How to Keep Fiberglass Gelcoat Looking Like New
Gleaming gelcoat is a sign of a well-cared for boat, a look you can preserve with a little basic maintenance. The work it takes to maintain the gelcoat is part of protecting the investment that is your prized possession.
If your boat is relatively new, the gelcoat should be in pretty good condition. However, weathered gelcoat on an older boat can also be restored to “like new” condition. Here are some gelcoat maintenance tips to preserve your fiberglass boat’s showroom shine.
Gelcoat Maintenance Tip #1: Rinse Boat After Every Use
UV rays are extremely harmful to your boat’s gelcoat and to any layers of wax protecting it. As saltwater dries, the salts within the water form crystals that capture and magnify UV rays, causing fiberglass wax to break down and the gelcoat to oxidize. Even so-called “fresh waters” contain salts, so rinse your boat completely using a shore-based water supply to sluice away any traces of salts after every ride.
Gelcoat Maintenance Tip #2: Wash Trailered Boat
Trailering to and from the ramp provides another major reason your boat should be washed after every trip. Oils, grease and road grime from trailer rides accumulate on the hull, where they quickly break down the protective boat wax, and strain and pit the gelcoat. Spray down the hull with a hose to remove grit and dirt that might otherwise scratch the gelcoat, then wash your boat with a bio-degradable boat soap. Don’t use household detergent, which is too harsh and will wash away boat wax from the hull. Boat soap is specially formulated to clean gelcoat without stripping away the protective boat wax.
Gelcoat Maintenance Tip #3: Reapply Boat Wax
Boat wax doesn’t last too long, so expect to have to reapply a protective layer several times throughout the boating season. If you already used a quality marine paste wax to create a couple of good base layers, you can follow it up later with liquid marine wax, which is much quicker to apply and keeps the gelcoat shining bright.
Gelcoat Maintenance Tip #4: Polish the Brightwork
Gleaming metal complements the overall appearance of the gelcoat’s shine. Having washed and waxed your boat, give any chrome and stainless steel parts a rubdown with some metal polish. Not only does it make the metal shine, but it also prevents pitting and corrosion.
Gelcoat Maintenance Tip #5: Treat the Rub Rail
Vinyl rub rails that have dulled over time can be rejuvenated with automotive tire shine. A quick wipe with a rag coated in tire shine makes the rub rail pop against the gleaming gelcoat.
Gelcoat Maintenance Tip #6: Tackle Stains Immediately
A stain can damage the gelcoat and grow if left untreated. Remove any stains in the gelcoat as soon as you notice them. Start by simply washing the area with boat soap. If that doesn’t cut it, you’ll have to use polish or rubbing compound to remove the stain. Once the stain is removed, apply three or four coats of marine paste wax to the area for added gelcoat protection.
Gelcoat Maintenance Tip #7: Store Your Boat in the Shade
As mentioned earlier, UV rays pose a major threat to gelcoat. The way you store your boat makes a major difference on gelcoat protection when it comes to exposure to the elements. If you keep your boat out of the water when it’s not in use, store it under an awning or in an area that gets as much shade as possible. For a boat stored on water when not in use, a boat cover is recommended to help protect it from UV rays.