Piston Slap: The Ultra Luxury Package, Peeled

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta
piston slap the ultra luxury package peeled

TTAC Commentator WaftableTorque writes:

I’m driving a 2002 Lexus LS430 with Ultra Luxury Package. It has OEM 17″ chrome rims, and one of the tires has an air leak. My mechanic diagnosed the problem as peeling chrome at the bead, causing an improper air seal. I asked to put a tube on it, but he refused because of the potential for overheating, and they weren’t designed for tubes anyway. He also commented during my seasonal rotation that the other 3 rims are doing the same thing, so they’ll all eventually develop leaks. He recommended getting 4 new rims.

Fortunately this car has a full-size spare, so I’m not in a hurry to replace the one rim. The chrome is peeling on a couple of the non-leaking ones near the lip where it’s been curbed by yours truly, but otherwise they look new.

I’m going to put my winter tires on aftermarket rims this fall, but want to keep the OEM rims for summer duty. My goal is tasteful understatement, so I want my car as close to stock as possible.

My question is: can a reputable wheel shop fix these rims?

Sajeev Answers:

Since you’re the dude who confirmed what we all assumed, telling us that Ford CEO Alan Mulally is a connoisseur of LS430s with the Ultra Luxury Package (LINK: http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/ask-the-best-and-brightest-is-that-a-lexus-in-the-jet-gate-video/), I suspect your intentions to keep it stock are honest. And why not? You’re certainly in good company.

If my experiences with OEM chrome plating are any example, your problem is far from uncommon. And the aftermarket, if researched properly, does an excellent job re-chroming…anything. The problem is cost: a used set of (hopefully) peel free wheels are cheaper. But that’s hit or miss, so I’d recommend getting the stock wheels re-chromed. Local chrome shops, harder to find these days due to tightening environmental regulations, can make anything have a brilliant and durable chrome finish.

So do your homework. Check out multiple shops, see who does high-end restoration work. My folks had a set of rare Concinnity triangular bathroom fixtures in need of fresh plating, and only a couple of shops were prepared to do the necessary surface preparation and brilliant refinishing needed. I found a shop known for aircraft-grade work, paid a King’s Ransom, waited 4 weeks, and was rewarded with a set of absolutely stunning bathroom fixtures straight from the 1980s school of striking modern design. Worth every penny!

While I doubt you’ll get the bang for the buck of our Concinnity fixtures, finding a proper Plater for your wheels will net you a lifetime of happy motoring. Best of luck with that.

Send your queries to mehta@ttac.com

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2 of 34 comments
  • Waftable Torque Waftable Torque on Jul 07, 2010

    It looks like my mechanic put Slime on all the tires (it's green right?), and the leak disappeared. I'm taking from the thread that this stuff holds up, and that's good enough for me. I found a few web sites like finishlinewheels.com which sell OEM wheels, but since I'll probably keep the car another 5-7 years it's good to know I have some options.

  • Brandloyalty Brandloyalty on Jul 07, 2010

    Alloy wheels at first had no coating and got very dirty, corroded etc. Now, most alloy wheels are painted, either with clear coat over anodized alloy, or clear coat over (grey) paint. Or, they are chrome plated. Problems continue. Any nick in the painted rims starts corroding. Moisture can't dry out through the nick, and the corrosion spreads on the surface of the alloy, under the clear coat or paint. If this corrosion spreads around the outer edge of the rim, and under the bead, you end up with a leak. Sealants etc. can only do so much to fix this. The true solution is to have the rims refinished, which costs as much as new aftermarket rims. Chromed alloy rims that are peeling are a lost cause. An expensive lost cause. You can't sandblast the chrome off. Removing the unpeeled chrome without damaging the rim surface doesn't happen. The chrome just does not conveniently all peel off at the same time. So if chromed alloy rims start peeling, as they will, costly replacement seems to be the only solution. Just look at 10-25 year old cars and see what a mess the alloy rims are on many of them. These circumstances are a hidden cost to using alloy wheels on cars. You can have the tires removed and do a DIY job on the painted ones yourself, but you won't get a perfect result. Plasti-Kote makes a nice enamel spray clear coat.

  • Lorenzo In Massachusetts, they used to require an inspection every 6 months, checking your brake lights, turn signals, horn, and headlight alignment, for two bucks.Now I get an "inspection" every two years in California, and all they check is the smog. MAYBE they notice the tire tread, squeaky brakes, or steering when they drive it into the bay, but all they check is the smog equipment and tailpipe emissions.For all they would know, the headlights, horn, and turn signals might not work, and the car has a "speed wobble" at 45 mph. AFAIK, they don't even check EVs.
  • Not Tire shop mechanic tugging on my wheel after I complained of grinding noise didn’t catch that the ball joint was failing. Subsequently failed to prevent the catastrophic failure of the ball joint and separation of the steering knuckle from the car! I’ve never lived in a state that required annual inspection, but can’t say that having the requirement has any bearing on improving safety given my experience with mechanics…
  • Mike978 Wow 700 days even with the recent car shortages.
  • Lorenzo The other automakers are putting silly horsepower into the few RWD vehicles they have, just as Stellantis is about to kill off the most appropriate vehicles for that much horsepower. Somehow, I get the impression the OTHER Carlos, Tavares, not Ghosn, doesn't have a firm grasp of the American market.
  • UncleAL ...Oh, did I forget ? My Dodge Challenger gets 50% more gas mileage and 200% more fun !