Whether you’re looking under the hood, inspecting the fuel system or tearing apart the chassis of a modern automobile, you’re likely to find many parts and components that are plated with zinc. In fact, zinc plays a key factor in today’s extended corrosion warranties offered by many leading automotive manufacturers; zinc-coated parts are now able to withstand up to 1,000 hours of salt spray testing, which is especially beneficial in harsh winter climates where road salt is liberally applied to help motorists gain traction in snowy conditions.
What Is Zinc, Anyway?
Zinc is a metallic chemical element; it’s actually the 24th most abundant element found in the crust of the Earth. Zinc is also the fourth-most commonly used metal today, topped only by iron, copper and aluminum in terms of annual tons produced. Because of its superior anti-corrosive properties, zinc’s primary industrial application is for galvanization, which is the process of adding a zinc coating to steel or iron to protect against premature rusting. Zinc is especially beneficial because it provides a two-pronged corrosion defense. It initially serves as a barrier coating, and also as a sacrificial coating that undergoes a higher level of oxidation than the underlying metal surface. In effect, zinc attracts oxidation until it completely corrodes away.
Using a Zinc-Nickel Alloy for a Wide Range of Automotive Applications
While zinc and nickel have long been used separately for numerous plating applications, in the past 25 years or so, a practical and cost-effective zinc-nickel alloy for plating purposes has been developed for use in the United States. Nickel significantly enhances the already formidable anti-corrosion properties of zinc, while also providing the additional benefit of greater aesthetic appeal due to its lustrous appearance. Automotive manufacturing applications for zinc and zinc-nickel plating include:
- Engine and other under-the-hood components
- Power steering systems
- Brake parts and systems
- Air-conditioning components and systems
- Chassis hardware
- Climate control components
- Fuel systems
Low Cost of Zinc Appeals to Automotive Manufacturers
As companies in all types of automotive manufacturing-related industries continue to recover from the economic crisis of 2008 and 2009, finding ways to keep costs low remains a critical focus. Zinc plating is typically much less expensive than other processes using more costly metals, and it should continue to be an attractive alternative for any company seeking to hold or improve its position in today’s ultra-competitive marketplace.
Sharretts Plating Company offers both rack zinc plating and barrel zinc plating processes that are ideally suited for numerous automotive manufacturing applications. The experienced SPC staff has hundreds of years of combined experience in providing customized and cost-effective zinc and zinc-nickel plating solutions for companies throughout the automotive industry.