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Fiberglass Repair Tips

iberglass is a miracle product of modern science. It is strong, water proof, weather resistant, and reasonable in price. It can be formed into parts for your ATV, RV, boat or even your daily driver. Entire boats are built using fiberglass. Using a mold, any shape or style of hull can be created. Fiberglass is used in creating pillars for home building and even on movie sets to resemble the pillars of ancient Rome and Greece architecture. Your bathtub and shower may even be made from fiberglass.

Creating products with fiberglass is only limited by your imagination. It looks easy when you observe a trained craftsman apply the product components. To the inexperienced, it appears to be no more than resin and hardener (catalyst). Then the cloth, (resembling burlap fabric) or mat, (resembling insulation material.)

Speaking from my own observations. I believe the inexperienced layman often thinks how simple it is to apply the resin with a brush, lay on the fabric and apply more resin. Viola…a complete repair. Or, so the layman thinks. I base these comments on my experiences with dozens upon dozens of re-repairs I have done over the years for the layman. It seems many layman consider fiberglass to be a glue like product and consider the cloth or matt to give the glue strength. No consideration is given to preparing the surface to be repaired. After all…”glue sticks to everything.”

The best example I can give happened some years ago. No one has topped this example, but many people have come close. The boat was a ski hull about 16 feet long. It had struck a large log that was submerged just below the surface. Water was seeping inside within a few seconds. Luckily the seepage was not such that the owner could not bring the boat to shore and mount it on his trailer.

My inspection revealed that the bottom of the hull had an overlay of fiberglass cloth covering the entire bottom. The owner explained he could not find a leak so he just covered the bottom with fiberglass “glue” and 2 sheets of fiberglass cloth, about 4x6 ft. wide and 10-12 feet long. It was still leaking.

I could see that the cloth did not lay flat against the bottom. There were many small air bubbles because the cloth was not laid down smoothly pressing out all the air. I could also see the front leading edge of the cloth was starting to pull loose. The owner had hoped I could see a leak and just simply fix it.

I could see many mistakes. But mostly I was concerned with what might happen if his sheets of fiberglass pulled loose at high speed. I could imagine a large sail-like sheet capturing the water under the boat, suddenly causing the boat to come to an abrupt stop and roll to one side, possibly even overturning.

I explained that a repair of his repair would not solve the problem of the water leak. His repair would have to be completely removed because his repair was unsafe. “But how can you remove it? I used 3 gallons of resin,” he said. “Let me demonstrate.” I replied, “I believe I can just pull your overlay off with my hands, but there is no changing your mind once I start”. He doubted me, but he agreed.

I slipped my pocket knife under the cloth I had noticed coming loose at the front edge. I twisted the blade slightly and could see the telltale sign of the resin crystalize as it broke loose. I slipped my knife in deeper, breaking more resin to get a larger finger hold. Getting a good hold, I pulled down sharply and pulled down the sheet of cloth, about a 3’x 4’ wide section. He was shocked, (they always are.)

Once I removed all the overlay I could inspect the bottom. It had many scratches. There were no obvious cracks. Further investigation revealed several stress cracks that looked like scratches, but went all the way through with the longest being around 6ft. long.

It was also noted: The bottom had not been cleaned properly. The sanding needed to provide grip for the fiberglass was terribly inadequate. The stress cracks needed to be ground out and fiber glassed for a strong repaired.

Also, a most important rule had been violated-- a cloth overlay was a very poor decision. The hull was manufactured with a matt-like material. A cloth overlay does not flex in the same manner as a matt type hull - and is doomed for failure from the start.

Coachmaster Collision repair* -- is a full service collision repair center. We repair all types of vehicles. We became an Insurance certified boat repair facility in the early 1970’s. Contact Allan Gordon for an estimate on your boat, ATV, or RV. or street vehicle. Call 530-243-1310 or visit the business at 6851 Eastside Road, in Redding California. *Click here if you are using a smart phone or other mobile device.

More columns by Don Stec

 

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