Restoring Faded Gel Coat

If your boat is more than a year or two old, the gel coat probably doesn’t look as good as it once did – luckily, restoring it to the original shiny, lustrous look is a lot easier than you might think. Will it take a lot of elbow grease? Sure, but thanks to modern orbital buffers and oxidation removers, most of that “elbow grease” comes courtesy of squirting a bottle and pressing a button.

I’ll outline the process right now, but if you want to see how it goes first hand, check out my How to Restore Gel Coat video.

1. Tape off any part of the boat (such as rub rails and fittings) which could be damaged by the buffer.

2. Put a fresh bonnet on your orbital buffer, and squirt on some oxidation remover. Then run the buffer over the fiberglass with light, even pressure. This will remove the chalky-looking oxidation, and after a few passes of the buffer the fiberglass will look shiny again.

3. Now you need to put on a protective layer of paste wax. This is best done by hand, so set the buffer aside for a while – but don’t put it away just yet!

4. With the paste wax application complete, the boat will look good. But don’t stop here. Adding a coat of liquid carnauba-based wax or a boat polish will make the lustrous shine really come through. So put a new bonnet on that buffer, squirt on some carnauba wax, and get back to work.

5. She’s really gleaming? Good – now give the boat a second coat of polish or wax, and it’ll look down-right spectacular.

Good job, now that boat is really looking awesome. But remember: carnauba waxes only last a couple of weeks, before the sun and weather wear them away. And even the paste wax is only good for a month or two. So after four to six weeks, go back to step 3 and start over again. Maintain the gel coat from here on out, and you’ll keep that nasty oxidation at bay indefinitely.

gel coat oxidation

When the gel coat on your boat gets chalky and dull, you need to get rid of the oxidation, then lay down some wax.

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