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How to Clean Chrome on a Motorcycle

January 31, 2024 Comments Comment

For many riders and enthusiasts, there’s nothing quite like the gleam of chrome. On a Harley-Davidson, it offers that iconic style that sets our bikes apart—delivering both classic appeal and modern elegance.

But owning a beautiful chrome-clad machine also comes with its own set of responsibilities. To keep it looking its best, chrome requires regular care and attention. Without it, your bike’s dazzling shine can dull or, worse, begin to rust.

With the right know-how and tools, a little bit of elbow grease, and the tips covered below, you can keep your chrome looking good as new.

How to Clean Your Motorcycle’s Chrome

Cleaning chrome is actually a very simple process. Using a versatile cleaner like Harley-Davidson® Sunwash Bike Soap or our Quick Wash Cleaner, simply scrub the chrome clean and then wipe dry with a clean microfiber drying cloth.  If your chrome is particularly dirty or has something burned onto the surface, a slightly longer soak with the cleaner can help cut through dirt and grime. 

You can't just use any old product on your drive chain. It's important to use the right techniques and products for cleaning and lubricating the chain. To avoid damage to your chain’s rings, do not use the following:

  • Steam cleaners
  • High-pressure cleaners
  • Wire or hard bristle brushes
  • Volatile solvents like gasoline or benzene
  • Abrasive cleaners
  • Chain cleaners or lubricants not specifically designed for your type of chain rings.

See your motorcycle's owner's manual for the manufacturer's recommendations on chain cleaners and lubricants.  

How to Polish and Protect Chrome on a Motorcycle

To polish your chrome to a brilliant shine, the first step is to avoid using any polishes or cleaners not specifically formulated for chrome. These formulas can wind up damaging the thin layer of chrome. A non-abrasive chrome cleaner like Harley-Davidson® Chrome and Shine is gentle enough for delicate chrome surfaces but can be buffed on to achieve a bright, long-lasting finish with a clean detailing cloth.

To polish your chrome with this specialized cleaner, simply apply a thin layer to the chrome features of a cooled bike in a circular motion.

If you’re dealing with heavier, more stubborn grime, apply the cleaner more generously and allow it to sit for a few minutes before buffing. Just remember: don’t let the chrome cleaner dry on the bike before buffing.

Using the proper chrome cleaner and polish can go a long way to protecting your bike’s beautiful chrome. However, to add yet another layer of protection, after polishing you can apply a detailing spray that’s safe to use on chrome.

Don’t wait to protect your bike’s stunning chrome parts. 

How to Fix Pitting and Repair Damaged Chrome Finish

When oxygen gets into the layer of chromium on your bike parts’ surfaces, it can cause the finish to dull and become pitted. Similarly, oxidation beneath the chrome plating can lead to unsightly rust. To prevent pesky pitting spots or spreading rust from ruining the smooth look of your chrome, it’s important to keep chrome clean and regularly polished. Applying a specialized chrome cleaner like Chrome and Shine after a regular cleaning can also help eliminate spots from pitting.

Using Steel Wool to Remove Rust on Chrome

Some motorcycle enthusiasts swear by using steel wool to help clean chrome and remove rust. Others turn to abrasives like aluminum along with a dash of soda, even to get rid of pitting and discoloration.

While you may find some immediate success with these techniques, in the long run, it’s best to avoid using abrasives on your bike’s chrome. Any abrasive product can damage the delicate layer of chromium and wear right through the plating, leaving you worse off than you were before. When rust comes for your chrome, the best remedy will ultimately be to have your parts re-chromed by an expert.

Other Chrome FAQs

What is Chrome?

Chrome, short for chromium, is a silver-white metallic element that's known for its hardness and high shine when polished. It's commonly used in the automotive industry, including motorcycles, to coat parts made from other metals. This process, known as chroming or chrome plating, involves applying a thin layer of chromium onto a metal or plastic object. The result is a mirror-like, dazzling finish that's instantly recognizable and gives your bike that classic, eye-catching Harley-Davidson look.

Chrome isn't just chosen for its aesthetic appeal, though. It's also corrosion-resistant, which helps to protect the underlying material from rust and other damage caused by exposure to the elements. This combination of good looks and durability makes chrome a natural fit for motorcycle parts.

However, as sturdy as chrome is, it still requires regular care to keep it looking its best. In the next section, we'll go over the do's and don'ts of chrome cleaning, so you can keep your Harley-Davidson shining bright for years to come.

What Parts of a Harley Come in Chrome?

The use of chrome on various motorcycle parts helps create a striking contrast with the darker elements of the bike, resulting in the iconic Harley-Davidson look. The following Harley-Davidson parts sometimes come in chrome finishes:

Exhaust Pipes

Perhaps one of the most notable parts to be chromed is the exhaust. Thes pipes are often the first thing people notice due to their prominent placement and large surface area. Chrome exhaust pipes are a Harley signature, delivering both aesthetic appeal and durability.

Engine Covers

Engine covers often come with chrome plating. These parts are made to stand out, highlighting the powerful engine that's the beating heart of every Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

Handlebars, Mirrors, and Controls

The handlebars, along with the associated controls and mirrors, are often chromed. These are parts that the rider interacts with frequently, and the chrome adds a touch of luxury and refinement to the ride.

Wheels and Spokes

Depending on the model, the wheels and spokes of a Harley-Davidson can be chromed. Chrome wheels make a bold statement, contributing to the motorcycle's overall aesthetic and presence.

Miscellaneous Parts

Various other parts, like the gas cap, sissy bars, luggage racks, and even bolts and screws, can come with a chrome finish. These parts further enhance the overall look of the motorcycle, creating a cohesive, polished appearance.

Shop Harley-Davidson chrome parts and accessories.

It's important to note that the amount of chrome varies from model to model. Some bikes, like certain editions of the Softail or Road King, might have more chrome, while others, like the Iron 883 or Street series, lean towards a more "blacked-out" aesthetic. Remember, regardless of how much chrome your Harley has, maintaining its shine will keep your bike looking its absolute best.

With these tips, you can keep your bike’s chrome looking factory fresh. But if you’re searching for even more insights or help with maintaining your bike, look no further than your local Harley-Davidson® dealer, where our experts are standing by to help you get the most out of your motorcycle.

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