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Kayak Care and Longevity (Polyethylene Brands)


The plastic (polyethylene) kayaks are really easy as far as care and maintenance. Salt water won't hurt the plastic but you'll want to wash them off with fresh water to make sure the straps rivets, stainless screws and assorted hardware stay in good shape for many years to come. The plastic is very durable and should get many years of use even if you regularly drag the boat up the beach or even over lava areas. Dragging the boats that have the sharper keels will tend to wear a hole through the plastic but they or any of the plastic boats can be easily welded with a polyethylene repair kit  (see repair hints at bottom) should the need arise.

     There is one seriously detrimental factor relating to the life of your kayak and that is the UV from the sun. The kayak will not last long if allowed to bake in the sun every day for months or years on end. It will become brittle and crack. Plastic welding is possible but when the UV gets to a certain point, you may fix one crack and the brittleness will cause it to crack nearby over and over again.

     Take care when purchasing a used kayak. If the owner allowed it to bake in the sun if may have lost half or most of it's useful life regardless of how little it was actually paddled and may have a shortened lifespan even if the seller is advertising it as a new kayak (awaiting sale sitting in the sun) and it has never been out on the water.

    If a the kayak is stored out of the sun, in a garage, a shady area, under the house or bagged in a kayak cover, it can be expected to last 10-15 years or longer as long as one uses a bit of care as you enter or exit the coast in rugged areas or surf. Continuing to tie the thing securely to your vehicle will also give you the best chance of having the same kayak giving you those years of enjoyment.

    If a leak does develop and you find yourself always finishing your paddle with a quart, a gallon or more water inside and you can't see where the kayak might be leaking, read below for detecting leaks.

    As far as your accessories, the same goes for long life, wash and store them dry and out of the sun. Store (two piece) paddles dissasembled to make sure they don't become permanantly bonded together over the years.

Detecting Leaks in Sit on Top Kayaks

     The way most people will check for leaks is to fill the kayak partially with water and see if they see it dripping anywhere. This method can work but only checks the bottom of the kayak. The kayak has to be raised up, so you can look underneath, and it gets pretty darn heavy if you're adding much water.

     Instead of water, applying air pressure to the kayak and going around with a spray bottle filled with a mixture of dishsoap and water will allow you to get to all surfaces of the kayak. I pull out the drain plug and put a air/compressor hose into the drain plug hole. No need to make an airtight fit because you don't want to overstress the kayak with too much pressure. Actually better if somone is holding full pressure on the air compressor nozzle to just hold the nozzle outside the drian plug opening so some air pressure is being applied inside the kayak but additional pressure can easily blow off.

      Spray suspected areas with the soap/water mixture and look for bubbles. Any riveted hardware will likely show bubbles but this is normal. Look especially at (and inside) scupper drain holes, carry handle attachment points, Rudder attachment points, and any recessed areas where water would tend to puddle. If you've got lots of scratches on the bottom you may find it leaking at the point where it most often gets dragged.

     When you've ascertained the leak see below for repair....

Repairing Plastic (Polyethylene) kayaks with a propane torch

     First you need to acquire some polyethylene plastic or order our polyethylene repair kit. A mini propane torch works best since it's easier to control the heat but a standard propane torch can also work if you keep the flame low.

     For smaller repairs I like to cut the plastic weld material into narrow strips so it's easy to heat and apply like a welding rod.   

     For doing longer cracks or larger holes, use one piece of material and cut it sized to cover the entire damaged area.

    Rough up the area with sand paper 80-120 grit prior to welding as well as in between welds if you've allowed it to cool.

     If you've got extra repair material it might prove useful to do little test repair, melting one piece of repair plastic to another just to see how fast it melts and how they bond together

     Most important: Heat the repair plastic more than the kayak itself. You would like the repair plastic to fully melt but not fully melt the kayak for obvious reasons. I usually heat the repair plastic (especially with the narrow welding rod plastic) and get it melting then apply it to the kayak and heat both together making sure not to overheat/melt the kayak itself. After allowing to cool sand or surform excess plastic

    Most people are more interested in making the repair waterproof than making it look perfect. If you're repairing a crack and the finished look matters to you, use a dremel type tool to cut a vee along the crack. Fill in the vee with welding rod plastic strips. Sand or sureform any excess for a smooth finish......