By Lenny Rudow
How to Restore Faded Gel Coat on a Boat
Faded, chalky, oxidized gel coat can be brought back to its original luster and shine, with these simple steps.
Does the gel coat on your boat look chalky and old and need to be restored to shine once again? No problem—a little elbow grease, a buffer, some basic cleaning supplies, and a few hours of your time is all it takes. Check out the video or read below, to see how you can get Mom’s Mink back to her original shimmering glory.
Step 1: Start by taping off the boat’s rub rail, fittings, and other items that can’t be removed, but could get scuffed up by the buffer. Then get a good oxidation remover (there are plenty of them available on the shelves of your local boating supply store), and thoroughly buff the gel coat with a power buffer. As you do so, remember to keep that buffer moving; hold it steady in one spot, and you could end up with an uneven shine.
*WARNING* After applying liquid oxidation remover to the power buffer, be sure to place it against the fiberglass before hitting the power button—otherwise, the buffer will send the liquid flying!
Step 2: If you’re an angler, the next step is to lay down a coating of protective bee’s (paste) wax. It’ll help make it easier to remove fish blood, scales, and chum. Do this coat by hand, then continue on to Step 3.
Step 3: Now it’s time to apply a coating that will help seal the gel coat, and make it shine. You can use either carnauba wax (for the brightest shine) or fiberglass polish (for a longer-lasting shine) for this step. Both provide an excellent finish, though neither provides as protective a barrier as that paste wax does. This coating can also be applied with a power buffer, but be sure to change the bonnet first – never mix cleaners, oxidation removers, waxes, or polishes on the same bonnet.
Step 4: Working on the boat in sections, as the wax or polish dries, change bonnets again and use a fresh one to remove the excess dried wax or polish.
Step 5: Think you’re finished? Think again—now it’s time to start over and give the boat a second coating of wax or polish, because one coat is never enough to bring out that awesome shine we’re looking for. And, now for the bad news: this entire second coat should be done by hand, so the buffer doesn’t remove too much of the first coat as you apply the second one.
Step 6: With carnauba wax, your shine should last for a couple of weeks. If it’s finished with polish you may get up to a month of shine. Beyond that, sun and rain will weather away that pretty finish. Boaters who want to look good all the time will plan to re-wax every few weeks.
Need some materials to get this job started? Visit the Maintenance section of the Boats.com Gear and Parts Store.
- Lenny Rudow is Senior Editor for Dominion Marine Media, including Boats.com and Yachtworld.com. With over two decades of experience in marine journalism, he has contributed to publications including Boating Magazine, Marlin Magazine, Boating World, Saltwater Sportsman, Texas Fish & Game, and many others. Lenny is a graduate of the Westlawn School of Yacht Design who has won 28 BWI and OWAA writing awards.
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