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Do-It-Yourself Boat Repairs

Posted May 15th, 2012
by Amanda Rodriguez (no comments)

Summer break is here and the water has never looked better! So it’s time to dig your boat out of storage and dust off the seats. Sunburns and cold drinks are just around the corner for the party goers but there are a few things you want to double-check before a day on the lake takes a catastrophic turn for the worse.


Maintenance Checks

Before shoving off for a fun-filled adventure in your watercraft, check the following for necessary repairs or cleaning to ensure everything functions properly.

Oil Change: If your motor has seen little activity for the winter months, chances are the oil could use a refresher. Changing the oil removes built up crud and potential debris from harming the engine and performance.

Windshield Wipers: Give the wipers a swish to test and make sure they don’t streak or the rubber hasn’t disintegrated. Harsh winter temperatures can harden the rubber and cause it to crumble in places. Thankfully, replacing wipers is an inexpensive repair that is easy to do yourself.

Upholstery: Remove the seats and check for unwanted guests who might have taken up residency in the cushions over the winter. Typical creatures that like hiding in boats include moths, roaches, spiders, and on occasion, even mice. Since they’re not invited to the party, a quick extermination is advised.

Hull Hound: Although a sinking boat makes for an exciting movie scene, you rarely want to deal with it yourself. Get out your spectacles and scour the hull of your boat for holes, cracks, oxidation, or any other hazardous elements. Pay particular attention to the seams, as this area is prone to leakage.


DIY Repairs

After you’ve done the mandatory once-over, make a list of any necessary repairs. Smaller issues like windshield wipers can be replaced at a relatively low cost and without difficult installation. Other do-it-yourself fixes include sewing or patching seat cushions, scraping debris off the hull, and changing the oil. Even paint jobs can be done yourself with a steady hand and the correct color and type of paint.

It’s not crucial for safety’s sake that the bright colors on your boat be refreshed periodically but it certainly helps increase the visibility to others and improves the look of your craft in general. If you have special lights on your boat, replacing burnt bulbs is easy to do yourself as well. Certain lights have to be special ordered from a parts store, so if you’re planning to use them for a specific event, place your order well in advance.


Gel Coats

This is a resin-paint that seals most fiberglass boats to protect the hull and add a glossy shine. Gel coats can become dull or oxidized, or collect grease over time, which puts your hull at risk of deteriorating. All of these issues can be taken care of yourself with proper cleaning products and a little elbow grease. The first step is always cleaning, which preps the gel coat for everything else. A simple solution of detergent in a gallon of warm water is easily applied with a sponge to clean the surface. In the case of mildew, add about a cup of bleach to the solution, and for even tougher stains, apply the bleach in concentrated form directly to the stain.

Degreasing when necessary is the next step. Wax or polish will not stick properly if grease is present. On more porous fiberglass boats, a detergent cleaning may not remove all traces of grease but an all-over wipe with cloth soaked in acetone or the preferred Methyl Ethyl Ketone (MEK) will sufficiently rid the hull of grease. In the case of oxidization, using a rubber compound as a scrub will eliminate the problem. Commercial scrubs are also available in the event of severe oxidization.

Following the cleaning and degreasing, the last step in proper gel coat maintenance is waxing. Prior to waxing, some people like to polish the surface of the gel coat and remove excess texture to provide the smoothest possible surface. Special abrasives and cleaning agents can be purchased to aid with this. As with most waxes, you can apply your boat wax by hand with a sponge or cloth in circular motions. After it dries, buff it with a clean cloth. Wax fills the pores in the gel coat and adds a beautiful reflective shine to the hull. It also protects the boat from water damage, oxidization, mold, and mildew.



Most boats are made with fiberglass hulls that can be difficult to repair in the event of damage. Although commercial self-repair kits are available on the market, it requires a certain amount of expertise to ensure a decent repair. It may be less time-consuming and more cost effective to have a professional or competent friend do the repair for you. For those brave enough to repair fiberglass damage themselves check out this helpful guide on


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