A 7-Step Maintenance Checklist to Help Extend the Life of Your Kayak.
When I left to home for the first time I kind of figured I would hear from my dad often to make sure I was focused on my studies — he didn’t. Instead, he periodically called to check on my truck’s tire pressure and to remind me about getting an oil change every 3000 miles. I always thought to myself, “Wow, is he really more concerned about my truck than me?” As I grew older I realized that wasn’t nearly the case. In fact, it was actually all about me, making sure that I never got stranded or even worse, getting myself into some tragic accident — I regress.
So how does this all relate to the topic of maintaining a kayak? Well, ever heard the saying “a well maintained kayak makes a safe and happy paddler?” Probably not, because I just made it up but you get the point! It’s not so much about keeping your kayak looking like it was unwrapped for the first time but more about maintaining a properly functioning kayak that will provide an enjoyable and safer paddling experience for years to come.
Here are a few tips that we’ve learned through the recommendation of manufacturers and our own experiences. In this case, we focus on both sit in and sit on top kayaks made of plastic.
ONE: Check and Repair Cracks and Deep Gouges
Polyethylene, what most plastic kayaks are made from, is a very durable material. However, it’s not bullet proof. An oyster bed can slice through it like razor blades, sharp rocks will gouge it and dragging a kayak over hard surfaces will eventually wear it down. If you end up with a crack or hole there is very little you can do as a permanent fix except patch it with the same plastic it’s made of. At first sign of a crack or what may lead to one, we recommend you bring your kayak to one of our shops so a professional can repair it for you. If you are a do it yourself kind of person or don’t have easy access to any of our stores, consider the KC Welder welding kit, which can be purchased at any one of our stores or online.
TWO: Wash and Rinse
Dust, salt and other natural minerals can eventually corrode certain parts of your kayak, even worse, your plastic. Simply washing your kayak with a little soapy water along with a good rinse will help extend its life. It also a good idea to carry a sponge with you when paddling, such as the as the NRS Deluxe Boat Sponge. Not only can you use it to clean your kayak but it will also be useful to soak up any water on the inside of your boat while you are out on the water. Once you are done washing it, be sure to let your kayak dry thoroughly before storing it to avoid the growth of mildew.
THREE: Care for Your Plastic
These days, manufactures mix UV inhibitors into the plastic while molding kayaks, which significantly reduces color fading. However, after a few years of being out in the sun, colors will eventually fade and in extreme cases may even turn brittle. As a preventative measure or even if you are already experiencing some fading apply 303 Aerospace or Hobie UV protectant. Both will not only rejuvenate your kayak with a nice shine but will also leave behind a UV protective layer. (Tip: Apply sparingly and rub it in well.)
FOUR: Protect Your Metals Too
One would think that stainless steel is more durable than plastic but when it meets water, specifically salt water, not so much. It’s always a good idea to spray a little lubricant on all metal parts. Not only will this provide a protective bond between metal and water, it will also aid in the addition and removal of accessories. Be sure to wipe down any residual grease or oil.
FIVE: Tighten all Screws and Bolts
Speaking of metal fittings, it’s happened to the best of us. You are happily carrying your kayak when suddenly the handle pops off and there goes your boat. It wasn’t broken — it simply unscrewed itself. Your kayak takes quite a beating and vibration from resting on your vehicle’s rack can cause screws to loosen over time. Periodically tighten all screws and bolts to avoid this scenario.
SIX: Clean and Lubricate
Like a bicycle, it is important to keep all moving parts in good working order. Wipe down excess build up around rudders, pedal drives and foot pegs. As mentioned above, spray some lubricant on any metal or moving parts. It’s also a good idea to lubricate rudder cables for smooth operation.
SEVEN: Store It With Care
Hopefully the idea of storing it is only for a few days at a time because after all, it’s summer! Unfortunately, for most of us, paddling on a daily basis is only a dream so storing it for an entire workweek is common. With summer comes heat and extreme heat can actually cause plastic to warp. Be sure to store your kayak properly with products such as the NRS Kayak Hanger, Harken Kayak Lift System or the Malone J-Dock Kayak Storage System (pictured) amongst several others. If you plan to store your kayak outdoors, consider a Dannu Cover.
There you have it, your quick 7-step kayak maintenance checklist! Now, you may be scratching your head thinking, “I was told that kayaks are virtually maintenance free”. This still holds true. Fact is, kayaks are built to withstand the elements of time but by taking a few extra steps in caring for your boat, you’ll significantly extends its life span over and beyond the expected.