Trailering Magazine Archives - Trailering Maintenance

Bringing Life Back to Your Hull, and Keeping It There

In the coming month (or months depending on where you live), a number of folks will walk out to the covered boat on its trailer, untie a few lines, unhook a few snaps, pull the cover back and take a look at the hull.


There will be an uncomfortable silence as the wheels slowly turn, trying to find a way out of what is the inevitable conclusion: The hull looks like h---.


Not to worry!


Years ago, a moment like this required making plans to spend a weekend afternoon (or longer) with rags, electric polishers/buffers/waxers, bottles of boat wash, hoses, sprayers, buckets, elbow grease, patience and of course, something that will bring the hull back to life.


It still does. But there's something new in the Bring the Hull Back to Life category. Until now, 3M made a color gloss restorer for professionals to refinish boat hulls. It wasn't available to the recreational boating public unless they wanted to pay a pro to do the work. Starting this year, the recreational boater can do the work.


"The color gloss restorer we made for the professionals does a much better job of removing oxidation so we decided to put it directly into the hands of boaters," says Trace Woodward, 3M's Senior Applications Development Engineer. "The old way of doing this was to use a rubbing compound and then a finishing material separately. It was all individual steps. Now, it's done in one."


Oxidation occurs whenever sunlight hits a hull. Obviously, a boat that sits in a marina is not only getting the sun's UV (ultraviolet) rays directly on the hull, but the reflected light from the water too. While an uncovered boat stored on a trailer isn't going to have as much oxidation as one in the water, the result is going to be the same-it's just going to take longer. Darker hulls absorb more UV rays than lighter-color hulls so a dark blue hull is going to have this problem quicker than a white hull. It also isn't a reach at all to say boaters in Florida or Texas or Arizona are going to have to face the applying-polishing-buffing routine more than the folks in Minnesota.


Gel coat covers your fiberglass hull and is about the thickness of a playing card. When UV rays hit the gel coat over a long period of time, resins inside can be destroyed. As this takes place, the UV rays start penetrating subsequent layers of the gel coat, destroying more and more resins. There are three levels of oxidation: (1) mild, which is nothing more than a few patchy areas that have less color than other areas; (2) moderate, which is a dullness over all of the hull; and (3) severe, which is the chalky substance you will notice when rubbing your hand on the hull. Color restorer isn't adding to the gel coat; it's removing oxidized gel coat layers and revealing a fresh un-oxidized layer. The result is a hull that shines, but there's a limit to the number of times you can do this because, eventually, you'll reach the uncoated fiberglass layer and be faced with completely refinishing the surface.


Step 1
Don't do this on a windy day or in the direct sun. Wind can dry the water that is used to wash the hull out too quickly, and it has the potential of drying out the polish that will be applied soon thereafter. Pick the day. Move your boat and trailer into the shade.


Step 2
Wash the boat hull. Otherwise, any dirt that is on the hull is going to be ground into the gel coat you are trying to restore. There are a variety of boat wash/boat soap products that can be used for this. Washing the hull also helps to show where the trouble areas are located-areas that are going to need some extra elbow grease to bring the gloss back to the hull. Use a sponge or a wet cotton rag and, if possible, rinse the hull with a garden hose. Then let it dry.


Step 3
3M Marine Color/Gloss Restorer can be applied with a rag or by using an electric or air-powered buffer (you need not buy these; they can be rented). Don't use paper towels-these can scratch the hull. Cotton towels can be used for not only the application, but the buffing and polishing as well. Whether you choose the cotton towel or the electric buffer, work in a 2' x 2' area, applying from top to bottom and then from side to side. Some describe it as north to south across the area and then east to west across the area.


"If you are using the buffer," suggests Trace Woodward, "be careful with the pads that are used. Keep them clean, which means do an inspection every few minutes to ensure you aren't grinding a piece of dirt into the hull."


Woodward also says the best work is done by overlapping the edges of each 2" x 2" area, so that the restorer is evenly applied. Once the hull is done, it's time to buff it out. 3M makes Scotch Brite-Hi Performance Cloth Wipes for this very purpose. Otherwise, a clean cotton cloth will get the job done, using either a circular or back-and-forth motion. "As you are doing this, watch the finish," Woodward says, "and you'll be able to keep the same gloss everywhere on the hull."


Step 4
In order to keep the hull looking good, you'll need to apply wax, and apply it as soon as the hull is buffed out-don't wait to do it the next day. One can use paste wax-the old standard of marine waxes with their familiar coconut smell, or liquid waxes that are getting a lot of attention-and not just because it makes Step Four go faster. 3M offers ScotchGuard Marine Liquid Wax that is easily applied as a thin coat to the hull with a cotton cloth, and their test results show this product lasts 30% longer than most marine waxes on the market. And if you are one who says the boat doesn't need this extra step, it is a given that a waxed hull moves better through the water than an unwaxed hull, not to mention that it provides continued protection of the gel coat from you-know-what.


In either case, don't put the boat in the water as soon as the last wipe of wax is complete. Let it sit for an hour or so.


Step 5
Go to the boat ramp. You don't need directions for this.