If every paddler had their way, kayaks would glide through the years without a scratch or dent to their hulls. But let’s be realistic here – a well used kayak takes a beating! The good news is that kayaks are resilient and kayak maintenance requires minimal effort. There are a few basic things to do and think about to keep your kayak and equipment in good shape. Soon, the process will be routine!

Pre-Season Kayak Maintenance: Taking Your Kayak Out Of Storage

Doing a little kayak maintenance at ACK Houston.
Doing a little kayak maintenance at ACK Houston.

The last thing you want to happen when you pull your kayak out of storage for your first spring paddle is to find that something was left broken from last year or damaged during storage.Here are some tips for inspecting your stored boat:

Look Over The Hull For Damage

Long term storage is one of the most common ways a kayak’s hull can be damaged. In the case of a depressed hull, heat will often be enough to return the kayak to its original shape. Leaving it in the sun on a hot day will often pop it back to its original shape.

Inspect The Rigging

Make sure the hardware, perimeter lines and bungees are all in good shape. UV radiation can deteriorate plastic pad-eyes and degrade bungees/lines. Look over the rudder or skeg if it has one and evaluate the deployment lines, stainless steel cables, pivot hardware and pedals. Make sure to repair anything that needs fixing now, rather than finding out on the water!

Replace Old Parts + Accessories With New Ones

This is the perfect time to retire old gear like a seat or bulkhead. Look over all of your gear and remind yourself what was bothering you last year. If you found yourself wishing for an extra something last season, like another rod holder, this is the time to add it!

Refill Emergency Gear

Go through your first aid kit, bailout bag and emergency repair kit to make sure everything is stocked. This is especially important to do because if it needs refilling, it means it was something you had to use last year!

In Season Kayak Maintenance

Keep these pointers in mind during the peak of your paddling season:

Avoid kayak maintenance by using a cart!
Avoid kayak maintenance by using a cart

Use A Kayak Cart

Dragging your yak on the ground will thin and weaken the material at the bottom, the worst case scenario being that it could lead to holes that will have to be repaired by a specialty shop. Kayak carts are a win-win because they will protect your kayak from damage plus make getting to and from the water a cinch.

Keep It Clean

A kayak doesn’t need to look shiny and new, but it’s good practice to quickly spray down your kayak after every outing. This will remove grime and salt that can lead to corrosion of the hull and prevent mold from growing.

Usually just taking the hose and spraying down the interior and exterior will suffice but it’s a good idea to give it a thorough scrub with mild soapy water and a kayak sponge a couple times a year.

Shield It From The Sun

Long exposure to the sun will affect more than just your kayak’s color; it’ll eventually weaken the plastic, making it brittle and prone to cracking. Leaving it out for a few days here and there won’t mean you should expect to puncture your hull on the next outing, but several months will certainly lead to deterioration.

Spray your kayak with 303 Protectant to shield it from damaging UV rays

Using 303 Protectant is a popular method of stopping harmful UV rays, but it requires re-application because the spray will wash away with rain and water from paddles. The best solution would be to use a kayak cover or store it indoors.

Cover The Cockpit

When it’s not in use, it helps to use a cockpit cover to keep rain and critters out. Remember to dry out the inside before you cover it to keep mold, mosquitoes and scum from accumulating.

A kayak doesn’t need to look shiny and new, but it’s good practice to quickly spray down your kayak after every outing.

Preparing For Off-Season Storage Kayak Maintenance 

Many of you won’t have an off-season, but for some there’s a point in the year when water turns solid and the kayak has to go into hibernation. When that time comes, refer to these tips:

Clean & Dry The Kayak 

On a dry day, unload any and all loose gear and put them aside; this includes any rigging accessories that are removable like a seat, deck bag or rod holder. Turn it upside down on a pair of kayak stands and lather it up with mild soapy water. From beneath, spray water throughout the cockpit interior and all the hatches, allowing any loosened sand, crud and dead bugs to drain out. Make sure to let everything dry out before putting it away.

Take a kayak sponge and scrub away if you think it’s necessary. Areas like the cockpit rim can end up being a nesting ground for insects if they’re left alone during storage.

Care For Your Rigging Components 

Look over any attached parts on the kayak, like deck cords, toggle handles and bulkheads, and take note of any frayed cords or parts that need replacing and order a replacement part promptly. If any of the bungees, straps or buckles can be loosened or un-done during storage, loosen them. This will help retain their elasticity.

Make sure dirt was removed from bolts/screws during your clean earlier and sponge away anything left over. The use of some WD-40 or other type of corrosion blocking product will keep metal joints in good shape.

More of a visual person? Give this short video from PaddlingTV about kayak maintenance a watch:

Finally, it’s important to maintain proper kayak storage both in-season and off!


  1. I have a Wilderness System Pungo 120. The seal for the wall behind the seat has deteriorated. I do t think water gets into my rear hatch yet. What do you recommend to repair the seal? I also want to do the same as prophylactic repair to my husbands. My kayak has enjoyed four seasons, his is his second season. We are in Arizona. Also, do you a recommended repair shop in AZ that we should align with?
    Thank you!

  2. I had no idea that the sun could weaken the plastic in my kayak. My kayak has recently gotten a large hole in the bottom which is concerning because I have a long river trip planned for next month. I better start looking for a professional that could repair it and make sure that it is durable to last the entire trip.

  3. Is there any way to remove or fill in deep gouges on a kayak? I got stuck in some really low water this past fall and now my kayak has some really deep scratches/gouges in the hull. Thanks.

        1. Not quite sure which model you’re referring to because Old Town has made several kayak models with the XL lettering in the past but my guess is that its one made out of the typical polyethelene plastic.

          First – gouges are to be expected on paddle craft and they won’t affect your paddling unless they are close to penetrating through the entire hull or actually leaking.

          If this is the case, repair on a polyethelene kayak requires heat welding on new plastic to cover the penetration spot. If you think it needs attention, send a picture to me at news@austinkayak.com and I’d be more than happy to have one of our store experts assess the damage and suggestion the best route.

  4. That guy on 30 miles out says just use wd40 on the whole kayak and it will protect it. Is this true and is it better then the 303 thank you. John j

    1. Hey John,

      Wouldn’t recommend using WD40 as a protectant. No UV protection for one, and for two WD40 is meant to remove moisture from what it’s applied to (the WD stands for water displacement). When you spray it onto things like your rubber hatch covers or plastic components it can actually accelerate the drying out and brittleness of these.

  5. I’m retired so I evidently have time on my hands. I keep busy with my hobbies. I read your blog on care and maintenance of the kayak. Would it help protecting the out surface of my kayak if I sprayed it with polypropylene spray? Kind of give it a clear coat similar to a clear coat on our cars.

    1. Hey Lawrence,

      Time is always good! I’d recommend using the 303 product that I referenced in the blog as it goes into every porous surface…as a kayak protectant it’s the best product around.