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Does Saltwater Ruin Boats?

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Compared to freshwater, saltwater can significantly damage your boat. If you plan to buy a boat to explore salt waters, brace yourself for some not so great experiences. The problem with salt water is that it is highly corrosive. It corrodes metal faster than fresh water does. When the metal on your boat interacts with saltwater, corrosion occurs on the surface. 

If this rust isn’t repaired, it will spread to other parts of the boat and damage it eventually. Below, we will discuss the types of boat material that are susceptible to damage and how you can prevent that from happening.

Is It Possible to Avoid the Effects of Saltwater on Boats?

Corrosion on boats that are used on saltwater is inevitable. It will occur eventually, no matter how careful you are. However, do you know that salt water accelerates the rate at which corrosion occurs on your boat? 

Because of this, you must engage in practices that will prolong this process and ensure your boat serves you for much longer.

Before we get started with the boat components that are vulnerable to saltwater corrosion, it is imperative that you understand how this process works. Salt speeds up corrosion by decreasing the electrical resistance of water. As a result, oxidation occurs way faster on metal components of your boat that spend most of the time submerged in saltwater. 

Another factor that speeds up corrosion on saltwater boats is humid ocean air. Also, the salinity of water can either slow down or speed up the corrosion rate. Extremely salty waters will corrode much faster.

Which Types of Boat Materials are Prone to Damage? (Prevention Tips)

As mentioned earlier, parts on your boat are more vulnerable to rust than others. In most cases, it’s those that spend a lot of time submerged in saltwater. When listing the prevention tips, you will realize that the best way to slow down rust is to wash the boat frequently using freshwater. 

Routine checks and proper storage also go a long way in preventing saltwater corrosion. Let’s get started with the different boat materials susceptible to damage because of saltwater.

1. The Hull

The first victim of saltwater is the hull. Considering that it is the material that spends all of its time in saltwater, it is bound to get corroded. How soon the corrosion occurs depends on the material used to build the hull. There are two common hull materials, aluminum and fiberglass. Aluminum hulls have a better chance of withstanding salt water than fiberglass. With the latter, saltwater can cause it to fade faster and develop scratches.

How to Prevent Saltwater Damage to the Hull?

If you are worried about saltwater damaging your hull, there are two prevention measures. First, you can spray some paint on the hull. Yes, the paint will be corroded by saltwater, but it will create a temporary barrier that will offer enough protection. Whether you paint the hull or not, another way you can prevent saltwater damage is by washing it after every ride. 

A thorough wash should remove traces of saltwater on the hull, which can reduce the rate of corrosion. Make sure that you use boat cleaners and store it in a conducive environment. Obviously, this won’t be possible if you dock your boat at the marina.

2. The Outboard

The second part that is significantly affected by saltwater is the outboard. Nearly half of the outboard is also submerged in water. That long-term exposure can cause it to rust faster. One may argue that the outboard features lubricated parts. Therefore, you don’t have to worry about corrosion. Though true, you need to know that the lubrication does wear out eventually. 

And this can occur without your knowledge. If not careful, parts of the outboard such as the motors, anodes, propellers and mounting brackets will be corroded. This can damage the outboard in the long run, leading to costly repairs.

How to Prevent Saltwater Damage to the Outboard?

Most outboards come with flush ports where you can connect a water horse and flash the saltwater from the outboard. This is one of the best ways on how you can clean the outboard. Let the water run for around ten minutes. 

Do not forget to switch on the outboard as water flows inside it. This will help wash the mechanical parts. If possible, you should do this at least after every boat ride. Once you are done, you can open the outboard’s cowling and spray a cleaner such as WD-40.

3. Trim Tabs

Trim tabs do a commendable job at enhancing a boat’s performance by adjusting the running angle. Despite being such a useful feature, they too are susceptible to saltwater damage. These are made of metal therefore, they will corrode faster in saltwater.

How to Prevent Saltwater Damage to the Trim Tabs?

After every boat ride, as you clean the hull, it is advisable to wash the trim tabs as well. The cleaning has to be thorough if you want to notice any visible results. Lubricating the trim tabs can also help prevent corrosion.

4. The Anchor and Anchor Line

These are two of the most important components in a boat. If you use your boat frequently, the anchor and anchor lines will rust after a while. They are also made of metal and so are the chains.

How to Prevent Saltwater Damage to Anchors and Anchor Lines?

Many people think that replacing anchor lines with ropes is an ideal way of preventing corrosion. But, ropes will wear out fast in saltwater. The best solution is to paint anchors and anchor lines with marine paint. Marine paint is more resistant to the effects of saltwater. 

The other option is to galvanize the anchor and anchor line. Regularly washing the anchor and anchor lines can help with keeping rust away.

5. Electric Hardware and Bolts

Bolts are made using metal. Exposure to saltwater will cause them to turn brown, and it can be a bit difficult to unscrew them. The location of the bolts on your boat determines how fast they will rust. Electric hardware is also no match for saltwater. 

You should keep any wires away from the water.

How to Prevent Saltwater Damage to Electric Hardware and Bolts?

Regarding bolts, the best prevention measure is to lubricate or grease the bolts frequently. Regarding any electric hardware, it should be kept away from saltwater.

Will Saltwater Ruin Bottom Boat Paint?

Yes, it will. Saltwater is very corrosive and will cause fast wear of the paint beneath your boat. There are rumors that marine paint is bulletproof when it comes to saltwater, but that is far from the truth. It will also fade eventually. 

If the bottom of your boat is painted, clean it after every ride. That should ensure it lasts longer.

How to Store and Clean Your Boat?

Proper boat storage and cleaning goes a long way in preventing the effects of saltwater. Here are some tips you should follow:

  1. Rinse Your Boat after Every Ride

We can’t emphasize enough how important it is for you to rinse the boat after every ride. This is a habit that you should teach yourself. By doing this, you will remove salt deposits that may be left stuck on the above parts. When you remove the salt deposits, you eliminate the rust catalyst.

  1. Get Rid of Saltwater in Your Boat

Some water will definitely get into the boat as you explore the oceans or saltwater bodies. It is advisable to remove any standing water that can lead to corrosion. Tilting your boat can help with this.

  1. Flush the Engine with Fresh Water Frequently

We have already gone through how you can flush the engine using freshwater. You should do this every time you come from a boat ride. This will keep your outboard free from rust. Don’t forget about outboard maintenance. The moving parts should be lubricated regularly.

  1. Give Silica Gel a Try

If you visit most boat accessory shops, they will tell you about the benefits of silica gel packs. These absorb moisture which is one of the key ingredients for rust.

Other Tips on How to Prevent Future Damage

Prevention will always be better than cure. If you are serious about keeping rust away, here are measures that can be quite helpful.

  1. Spray marine paint. 

Unlike ordinary paint, marine paint is stronger and can withstand saltwater for longer. It creates a line of defense.

  1. Apply marine wax.

To supplement marine paint, always apply some marine wax. The wax protects the paint, which in turn prevents corrosion. Wax the entire boat to ensure maximum protection.

  1. Inspect paint.

You should also inspect and repair chips and scratches on the paint. These act as entry points for saltwater which can lead to rust. Ignoring dents can lead to the formation of rust spots that can spread to other parts.

  1. Lubricate moving metal parts. 

Lubrication not only ensures moving parts run smoothly but also protects the metal from saltwater.