3-Step Gelcoat Restoration Process
There are many procedures, products, and how to videos on how to protect your boat from oxidation. My procedure is a 3 step process that ensures all oxidation is removed before applying a UV sealant and marine grade wax. Before I begin, I want to explain that I have been detailing boats for 20 years and I have tried almost everything. In the beginning I will admit that I was always looking for the best way as well as the fastest way to detail a boat. It is a lot of work however the results are worth it in the end.
First off, let me inform you what oxidation is, what it does to a boat’s finish, and finally what I do to protect your investment. Oxidation is the chemical breakdown of gelcoat that leaves your boat with a chalky dull appearance and in some cases even pitted. A yellowing of the gelcoat is also apparent as well due to the sun’s UV rays and other environmental elements. Every level of oxidation is contingent on how often the vessel is maintained, covered, or stored. Oxidation is always most noticed on the topside because of its exposure to these harsh UV rays. Gelcoat is very porous and must be protected in order to prevent this from happening which is why a marine UV sealant and wax are necessary.
Before I begin, I assess the condition of the boat to determine how aggressive of a compound I need to use. In some cases, a boat may need to be wet sanded in order to remove oxidation that compound isn’t capable of removing alone. In the case that it doesn’t need wet sanded, my preparation always begins with removing any stains, loose dirt and engine soot, as well as any salt build up.
I start by buffing the boat with a variable speed polisher. I preferably use a Dewalt 849X polisher to ensure maximum results. I generally use only 3M Imperial Compound because it leaves a perfect finish plus it contains no silicones or waxes. I work the compound in at 600 RPM’s with medium to firm pressure covering a 2×2 section completely. This is the “cutting” stage which removes all oxidation and fine scratches. I then raise the RPM’s to around 1800 RPM’s and work the compound back and forth across the 2×2 section with three passes slowly and fluently. When the compound is entirely removed, clean the pad off with a spur before beginning the next section. It is important to keep the pad flat and clean in order to prevent swirls.
Whenever the boat is fully machine polished and all the oxidation is removed, it is time to begin the second step. This step is applying a sealant to the gelcoat and for good reason. Remember, gelcoat is very porous which is why over time gelcoat becomes not only oxidized but pitted. The sealant actually fills these pores and protects the gelcoats vessel. If you wax the boat after compounding without sealing it, the wax takes place of the sealant and its protection time is lessened. You can apply a sealant by hand, or by machine. I remove the excess sealant from the finish in order to prepare for waxing.
The third and final step is the waxing. Waxing is the protective barrier that protects the gelcoat from oxidizing, fading, and discoloring. I have used all the “top of the line” waxes, however I have seen the best results from two specific ones. Collonite #845 Paste Wax and Four Seasons Trewax are my favorites because of its durability and its overall finish.
If you have any questions or would like to schedule an appointment, feel free to visit us at LSAdetailing.com or visit us on Facebook. My name is Jim and I am both the owner and operator of Land Sea and Air Detailing.