Preventative maintenance is one of the most important things any boat owner can do, and nowhere is this more critical than Florida’s acidic marine environment. The combination of sun, sand and saltwater ultimately destroys everything. They say that every single dollar spent on preventative maintenance results in a long-term savings of ten dollars. Ask anyone who has been handed a hefty invoice from a marine mechanic for a repair that could have been prevented and they’ll tell you the real figure is much greater.
Of course, there’s also the safety factor to consider. Modern electronics are much more sophisticated and sensitive than yesteryear’s equipment. Even a tiny bit of corrosion could leave your multifunction display inoperable. Losing your radar or chartplotter in thick fog could spell disaster and of course, we can’t forget how many tragedies at sea have occurred from something as simple as a corroded bilge pump wire.
I don’t care if you own a flats skiff or a tournament equipped center console, as they all have commonalities. Modern boatbuilding is a technological marvel taking many factors into account. Performance, efficiency and fishability are certainly important, although the design phase goes way deeper than that. When leading manufacturers select materials or specific items to incorporate during the build process, a host of considerations are made including the weight of the product, it’s availability and cost, and its durability and corrosion resistant properties. This is especially true of the vessel’s metal components, which are often exposed to the harsh marine elements above deck and under the gunwales, and below deck in the bilge and lazarette. Allowed to run its course, corrosion will attack and destroy nearly every piece of metal in these areas and continues to be a leading cause of faulty connections, inoperable switches, weak battery connections, leaky hose clamps and many other commonly encountered electrical and mechanical problems.
Common metals typically used in boat building include copper and bronze for wires and thru hull fittings, with aluminum and stainless steel generally utilized for pipe work, fittings, fasteners, clamps and many other vital components. And while the latter is recognized and utilized for its outstanding corrosion resistant properties, many boaters are surprised when they notice pitting, rust stains or corrosion developing around stainless steel fittings and clamps. Maybe they don’t realize 316-stainless steel (the most commonly used stainless in the marine industry) isn’t 100-percent corrosion proof.
Fortunately, the science and technology behind corrosion control has advanced to the point where basic preventative maintenance can extend the life of your recreational vessel’s metal components and electrical connections almost indefinitely. This is where popular and proven corrosion preventative and inhibiting compounds combat and protect, but to understand how they work one must first understand exactly what corrosion is.
Corrosion cells are like microscopic batteries. There is an anode and a cathode, an electrolyte like moisture or salt crystals, and a path of current. Eliminate any one of these elements and you effectively shutdown the entire corrosion process. Corrosion preventers and inhibitors are aptly named because they combat corrosion by displacing moisture and separating metal from oxygen with a barrier coating. While proven extremely effective, the barrier coating may be compromised when scratched or displaced by friction. To ensure maximum protection it is highly recommended you inspect and apply corrosion inhibiting compounds seasonally or at the very least, twice a year. It is a very small price to pay for long-term protection.
Corrosion preventative compounds and inhibitors are petroleum based, which means they also double as excellent lubricants and work phenomenally well for keeping moving parts operating smoothly while loosening rusty nuts, bolts and fasteners. Because these compounds are applied via aerosol can, the protective film is able to effectively penetrate and coat even the tiniest crevices. However, some of these products utilize propane and/or butane as propellant so adequate ventilation is a must when applying in an enclosed area.
I tell the same thing to everyone. If you recently purchased a new boat do yourself a huge favor…run to your local West Marine or favorite boating accessory retailer and purchase at least two cans of a corrosion preventative compound. I like Corrosion Block. Head back to the boat and douse everything that could potentially be exposed to moisture. If you purchased a pre-owned boat or haven’t previously taken any action, it is not too late. Corrosion may have already started, but that is okay. Clean affected areas with a wire brush and apply a healthy dose of a proven corrosion inhibitor, like Boeshield T-9, CorrosionX, CRC, Jet Lube 769 or Blaster Corrosion Stop.
In any case, being proactive about corrosion control is the best way to protect your asset from the harsh marine environment and ensure trouble free performance when it matters most.
The Knockout Punch
The following is a partial list of the vulnerable components that must be protected against rust, corrosion and pitting. Of course, every craft is different so adjust your maintenance program accordingly. Leading corrosion inhibitors aren’t conductive, so do not hesitate spraying liberally on electrical connections, switch panels and battery terminals. In regards to overspray, most of these formulas are generally safe on plastic, fiberglass, vinyl, teak and enclosures, though a small test area is always a good idea.
Hose Clamps, Throttle Cables, Steering Mechanisms, Battery Terminals, Bilge Pumps, Electrical Connections, Light Fixtures
Canvas Snaps, Switch Panels, Antenna Bases, Rod Holders, 12-volt Outlets, Engines/Powerheads, Hinges/Locks/Latches, Fuel/Water Fill Caps, Windlasses
Hitches, Locks, Winch/Cable, Electrical/Light Connections, Leaf Springs, Brake Components, Rusty Nuts/Bolts