Black or chrome? That’s the eternal question. Whatever your preference, you can rest assured that you are getting nothing but the best quality finish with your Rinehart Racing headers, slip-ons, and full system exhausts. In this 3-part series we will be taking a look at the different finishes we offer on our exhaust systems and the processes behind each of those finishes. In this installment, we take a closer look at what goes into creating a picture-perfect chrome finish.
Here at Rinehart, we are proud to say that all of our exhaust systems are 100% made in America, and those principles extend to our manufacturing partners as well. While your Rinehart exhaust systems are designed, manufactured, and assembled right here at our Asheville, NC facility, we partner with some of the best American companies who specialize in applying the highest possible quality finishes to our products. Just as we are experts at designing and building great sounding high performance exhausts, our partners are experts at what they do.
Many people think they’re looking at chrome when they look at a chrome muffler, but in actuality, what they see is nickel. Chrome is simply a form of a “clear coat” that acts as a corrosion protector over multiple layers of nickel. The cool shiny plating that you see is actually the top layer of nickel, which is also commonly called “bright nickel.” Underneath is a different layer of nickel with a goldish hue, which is commonly called “semi-bright” nickel. This layer acts as a fantastic corrosion protectant against the substrate metal of the canister or heat shield.
In the chroming process, parts are hung and suspended on a rack and travel down a line of deep rectangular tanks that look like huge bathtubs. Each tank is filled with a different fluid, starting with cleaning fluids, and then progressing through tanks of semi-bright nickel, bright nickel, chromium, and finishing in rinse tanks. The parts are dipped and submerged into each of the tanks for a specified amount of time, and then raised and rolled to the next tank, going down the line of baths.
In each tank, a positive and negative electrical charge is applied, one to the fluid in the different baths and the other to the actual metal parts on the rack. The charges cause the molecules of nickel or chromium to fall out of the solution and adhere to the exhaust pieces, almost like a magnet would act if you dropped it in a pan of iron shavings. The different layers of plating build on top of each other, creating a “fortress” against the corrosions of road grime, salt, and dirt. Once complete, the newly nickel-chrome plated pieces are given a quality check before being sent back to our facility for polishing, final assembly and quality checks.
Our chrome exhaust systems are polished with a multi-step belt and buff process. Some other exhaust manufacturers only use a single belt and sisal buff wheel finish, but each Rinehart part goes through belt after belt, and finishes with a furniture grade buffing cloth application to ensure that we have that mirror like finish. Look for polish or belt lines in the other brand’s chrome finish and you’ll see them, but you’ll be hard pressed to find them on a Rinehart part. While cheaper polish can create a ripple effect or streaks under the nickel chrome plating, Rinehart Racing chrome exhausts have a smooth finish and look like glass.
In addition to our suppliers doing a quality check on the exhaust products, each part is examined no less than four times at the manufacturing facility: once at the receiving dock, again at the initial assembly process, during assembly, and then on final cleaning before being packaged. No other brand in the industry can tell you with assurance that 100% of their parts are checked for premium quality standards that many times! Other brands may let second-quality parts by or even sell them as a “scratch and dent,” but we have taken a stance to never put our name on anything that’s not premium, first quality and the best in the industry. Any products we find that don’t meet our tight specification standards are pulled out, sent back through a process, or destroyed. Finally, all of our assembled exhaust products are cleaned, wiped down by hand, and given one more look over before being wrapped and packaged up for shipping to your door or your nearby dealership.
We take great pride in the finished exhausts that we send out into the world, but just keep in mind that these finishes are not bulletproof. Remember to never use cleaning products that contain ammonia or acetone, as this can damage the finish of your exhaust. Avoid using steel wool or abrasives if you accidentally get that rain suit against a heat shield. Treat your exhaust well and it will provide you with mile after mile of the best performance, the best style, and the very best sound in the world!