The Repair and Maintenance of Aluminum Boats

Written By: Dave Chiswell
Sales Representative
Marr’s Leisure Products (1077), Inc.
Originally Published in the May/June 1996
issue of The Outfitter Magazine.


The most common problems with aluminum boats can be divided into three categories:


There are two types of rivets used in aluminum boats; solid rivets and pop rivets.

Solid Rivets are generally used on the exterior of the boat and therefore if they become loose or break, they will cause leaking.

There is a “quick fix” for both loose and broken solid rivets. Although temporary, a small dab of marine sealant around the head of a loose rivet should stop the leak. Just make sure both the head of the rivet and the surrounding area are clean before applying the sealant. As soon as possible, you should use a hammer and a block of steel or bucking tool on the loose rivet to tighten it up as good as new.

A broken rivet can be quickly repaired by drilling out the broken rivet using a drill bit just a touch bigger than the hole. Once the area around the hole has been cleaned, coat an appropriate fitting sheet metal screw with marine sealant and insert in the hole.

To permanently fix a broken rivet, do the same as above but replace with an over-sized rivet and seal using a hammer and bucking tool.

Pop Rivets are normally used on the interiors of boats where they are not required to make a water-tight seal. If one of these becomes loose or broken, one should drill out the remainder of the rivet and replace it using a pop rivet. If this is not possible, a sheet metal screw can be used temporarily.


Most small cracks are caused by stress, excessive wear, or collision with a solid object.

Although they look complicated, these cracks can usually be repaired with relative ease. The key is to have the proper materials on hand. Before starting repairs, you should have the following:

Cut a piece of aluminum to fit right over the crack from the inside of the boat. There should be about two inches all around the outside of the crack. Attach rubber tape to the outside edge of the patch and place over the crack. Drill and install rivets all around the edge of the crack using two rivets to every inch. You should then install rivets along both sides of the crack itself. Once everything is in place, a bead of sealant should be placed around both the edge of the patch, and directly in the crack itself from the outside.


The two most common problems with paint are fading and peeling due to scrapes and scratches.

The scrapes and scratches can be easily repaired by applying touch-up paint available to you from your boat manufacturer.

When your paint becomes faded to the point where your touch up paint no longer matches, it may be time to repaint your boat.

It is best when repainting, to first strip off the old faded paint. This is usually best accomplished using non-caustic paint remover. Once all the old paint is removed, the surface should be thoroughly clean, and roughed up using a fine sandpaper.

Because you are working with aluminum, cleanliness is key. Once the surface is prepared for paint, it should first be sprayed with an aluminum etched primer. When the primer is dry, you may begin to apply your air dry enamel paint. This should be applied in several thin coats as opposed to one thick coat.


The main key to maintaining your aluminum boat is cleanliness.

As often as possible, boats should be hosed down with fresh water and non-abrasive cleaner.

Throughout the course of a day, your boat sees all kinds of abrasive grit and grime both inside and out. These abrasives if not cleaned out regularly will prematurely erode the paint of both the inside and outside of your boat.

Please remember to store your boat upside down and completely free of water or debris.

We at Edson, hope your season goes well. If you have any other problems with your boats please feel free to contact our Boat Plant. We will be pleased to offer any ideas which might help you out. 


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