Boat Detailing - Diagnosing Gel Coat Surfaces
Posted by Lance Winslow
Before you take a buffer to that boat hull, know what you are looking at.
Determining Oxidation Levels on Your Yacht and how to deal with them:
Gel coat is an extremely tough porous surface applied to boats. It is best to preserve the original surface as much as possible just like cars, trucks, etc. You will come across boats that have been improperly sanded, washed, buffed, boats that have been neglected for years, and boats that will require intensive reconditioning because of these flaws. Without question for most boats to look good requires the touch of a professional. To make them look great it is definitely required. First, you must diagnose the level of, if any, oxidation. Do not be intimidated if there is absolutely no gloss, and a chalky residue appears on your hand if you touch the surface. Even this can be redone. Gel coat is tougher than automotive paint and 15 to 20 times thicker. More often than not, you will be able to machine buff out most oxidation and other blemishes. These cloudy surfaces can be remedied and repaired.
Levels of Oxidation
Level 1 or light oxidation: You will see patchy cloudiness in the finish. Remainder is good to very good. You can use a new special product called; Aussie Gold DuraGleem to remove the oxidation and any swirl marks without abrasive action. Or you can do it the hard way, the old fashioned way. In this case you will need to use Meguiar's #44, Production's Bristol #9, Monster Aqua Blue or an appropriate light compound. Machine buff with a non-abrasive wool or foam pad and apply the sealant by hand or orbital polisher. A wool pad may be easier than a foam pad to use to keep from sticking or bouncing, especially as the friction heats up the surface. Usually .a high grade Carnauba will suffice. Starbrite has a liquid wax which is very easy to use as well. Most automotive detailing products will suffice at level one oxidation.
Level 2 oxidation or medium oxidation: The surface will have obvious degradation on the deck and the hull. The best product we have found is Aussie Gold's DuraGleem Extra Cut. It is a little tougher than Aussie Gold DuraGleem Original, but with level 2 oxidation you are going to need it. This may not work on all level two oxidation, but it better to try the easy way first. If this does not work, then you will need to proceed with the Meguiar's product #49, you'll need to follow with #45 polish and their #55 sealant. Monster Aqua Blue also has a similar product. Many Marine Industry Detailers prefer Starbrite Products up to level two oxidation. Polish with a polishing pad, orbital buffer or by hand.
Level 3 would result in severe oxidation: You'll see no reflectivity. The surface is chalky to the touch and to sight. We do not always recommend a foam pad on severe oxidation gel-coat surfaces because it heats up and may slip. Gel coat conditions such as these will usually require a very thorough washing, uni-grit sanding of a minimum of 1500 sandpaper grit, machine buffing with Meguiar's #49, polishing with Meguiar's #45 and a finishing with Meguiar's #55 sealant. If this does not work to your complete statisfaction, you should probably paint the vessel. If you are still intent on saving it then this will require many, many hours of labor and due to environmental concerns, may usually only be performed on land in a controlled setting. If you use Monster Agua-Blue 100, it contains no petroleum products or silicone and is 100% water based and water soluble. This may avoid the hassle of wet sanding.
First try using Monster Agua-Blue 100 and 200 buffing compounds with a wool pad. They are like wet sanding with 1000 grit and 2000 grit sand paper. Then follow with Blue Magnum 80% Carnauba wax or sealant to prolong the finish. There will be pricing guidelines in the manual or you may e-mail the home office for bid price assistance as each project can vary. Here is where we get the stuff.
(for safest results)
If you cannot find a competent marine canvas person in your area we suggest this phone number to owners who realize that it is far too late for cleaning after holes have occured. If it is time for a new cover call 1-800-362-9154 Walk-Winn Covers.
"Lance Winslow" - If you have innovative thoughts and unique perspectives, come think with Lance; www.WorldThinkTank.net/wttbbs