Common Problems With Aluminum Boats

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One of the most commonly cited problems with aluminum boats is that they require welding or riveting to construct, which can be a less-than-reliable process over time. This means that leaks and other damage can often go undetected, leading to serious issues down the line.

Additionally, aluminum boats tend to be noisier than other materials like fiberglass, which can make for an uncomfortable ride when in choppy waters. Quite often people find it less appealing because of the lack of customizations that can be made to the vessel.

Aluminum boats are also susceptible to electrolysis, which occurs when two dissimilar metals come into contact with each other in an electrolyte solution. This can cause serious damage to the boat over time.

Let us now make an in-depth analysis of some of the most common problems with aluminum boats.

Welds & Rivets Going Bad Overtime

Aluminum boats can be classified under two types: welded and riveted. Welding is done by joining two materials together by heating them until they melt and then cooling them so that they solidify as one. Riveting, on the other hand, is done by joining two materials together using a metal fastener.

Over time, welds, and rivets can start to deteriorate due to the effects of corrosion. This is especially true for boats that are constantly exposed to salt water. When this happens, it weakens the structural integrity of the boat and can cause serious problems.

Water leaks, for instance, are one of the most common problems associated with welds and rivets going bad. If left unchecked, they can eventually cause the entire boat to sink. This is why it is important to have your boat regularly inspected by a qualified professional.

Some Aluminum boat manufacturers use bad welding and riveting techniques that can cause problems down the road. One way to avoid these issues is to only purchase boats from reputable dealers.

If you already own an Aluminum boat, it is important to inspect the welds and rivets regularly.

Prone to Scratches and Dents

Aluminum being lightweight is more prone to scratches and dents. This does not mean however that it is a fragile metal. In fact, aluminum is quite tough and resilient. But because it is lighter in weight, it is more susceptible to being damaged by hail, debris, or other objects.

Unlike fiberglass which has a generous gelcoat layer, aluminum boats have a much thinner paint layer. This means that any scratches or dents that penetrate the paint will be more visible.

If you do end up with scratches or dents on your aluminum boat, there are a few different ways to fix them. You can either sand them down and repaint the area, or you can use a special aluminum boat repair kit.

The best way to avoid scratches and dents is to be careful when handling your boat. When transporting it on a trailer, make sure to secure it properly so that it doesn’t bounce around too much. Keel guards can also be helpful in protecting the bottom of the boat from scratches and dents.

Quality and Thickness of Aluminum

The quality and thickness of aluminum used in boats can vary significantly from one manufacturer to the next. Some manufacturers use lower-quality aluminum in order to cut costs, while others use thicker aluminum for added durability.

5052 and 5056 are the two most common grades of aluminum used in boat construction. 5052 aluminum is less expensive and has good weldability, while 5056 aluminum is more expensive but has superior corrosion resistance.

The thickness of the aluminum used in a boat can also vary. 090- to .125-inch is the most ideal range for boat hulls, but some manufacturers use thinner aluminum in order to save weight.

Galvanic Corrosion

The most feared type of corrosion when it comes to aluminum boats is galvanic corrosion. This occurs when two dissimilar metals are in contact with each other in an electrolyte, such as salt water.

Galvanic corrosion can cause serious problems because it can eat away at the aluminum, weakening the hull and making it more susceptible to leaks.

To prevent galvanic corrosion, it is important to use proper cathodic protection. This can be in the form of anodes that are attached to the hull or a special coating that protects the aluminum from the electrolyte.

Magnesium anodes are the most common type of anode used for cathodic protection. They are placed in strategic locations on the hull and act as a sacrificial metal, corroding before the aluminum does.

It is also important to make sure that all dissimilar metals on your boat are properly isolated from each other. This includes using dielectric grease or tape on electrical connections, as well as using stainless steel fasteners when attaching hardware to the hull.

It is also important to avoid using dissimilar metals on your boat. For instance, if you have aluminum outriggers, don’t use stainless steel hardware. This will create a galvanic couple that can cause corrosion.

Harder Handling

Being lightweight may be a pro to some but to others, it is a con. Lighter-weight aluminum boats tend to handle differently than their heavyweight counterparts.

Aluminum is half the weight of steel, pound for pound, creating a higher center of gravity making the handling characteristics different than other materials. With a lighter boat, wind and waves can have a greater effect on its handling.

Noisy rides are another downside to having a lighter-weight aluminum boat. Because the hull is thinner, the ride will be noisier than that of a thicker fiberglass or wooden hulled vessel.

Less Appealing Looks

Plain and simple looks are another downside to aluminum boats. The shiny, new look of an aluminum boat will eventually fade and become dull.

This is due to the fact that aluminum is a softer metal and will oxidize over time. You can keep your boat’s finish looking good for longer by regularly cleaning and polishing it, but it will never look like new again.

Aluminum boats also tend to develop a “patina” over time. This is a thin, greenish film that forms on aluminum and can be difficult to remove.

Some people don’t mind the patina and think it gives the boat character, but if you want your boat to look pristine, aluminum may not be the best choice.

Aluminum boats have their pros and cons just like any other type of boat. Some people may prefer the lightweight properties of aluminum, while others may not like the way it handles or how it looks over time. It is important to be aware of these things before making a purchase so you can decide if an aluminum boat is right for you.

Aluminum Is a Good Conductor of Heat

Being a good conductor of heat implies it will heat and get cold pretty quickly. So in the middle of summer, your boat will be uncomfortably hot to sit on and in the winter it will be freezing. This would make for short fishing or swimming trips.

Aluminum boats with cabins can get very uncomfortable in the summer as the metal will absorb and radiate the heat. This can make for some pretty sweaty fishing trips! In the winter, you might be better off ice fishing from a shanty as your boat will turn into a giant ice cube.

If you live in an area with extreme temperatures, this might not be the best type of boat for you.

Parting Thoughts

Though aluminum boats have a few disadvantages, they also have some pros. They are lightweight, which makes them easy to transport, and they don’t rust as steel boats do. Aluminum is also a good choice for those who want a noisier ride because it is a thinner metal.

=>If you can overlook the disadvantages of an aluminum boat and are looking for something that is affordable and easy to maintain, then this may be the perfect option for you.