When Should I Re Chrome Plate My Hydraulic Cylinder Rod?

Do you see pitting, some unusual scars, or scratching on your hydraulic cylinder rod? Are you worried that you’ve never had your equipment hard chrome plated before? It might be time to either repair or replace your chrome cylinder rod, today we’re going to find out what’s most beneficial for you. We’re going to go through all the questions you should be asking yourself, as well as the pros and cons of re-chrome plating. Also, we’re going into other ways you can refinish your cylinder rod.

Is It Time to Repair or Chrome Plate my Cylinder Rod?

The average hydraulic cylinder rod is made out of steel or stainless steel and flash plated with a hard industrial chrome plating or electroless nickel plating. It is then finished with grinding and polishing to ensure a smooth surface for your piston seals to run up and down on. The high mirror finish polish creates a near frictionless surface for your hydraulic seals to operate on. Below is a set of questions we normally ask our customers to guide them to the optimal chrome repair. Additionally, you can click here for a repair estimate Estimates

  • What’s the length and diameter of the chrome cylinder rod?

We ask this for many reasons but to keep it short, we ask this for estimation purposes on the repair, and also to make sure you’re getting the right repair type for your project (more on this below)

  • Is there any scarring, pitting, peeling, rust, dents, etc.?

Any issues with the finish of the cylinder rod will decrease the life of the hydraulic seals tremendously. Even hairline scratches, stuff you could barely feel with a fingernail will reduce the life of the seals and thus the entire hydraulic unit.

  • If no to the above, are there any visible abrasions or scratches that you can’t feel?

More often than not, if your hydraulic cylinder rod doesn’t have any tactile damages it can just be polished or lightly O.D ground to re-surface it. The only thing that would prevent this simple of a is the cylinder rods’ chrome density. Lightly flashed hard chrome-plated rods don’t have enough material to suffice to resurface without adding more chrome. Most cheaper OEMs don’t include high-density chrome buildup on their rods. (More on this type of repair below)

Chrome Hydraulic Cylinder Rod repair Being Belt Sanded

Here’s How We Repair Your Hydraulic Cylinder Rod


    1. Thoroughly clean the rod for visual inspection
    2. Assess all damages, locate any and all scratches, marks, scoring, dents, etc.
    3. All parts are then precisely measured and compared to the OEM’s original sizing.
    4. Run all non-destructive tests for cracks and cavities including visual inspection, dye penetrant testing, and ultrasonic testing.
    5. Contact customer with a detailed inspection report containing all failures, problems, and faults. We also send the report by e-mail with various types of media included.
    6. Strip the cylinder rod of all previous chrome material either by O.D grinding, or electrolytic stripping.
    7. Weld any deep scores or gaps if neeeded.
    8. O.D grind down to allow further chrome buildup Tighter tolerances ensure a uniform chrome buildup and better finish tolerances
    9. We then thoroughly clean the rod again to prep for chrome plating, this will rid any contaminants or debris from grinding. This step is crucial in the re-chroming process any contaminants will produce pitting or pinholes in the finished hard chrome. Failure at this step will even produce flaking or peeling and severely reduce the life of the plating.
    10. Masking to ensure a clean professional finish.
    11. Hard chrome plate the rod, they’re placed in the chrome tank for some time to allow the buildup of chrome to the rod. We purposely leave the chrome plated hydraulic cylinder rod oversized at this step so we can resurface it to the correct size.
    12. Post grind in our O.D grinder (T.I.R 0.0002 per linear ft) to reduce the size closer to print.
    13. We will then precisely belt sand on a lathe and then finish in a high mirror finish polish to the OEM’s recommended O.D.
    14. Inspection for pinholes, cracks, diametrical roundness, etc. You will also be sent media and files of all our repairs.
    15. Prepare for shipment, this includes wrapping in foam, cardboard, and a crate when applicable.

The finished product is a perfectly repaired, chromed hydraulic cylinder rod, even better than new. 

This extensive and sophisticated repair process not only promises your hydraulic rod will be better than new, but it will also even outperform, and outlast the competition & the OEM. We’ve been repairing hydraulic equipment for over 35+ years and through determination and pride, we have perfected the repair process to keep our customers coming back. More About Us & Our Repair Standards

Chrome Hydraulic Cylinder Stock

Other Ways to Repair Chrome Cylinder Rods.

Although we recommend it on nearly every project that walks in our shop, sometimes re-chroming just isn’t possible or isn’t the right answer for the repair needed at hand. It’s possible that chrome isn’t the right application, maybe you need electroless nickel plating (we do that). Or there is something wrong internally with the cylinder rod. Maybe it’s just in too bad of shape. Here are some other ways to refinish the surface of a cylinder. 

  • O.D Grind & Polish

Sometimes it isn’t completely necessary to go through stripping, grinding, hard chrome plating, and finish grinding on a rod. When the wear & tear is negligible, and the rod is concentric, and the chrome is in good shape, a simple light O.D grind and polish will resurface it to suffice a great repair. A light grind (kiss grind) can sometimes be even more beneficial compared to the entire rebuild process. When you factor in cost, time, and quality, if your cylinder isn’t in bad shape this would be the most cost-effective, and time-effective way to get you back up and running. Even if we recommend the re-chroming process for life expectancy reasons, if you’re in a pinch this should be your choice permitting your hydraulic cylinder rod isn’t in that bad of shape.

  • High Mirror Finish Polishing

Here’s the one everyone wants, it’s possible you can get away with just a polish, permitting your cylinder rod is in great shape. This would mean your cylinder doesn’t have any noticeable blemishes, defects, or marks. Your cylinder might have some micro-abrasions, or swirl marks (think like a black car in the sun). This is the ideal state your cylinder rod should be in. A low cost, fast, and simple polish might just be all you need. 

  • Hydraulic Cylinder Rod Remanufacturing

Sounds scary? It’s really not! Sometimes this can be more cost-effective and more time effective than re-chroming. Shocking we know, whenever this comes up to customers, it isn’t the most ideal to customers and possibly you, but we’re going to tell you why you should consider just remanufacturing the rod (we also offer this service).

1. Cost

It could end up costing less to remanufacture a cylinder rod versus rechroming. There are multiple variables that come into play, but the most common is the wear of the cylinder rod. Firstly is cracks and valleys, some cracks are repairable, some are not. Secondly is straightness, if the rod is bent too out of shape the structure of the rod itself is compromised and we don’t recommend repairing it. Thirdly and finally, if the gouges, scarring or rust is to bad, we couldn’t possibly attempt to hard chrome plate it and put our name on it.

2. Time

Yes, you heard that right. It’s possible that the turnaround time could be quicker with remanufacturing versus rechroming. If the hydraulic cylinder isn’t intricate or requires a bunch of machine time. If it’s just a standard cylinder rod, more often than not it’s more cost-effective and time-effective than re-chroming. I’ve seen it countless times where we had a customer who needed their equipment back ASAP and we were actually able to remanufacture the cylinder at a better cost, and at a faster turnaround time than to chrome plate it. We have chrome rods in stock up to 55′ in length, and at numerous diameters for this reason alone. All it’ll take is a cut, lathe, and prep to get the rod ready for the barrel and back in service.

Chrome Hydraulic Cylinder Rod Repair On Precision O.D Grinder

Sometimes the obvious choice isn’t so obvious. It could be that remanufacturing your hydraulic cylinder rod is more beneficial than re-chroming. Maybe you don’t need to hard chrome plate to get an awesome repair. Evaluate your options. Make sure you as a customer is getting the service you not only need, but you’re also making the right choice.

Talk to your nearest hydraulic shop about your project. Or you can even talk to us, we can give estimations, troubleshooting, advice, and recommendations all for free, no matter your location. We can even handle your project all online through e-mail and likewise. Ross Hydraulics has been in the hydraulic repair business for over 35+ years, and personally, I’ve been doing this for over 10 years. We hope this will help with any of the questions you might’ve had about chrome plating on your hydraulic cylinder rods. If you have anything else we didn’t cover here feel free to visit our website. Link to Hydraulic Cylinder Repair by RHI