Select Page

Maintaining a boat can be a rewarding experience but at times it can also be frustrating. A prime example of this is when you come across a seized fixing or fastening that refuses to budge.

Before you damage a screw head or bolt slot of a fixing that refuses to move, tell yourself that patience will be rewarded. Be wary of power drivers – in my experience these can easily strip screw heads of seized or corroded fastenings. Here are some tips:

              impact driver boat tools

  • Penetrating fluid – start by applying a good quality penetrating fluid such as WD40 and leave it for at least 15 minutes and longer if necessary. Do not expect this to work instantly. Covering the fastening with clingfilm will prevent evaporation of the fluid.
  • White vinegar – white vinegar is good for freeing things up, especially if a fitting has been exposed to saltwater. Vinegar is especially effective at freeing up seized aluminium fittings where corrosion may have set in. Allow white vinegar plenty of time to work.
  • Tapping the screw head with a hammer – the vibration this causes can free up a corroded fastening. The best way to do this is to place a tightly fitting screwdriver (or box spanner over a bolt), hold it tight, turning it in the right direction and then tap the back of the screwdriver.
  • Impact driver – impact drivers are specifically designed to undo screws that are stuck fast. They take a bit of practice to use but they are effective. It is important to use the right sized bits for it to work properly. Then it is a matter of holding the handle of the driver firmly with a little turning pressure applied and tapping the end with a hammer. Little by little the screw should begin to move.
  • Locking pliers – pliers, vice grips, mole grips and long nose locking pliers can sometimes be more effective than a screwdriver, provided you can get a good grip on the screw head.
  • Friction enhancer – this is a type of fluid mixed with metallic particles that help tools get a better grip on a seized fastening. Alternatives include using steel wool or rubber bands placed over the screw head to help the screwdriver grip more effectively. Try this in combination with pliers to get more torque.
  • Heating and cooling – for obvious reasons go carefully here. There are products that can freeze a bolt, causing it to contract, which is probably a better option than setting fire to your boat. If it is safe to do so, heating a nut is best rather than the bolt itself, using a propane torch.
  • Drilling – the last resort is to drill out the old fixing. This entails filing the fastener flat if possible and then drilling a pilot hole before resorting to a larger drill bit. It is best to use a left hand twist drill bit as this will turn in the direction that fastenings are removed. If this does not work completely then there are specialist extractor tools available which may be worth looking into.

Corroded boat engine mount      rusty bolts boat     

 

Removing fittings sealed with polyurethane

There can be one last hurdle. If the fitting was originally bedded with polyurethane then the fitting may well be stuck fast, even if you have managed to extricate the fastenings. There is a risk that your soul could be almost destroyed at this point, but remind yourself that perseverance wins through in the end:

  • There may be a way to cut through the polyurethane bond, if the sealant is thick enough and you can reach around the fitting. A cheese wire type wire saw can work, allowing you to saw through the seal. Maybe.
  • Another option is to try separating the fixing by driving a chisel under one edge and then leaving it for a few hours. This can stretch the old sealant little by little and is known to work.
  • There are chemical products that can work, including DeBond Marine Formula. This is expensive but by now you won’t mind. Most reviews of this product are 5 star. It says on the tin “This Stuff Really Works”.
  • Heat can work but you don’t want to risk melting the deck or setting fire to it.

Re-bedding fixings

The next stage is to apply new sealant and re-bed the fitting. It is probably best to avoid using polyurethane sealant as this will create a permanent bond that will be almost impossible to remove in the future.

With the fastenings and fitting removed, remove any old sealant or bedding material, clean up the area with acetone and then dry it thoroughly.

  • Mask the area around the fitting to prevent any excess sealant from making a mess of the deck. Mask right up to the edge of the fitting, tracing around it if necessary before applying the sealant.
  • Apply the sealant evenly to both surfaces of the fitting. I use an old artist’s palette knife to do this which is very effective – the main thing to watch out for here is to keep the sealant even and smooth and avoid getting into a mess.
  • Place the fitting carefully into position. Add a little sealant to the underside of the mounting bolts or screws.
  • Assemble the fastenings until they are finger tight, enough for the sealant to begin to bulge slightly around the fitting.
  • Wait until the sealant is cured before tightening the fastenings to ensure a good fit.
  • Lastly trim any excess sealant that has bled out around the fitting, using a thin, sharp blade.

Boat Improvements

My Boat - practical improvements Author - Mike Rossiter Most boat owners who have had their craft for any length of time will have made what they...

Boat Engine Safety Checks

  Boat Engine Safety Checks Every skipper needs to make regular essential boat engine safety checks. Below you will...

How diesel engines work

The basic principle of a diesel engine is less complex than that of a petrol engine. No spark plug or ignition system is needed, making the basic diesel engine a comparatively straightforward system that results in fewer faults and has lower maintenance costs than a petrol engine.

Leaking decks

Leaking decks are perceived as a nuisance by some boat owners, but if leaks are ignored a much more serious situation may well be developing, especially in the case of boats with balsa or plywood deck cores. So deck leaks do need to be investigated and dealt with.

Distress flares – which flare, how & when to use?

How to use distress flares at sea Flares should be kept in a waterproof container in an easily accessible location such as a...

Boat engine basics

Boat engines come in all shapes and sizes and include inboards, outboards, petrol, diesel, electric and hybrid systems. Some engines are...

Diesel engine winterisation

An inactive boat engine needs to be protected from corrosion during the winter, caused by the rising humidity levels through the cold months and the salty coastal air. This applies whether the boat is left afloat or hauled out over the winter. Read here about the two important stages of winterisaton for a diesel boat engine.

Know your Navlights & Shapes – essential for all skippers

Know your Navlights & Shapes International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea (ColRegs) Anyone who is...

How to operate a winch

Winches are drum shaped mechanical devices used to handle halyards, sheets and control lines. One of the important crew...

How to tackle osmosis

Many owners of old GRP boats live in fear of osmosis, but what exactly is osmosis and what can be done about it? Osmosis comes about...

First Aid Afloat – how to deal with a fracture at sea

First Aid Afloat A closed fracture does not break through the skin. An open fracture is when the bone punctures it. A...

Sail care and maintenance – Part 2

At the end of the sailing season sails should be washed and inspected carefully for damage, including small tears, stitching failure, ultraviolet damage, stains and mildew.

The give-way hierarchy at sea – who gives way to whom?

Whatever their size or type, all skippers have a responsibility to avoid collisions with other boats at sea.  It is...

Repairing chips and dings in gelcoat

The gelcoat topsides of a GRP boat can be pampered and restored to their former glory relatively easily when it is ashore. Gelcoat is only a very thin outer layer of the hull, often less than 1mm thick, so you should avoid cleaning it with highly abrasive cleaners, or an-ything that could potentially damage its surface.

Antifouling for leisure boats – Part 2

To prepare for antifouling, as soon as your boat has been lifted out and pressure washed, you need to check all the surfaces of the hull below the waterline, remove any remaining barnacles and check for blisters.

Boat electrics

All boat owners should have a basic knowledge of electrics, both to avoid encountering electrical problems at sea and to stand a chance of solving them should they occur.

Rewiring a boat – overcoming the challenges involved

Skippers need to have a basic knowledge of boat electrics, to avoid potential problems and to be able to solve them when they happen.

Feeling anxious at sea

  Some people feel anxious at sea. Will they be seasick? What if they get caught in a violent storm? Could the boat...

Passage planning and pilotage

Passage planning and pilotage help skippers navigate safely from one port to another. A passage plan takes into account all...

Boat Handling – anchoring

Anchoring your yacht or motorboat Anchoring is one of the most important boat handling skills. If you can set an anchor...

Learn ColRegs: Traffic Separation Schemes

Learn ColRegs Rule 10: Traffic Separation Schemes. (c) A vessel shall, so far as practicable, avoid crossing traffic lanes...

Competent crew skills: arriving and leaving a berth

Skilled boat handling is needed when entering or leaving harbour. Crew tasks include preparing the mooring lines and fenders...

Safety Equipment Checklist for Boats

Safety Equipment Checklist for Boats   Liferaft line attached The liferaft will not work unless the trigger line is...

First Aid at Sea – strains and sprains

Strains and sprains respond well to rest and cooling. Wrap ice in a tea towel before applying. First Aid at Sea Strains and...

Understanding boat engines

Irrespective of what kind of engine a boat is equipped with and who does the work, the regular care and maintenance of a marine engine is essential. The most common cause of marine engine failure is widely known to be lack of maintenance.