How to Restore a Small Aluminum Fishing Boat

How to Restore a Small Aluminum Fishing Boat

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Aluminum boats are very durable and last for years, even with punishing use. You can see old aluminum boats almost any weekend on most lakes and rivers. But even boats as strong as these still lose their shine and need to be refurbished occasionally to make the owner proud. Also, riveted aluminum boats can develop loose rivets as they age. These cause small leaks that become annoying. Almost anyone can take an old aluminum boat and restore it to excellent condition in two weekends by fixing leaks and polishing.

Items you will need

  • 2 saw horses or similar supports

  • Small wood blocks

  • Sandpaper

  • Bucket, soap and water

  • Permanent marker

  • 2 hammers

  • Electric buffer

  • Metal polishing compound

Fix leaks

Lift the boat up and put it on saw horses. Let the boat sit in the upright position. Fill the bottom of the boat with water and check from beneath for leaking rivets. Circle each offending rivet with a permanent marker for easy identification.

Carefully look at each rivet that leaks. It should be slightly loose. Number it on the bottom and the top to be sure it can be identified from each side of the boat.

Perfect hammer to tighten rivets

With a helper, tighten each loose rivet. Place one person on top and another person under the boat. Each person should carry a hammer. The person on top identifies the rivet to be tightened. He hammers down against the rivet head while the person underneath holds her hammer against the bottom of the rivet. Repeat for each loose rivet.

Fill the bottom of the boat with water and check for continued leaks. Repeat steps one through three until no leaks appear. Don't be discouraged if it takes a few tries to find all the bad rivets.

Paint the boat

Turn the boat over and steady it with wooden blocks as necessary. Test it by firmly pushing it from side to side. It should stay in place and not tilt back and forth.

Sand the boat to remove any loose paint and all debris. Use progressively finer grit sand paper until the surface has a burnished look. Make sure to avoid sanding so heavily there is scaring. Take your time on this step. Using finer grit paper takes longer but looks much better in the end.

Use a buffer with metal polish to bring out the shine. Start at the top of the sides and work down. Let the buffer do the work. There is no need to apply heavy pressure. Clean off all the residue. The boat will buff to a brilliant shine.

Carefully lower the boat off the sawhorses. Launch and recheck for any small leaks.


  • Get a friend to help lift the boat on the saw horses.


  • You can also polish the inside of the boat if you want. Just remove the seats and complete the same steps as used for the outside.
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