Aluminum Boat Repair

I have an older BassTracker boat that is leaking around the rivets. Does anyone know if the epoxy products for boats are worth trying or if it is better to have the rivets welded. I would have to either take the decking out of the boat and weld from the inside or take the engine off so I could turn the boat upside down and weld from the outside. The marine repair shops say the epoxy products work good but, that would screw up any future attempts at welding them (contamination of the site with epoxy will weaken welds).

I spent a number of years as a USCG Marine inspector. As part of that Job I was involved in both factory inspections of small craft and in repair inspections on commercial craft, lifeboats etc. There are a number of reasons to avoid welding your boat if at all possible. Primary among these is that the rivits and hull are almost certainly different alloys of alum. which may not be compatable. This could result in cracking or even failure of the hull material leaving you worse off than before. The second problem is that if the rivits are not removed, dirt, corrosion, oil, etc around and behind the rivits will contaminate the weld. Finally some alum. alloys do not weld very well. You need to insure that the alloy your boat is made from can be economically welded.

The only way to adequately weld your boat would be to remove the rivits, clean all surfaces to be welded, both inside the hull and out and have the welding done by a quailfied GMA or GTA welder. A cheeper alternative is to either re-swedge the rivits yourself or to have it done. You should be able to find a alum. fabrication shop that can do this. Either way you will get a superior repair job to either epoxy or welding, though it will require you to open the boat up to a bare hull.

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