Fiberglass Maintenance: What is Important, and What is Not?

With spring in the air, it’s time to do a slew of basic maintenance on your boat. One question that comes up often is fiberglass – do you really need to do all of that waxing and buffing, or is it all strictly for appearances’ sake?

You’ve probably seen plenty of fiberglass boats with a dull, chalky appearance. That’s the result of oxidation, which is the slow degredation of the gel coat’s surface due to interaction with air and sunlight. A fiberglass maintenance regime including lots of wax is the best way to prevent it, since wax creates a protective barrier for the gel coat.

Boats with heavy oxidation look lousy, and this may hold more importance than you’d think. The first reason is resale value. If a boat looks awful, it’ll be a lot harder to sell and will bring a lower price. That should be reason enough to break out the wax every spring. But if that alone isn’t enough motivation, consider this: severe oxidation leads to gel coat pitting, which can actually increase permeability. It also increases UV penetration of the gel coat, allowing those UV rays to go to work on the fiberglass beneath. And UV rays break down the binders in cured fiberglass, which weakens the mechanical structure.

In other words, your boat’s hull will literally become weaker due to UV damage, which increases in proportion to the amount of oxidation present on the hull. Unless you want that hull to become weak and brittle, you ned to protect it – and the best way to do so is with plenty of wax.

 

waxing a boat

All that rubbing and buffing isn’t for vanities’ sake – it’s an important fiberglass maintenance chore.

Always remember that a paste bee’s wax offers more and longer protection than caranuba wax, but caranuba wax has more shine. So the best fiberglass maintenance program includes a couple coats of paste wax in the spring, follower by coats of caranuba every other week or so. In the fall, treat your hull to another protective coating of the heavy stuff. And if your gel coat is already oxidized don’t just slap some wax on it or you’ll seal in the dullness. First, use an oxidation remover.

So: do you have plenty of elbow grease stored up? We hope so. Because that waxing and polishing isn’t just about looks – it’s a serious maintenance chore.