Chrome Trim: Overlay vs. Replacement

Chrome Trim

One of the more eye-catching tricks automobile manufacturers have used to differentiate higher-priced luxury versions of a car model from value-priced versions of it has been to vary the amount of chrome trim on the vehicle. Base model cars and trucks (also known as "strippers" or "entry level") have little if any chrome while luxury and top-of-the-line ones have the most chrome. In years past, plain Jane cars were simply painted in all areas instead of being chromed. In more recent decades, the low-cost replacement of choice has become black plastic. This makes base models easier than ever to spot because the eye catches hard on black plastic. Completely missing is the pleasing chrome finish on grilles, door trim, mirror assemblies, light bezels, and other areas. Base models end up looking more like fleet vehicles or work trucks than anything prestigious, especially to people who aren't automotive enthusiasts.

Chevy Silverado Base Model
The left picture is a Chevy Silverado base model.
Chevy Silverado With Top Of The Line Trim Package
The right picture is the same truck with the top-of-the-line trim package. The difference in MSRP of these two was over $20,000.We have all the chrome trim pieces you need to achieve this same look, for far less $$.

Perhaps a base model was all you could afford new or maybe you got a good deal on a pre-owned vehicle the way it was. But now you've got a few dollars to spend and you'd like to make your ride a little classier. We can help you do just that because in our Chrome Trim & Accessories section we've got a variety of exterior trim pieces which bring the look of chrome to your door pillars, window frames, exterior mirrors, door handles, fenders, tail lights, headlights, rocker panels, doors, bumpers, tailgates, and trunks. We've even got engine cover pieces for those who want to create a custom look under the hood. In this article, we'll clarify the two main styles of decorative trim pieces you'll find - "Replacement" and "Overlay".

"Replacement" Trim Parts
New Door Handle Installation Process
Replacement parts typically require more labor. For example, installing new door handles or side mirror assemblies requires removing the interior door panel.

Just as it implies, Replacement means completely replacing a black plastic part with a totally different one that's chrome-finished. Replacement trim pieces involve more effort and, in some cases, more technical knowledge to install than overlay pieces. Traditionally, you would either pay a high cost for a new one from a dealer or save money by getting a used part of unknown quality from a junkyard vehicle. To provide a welcome third alternative, we offer good prices on replacement trim parts for areas of the vehicle where it's practical. While fender trim may be easy to pop off and on, replacing an entire grille can entail removing the front bumper cover. And if you want to swap out door handles or mirror assemblies, removing the interior door panel and rooting around in narrow cavities is a given.

"Overlay" Trim

An overlay is not a complete part itself, but a thin cover made from automotive grade plastic or stainless steel which fits over an existing part. While decorative plastic trim always comes with chrome plating, stainless steel overlay pieces may or may not. When a part is listed as "polished stainless steel", it means the bare metal itself has been buffed smooth and polished to the point where it looks like chrome. Because overlay parts need to be thin enough not to alter the shape or size of the original part, we know that high strength and proper fit are absolutely mandatory. So we've contracted with vendors that have demonstrated a proven track record of producing overlay trim parts of accurate dimensions, precise thicknesses, and high durability. We want our customers to tell us they can't tell the overlay from a factory replacement part - whether it's right after installation, or years down the road.

Most Overlays are secured in place with 3M™ double-sided acrylic foam tape. This tape has proven effective enough to be used by most automobile manufacturers on their assembly lines to attach trim bits. Because no drilling is required, there's no need to worry about creating holes where compromised metal can turn into rust. A foam core allows tape to expand and contract evenly during extreme temperature changes, and it provides conformity over surface irregularities. Installation is not only simpler; there are no unsightly fasteners to deal with. After a pre-cleaning of the body part with a prep agent to make sure no oil or waxy substances inhibit adherence, the overlay part with pre-applied tape is pressed into place. The exception to 3M™ tape is overlay grilles which are attached with hidden clamps and bolts.

Chrome Door Handle Cover Installation
This series of three pictures illustrates how easy it is to attach overlay trim pieces such as chrome door handle covers.
A Guide To Chrome Trim You'll Find In Our Section:
Pillar Posts

Pillar Posts: These are overlay pieces that fit over your vehicle's existing vertical door posts. They may be made from stainless steel with a bare metal polished finish, or made from stainless steel or plastic with a chrome finish. They mount easily without drilling using double-sided 3M adhesive tape.

Window Trim

Window Trim: These overlay pieces fit on top of sections of the door frame other than the pillar posts (see above). They may be made from stainless steel with a bare metal polished finish, or made from stainless steel or plastic with a chrome finish. They mount easily without drilling using double-sided 3M adhesive tape.

Mirror Covers

Mirror Covers: Overlay pieces that fit on top your vehicle's exterior side view mirror housings. Depending on vehicle application, they may cover a portion of the housing or the entire thing. Made from durable ABS plastic, these feature a chrome finish and mount easily using double-sided 3M adhesive tape.

Door Handles

Door Handles: Most of what we offer in this section are overlay pieces (ABS plastic with chrome finish) that come with up to 4 separate pieces per door handle, depending on the design of your vehicle's OEM handles. In this section, you'll also find complete replacement handle sets that require installation in the door. We even offer replacement door handles with built-in LED light strips. And if you own a pickup truck, we've also got similar products for tailgate handles.

Fender Trim

Fender Trim: These are pieces that highlight the top section of your vehicle's wheel well openings. These either replace existing trim sections, or install where no trim exists at all. Most fender trim we offer is made from stainless steel with either a bare metal polished finish or a chrome finish. See individual product descriptions for installation - some come with hardware such as small screws, and others use double-sided 3M tape.

Tail Light Bezels

Tail Light Bezels: These are contoured to fit over your vehicle's rear tail light lens covers. While these could be considered an overlay on vehicles not already equipped with such trim, these would effectively replace any existing factory pieces. Made from durable ABS plastic, these feature a chrome finish and mount easily using double-sided 3M adhesive tape. We offer clean, simple designs as well as bezels with intricate custom patterns. Some even offer built-in LED strips. We've also got trim for 3rd brake light assemblies.

Headlight Bezels

Headlight Bezels: These are overlay trim pieces designed to mount around the border of your headlight assemblies. All of the headlight bezels we sell come with chrome-plated finish, and may be made from stainless steel or ABS plastic. Mounting is easy with double-sided adhesive tape that's included.

Rocker Panels

Rocker Panels: These are trim pieces that replace original equipment, or install where there was none previously. Extending between front and rear wheel openings along the bottom of the vehicle, rocker panel moldings we offer are all made from stainless steel and polished to a shine that rivals chrome. On some vehicles, textured black powder coat finish can be selected. All install with double-sided tape.

Body Side Moldings

Body Side Moldings: These trim pieces mount horizontally approximately halfway up your vehicle's side doors, serving to replace original equipment or install where there were none previously. We offer both polished stainless steel body side moldings as well as plastic pieces finished with chrome. They install with double-sided tape or liquid adhesive that's included. If you've got a late-model Mustang or Camaro, we've also got a molding kit designed to accentuate creases in the original body panels.

Bumper Trim

Bumper Trim: In this sub-section, you'll find overlay pieces designed to be placed on top of and around bare painted plastic bumper covers, air vent slots, vertical trunk sections between tail lights, and more. Whether you choose bumper trim pieces made of polished stainless steel or chrome-plated plastic, all kits we sell install easily with 3M double-sided tape.

Tailgate Trim

Tailgate Trim: These are overlay molding pieces designed to install horizontally on the surface of painted metal tailgates. We've got simple, straightforward pieces for those seeking a more toned-down look, and we've got trim pieces that include a matching overlay for the rear tailgate handle. Whether you choose tailgate trim pieces made of polished stainless steel or chrome-plated plastic, all kits we sell install easily with 3M double-sided tape.

Trunk Trim

Trunk Trim: Here, we've got overlay pieces fitted to surround vehicle manufacturer logos typically found above the rear license plates on sedans/coupes as well as liftgates on hatchbacks and SUVs. Because they're meant to install in areas where there is no existing trim, these can be considered overlays. However, they would not fit over any existing trim that's similar, necessitating replacement in such cases. We've also got "rear deck trim" pieces for those looking to create an accent line along the bottom edge of the trunk lid. Whether you choose trunk trim pieces made of polished stainless steel or chrome-plated plastic, all kits we sell install easily with 3M double-sided tape. Additional selections can be found on our Rear Hatch Trim page.

Gas Caps

Gas Caps: In this section we have overlay pieces that mount on your vehicle's existing fuel filler door, and we have replacement gas cap assemblies made of plastic, aluminum, and stainless steel. Overlay pieces may be made from polished stainless steel or plastic with chrome finish and mount easily with double-sided 3M adhesive tape. Replacement fuel doors of aluminum are available with chrome finish, and some even come with a built-in lock and key for extra security during gas shortages.

Engine Trim

Engine Trim: Here, you'll find a number of fitted replacement cover pieces for various engine compartment components such as main engine shrouds, air boxes, fuse boxes as well as replacement fluid filler caps for various fluid filler necks, oil breather caps, etc. Depending on the product and the vehicle, these replacement pieces may be polished steel or aluminum, or traditional mild steel with chrome.

To help guide you through the selection of replacement and overlay trim pieces we offer, we've set up the corresponding Chrome Trim & Accessories section of our website to provide you with al the choices that will fit your vehicle. Enter your specific make, model, and year in the drop down boxes before your search to see applicable choices. Or, enter vehicle information after entering an individual page.

Whether you buy one piece of chrome trim or enough pieces to restyle your car from front to rear, take pride in how the addition of some brightwork can bedazzle your ride! Since most of these pieces are designed for the DIY'er like yourself, you'll save even more money - hey, then you can buy more chrome trim!


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