel (or even a plastic cap), chrome rims are popular for their sleek and stylish appearance. However, they can be difficult to maintain and keep shiny. Chrome can also peel or flake over time, requiring costly repairs.

Machined Rims

It can be easy to confuse chrome rims with quality machined – or machine-polished – rims. Not all shiny rims are chrome. In fact, a slick-looking rim could be a result of a well-done rim lathing process – the process of etching grooves into (or machining) a wheel’s surface to produce that extra shine.

Polished Aluminum Rims

These are unpainted alloy rims that are polished and covered with a clear coat of paint for protection. Although this style of rim is beginning to fall out of style, we still see them on some trucks and SUVs. Once again, these are often confused with chrome, requiring a discerning eye to tell them apart.

Rimguard Inc. | Raleigh, NC Rim Services

Looking for some nice new rims? Rimguard Inc. not only specializes in caliper painting and powder-coating, but we work on all kinds of rims. Our services range from bent, cracked, or corroded wheels repair to installing new or remanufactured aluminum, steel, and chrome replacement rims.

Browse our services here.


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