As grille guards are becoming more popular on big rigs, truckers are asking for advice on the best guard to buy. We frequently hear questions about finishes. Drivers want to know if a chrome-plated grille guard is better than one plated with black oxide. That depends on what you are after.
Grille guards are functional pieces of equipment first. They are intended to prevent damage to the front end of a truck in the event of contact with an animal, another vehicle, a guard rail, etc. Beyond function is aesthetic value. Some truckers install grille guards just because they look awesome. That’s okay.
The Chrome Grille Guard
A chrome grille guard will not perform measurably better than a black oxide guard for the most part. Black oxide finishes are a bit more ductile as compared to more brittle chrome, but the average trucker isn’t going to notice the difference. So why go with chrome? Aesthetics.
There is no denying that polished chrome is stunning. That’s why truckers whose rigs are mainly showpieces include as much chrome as they can fit on the body. You have chrome toolboxes, headache racks, exhaust, bumpers, and grille guards.
Although black oxide looks pretty slick in its own right, it doesn’t quite shine – literally or figuratively. That makes it an unpopular choice among showpiece owners. A possible exception are those owners hoping to achieve a different kind of look.
The Black Oxide Grille Guard
Black oxide is not as common an option for big rig grille guards as compared to those made for pickup trucks and jeeps. Nonetheless, you can still find them if you know where to look. Black oxide compliments trucks with dark colors like black, navy blue, and so forth. It doesn’t look so good on lighter colored trucks.
Just like chrome plating, black oxide is applied through a process that creates an electrical charge on the surface of the metal. The black oxide powder adheres to that surface due to an opposite charge. The two charges create a bond that is nearly impossible to break.
Black oxide is more resistant to chips and scratches than chrome, so that is something to think about. If the grille guard you choose is all about utility and nothing less, you cannot go wrong with either plating choice.
The Brushed Steel Grille Guard
We mentioned in the introduction of this post that deciding to go with chrome or black oxide is really a matter of determining what you are after. As such, it might be that neither one is your best choice. The best grille guard for you might be made of polished stainless steel.
Polished stainless steel is as durable and functional as chrome and black oxide plating. It looks darn good too. The best part is that it doesn’t require nearly the same level of maintenance as chrome. And it is even better than black oxide in terms of scratch and chip resistance.
The thing with polished stainless steel is that there is no exterior coating. That means it is not going to show chips a few minutes after installation. It is not going to tarnish as quickly or easily, either. So while you might be constantly polishing chrome to keep it looking good, there is significantly less work involved with polished stainless steel.
At the end of the day, there is no functional advantage to either of the three options. Whether you choose chrome, black oxide, or polished stainless steel really boils down to your aesthetic standards and how much effort you want to put into keeping your grille guard looking good.