5 Most Common Problems With Aluminum Boats

Aluminum boats are some of the most innovative boats currently being crafted.

Since the peak of aluminum boat construction began in the 1970s, thousands of boats have been made from this lightweight and durable material. Many of them are still in service today.

However, like all materials used to craft boats, there are many common issues that aluminum boats suffer from. Issues such as corrosion damage to the metal, temperature control within the cabin, and plain design aesthetics are common with aluminum boats.

We’ve researched the most frequent problems plaguing these boats and listed them below, along with the resale value of several different types of aluminum boats:

1. Corrosion

Marine Aluminum is chosen to be corrosion resistant, but corrosion can still cause damage.

Corrosion in saltwater is a major problem, but even freshwater boats can suffer from corrosion.

The biggest cause of corrosion is electrolysis. Electrolysis occurs with two dissimilar metals are in an electrolyte.

Saltwater is a much stronger electrolyte than freshwater, and boats often have stainless steel or bronze hardware attached to the hull.

These can set up corrosion by electrolysis. Even a copper penny lost in the bilge can cause corrosion.

Zinc Anodes:

The solution is to have sacrificial Zinc anodes attached to the hull.

The Zinc will corrode in the electrolysis process and protect the aluminum hull. Zincs must be examined and replaced because they are designed to corrode away.

Especially when purchasing used aluminum boats, care should be taken to inspect the boat’s shaft tube. Many aluminum boats suffer from corrosion in the shaft tube.

Freshwater boats with outboard motors seldom have corrosion problems.

Inboard powered boats can have corrosion problems, especially in the propeller shaft tubes and rudder bearings. Stainless steel prop shafts live close to the aluminum in the shaft tube. Rudder shafts are often stainless steel as well.

These are potential corrosion areas that are not readily visible. Be sure to check these areas often for corrosion or degraded zinc anodes.

Another cause of corrosion is electrolysis from faulty wiring. Any currents that flow from the aluminum hull to other metals in the area will cause corrosion.

Again, zincs will handle the corrosion, but they may rapidly disappear if there are stray currents.

Be sure all electrical equipment is well-grounded and insulated.

If you are in a marina, your neighbor’s boat may cause electrolysis if it is not properly grounded. If you suspect stray currents in your marina, ask a specialist to measure for the problem.

Don’t go swimming! That stray current might go right through you!

Related Article: 4 Most-Common Problems With Grady White Boats

2. Loose Rivets

Smaller aluminum boats are riveted together with a sealant between the two panels of aluminum.

Age and hammering through waves can cause these boats to leak at the panel joints. There is no easy way to repair this permanently.

It is possible to drill rivets out, apply sealant, and replace them with nuts and bolts.

Another way to stop the leaks is to thoroughly clean and dry the area around the leaking seam. Apply Dow 5200 sealant and let dry for a day or two.

This tenacious sealant sticks and provides a strong seal. But workmanship and clean surfaces are essential for success.

3. Aluminum Fatigue

Anyone who has ridden in a flat bottom johnboat has experienced the floor “oil canning” or flexing when hitting waves.

That flexing occurs in most aluminum boats. Enough of the flexing can cause the aluminum to “work harden” and fatigue crack. The only way to repair a fatigue crack is with aluminum welding.

Take your boat to a specialist who can not only weld the crack but perhaps apply additional metal to reinforce the area.

Around the transom is an area to inspect for fatigue cracks carefully. If there are any problems, they will be clearly visible.

Another issue that many boaters face with their aluminum boats is that they can be loud. The sound of water slapping against an aluminum hull can be jarring if one is not used to it.

While soundproofing options exist to make for a more comfortable ride, most soundproofing work involves aftermarket parts.

If you are willing to make some post-purchase modifications to your aluminum boat, the noise level inside the boat can be reduced significantly.

However, keep this issue in mind if you plan to use your aluminum boat in backwaters or choppy lakes. The sounds are less noticeable out on the open sea.

4. Aluminum Boat Aesthetics

While some boaters like the work-boat look of an aluminum boat, you will be hard-pressed to hear other boaters admire your boat as they might varnished woodcraft.

Aluminum boats are also noisy. Drop a tackle box in the bottom of an aluminum boat, and the fish will know you are up there. Riding in aluminum boats is also noisy.

Engine noises can set up vibrations in the hull like a loudspeaker.

Gluing insulating panels to the hull can go a long way to reducing the noise of aluminum hulls.

Speaking of insulation, aluminum boats transfer heat and cold quite easily. An aluminum hull may be pleasantly cool when fishing in the hot sun. But larger boats with living interior can be uncomfortable.

Imagine the cold hull in cold water on a warm day.

The inside of the hull will sweat condensation like a beer can, right out of the cooler. Things can get damp and moldy inside.

On a hot day, the sun will beat right down through the aluminum deck.

Aluminum boats with living quarters require careful insulation to reduce condensation and keep the interior cool.

5. Antifouling Paint

Antifouling paint commonly uses copper to retard marine growth.

As discussed above, two dissimilar metals can set up corrosion. Epoxy barrier coats between the aluminum hull and bottom paint will effectively prevent this.

Any areas where the epoxy barrier coat is weak could cause a problem.

There are also copper-free bottom paints that are specially formulated for aluminum boats.

Check out the article we wrote about Boat Bottom Paint HERE!

General Pros and Cons of Aluminum Boats

Every boat has its own unique set of pros and cons.

No two boats, even from the same maker, are truly the same.

However, aluminum boats share many similar qualities across the board.

We’ve researched the commonly cited pros and cons of aluminum boats to help you make the right decision for your boating needs:

Pros:

Aluminum boats are known for being durable and well constructed. With a relatively low amount of maintenance, aluminum boats can last for years.

Aluminum also offers a lightweight and fast ride, which means more fun and less money spent on gas. Aluminum boats are also known for their reasonable cost and ease of manufacturing. As such, there are thousands of aluminum boats out on the water and for sale.

This makes finding and buying an aluminum boat that fits your needs as a boater easier.

Many mariners also enjoy the distinct look of aluminum boats. Due to the properties of the metal, it isn’t easy to paint boats constructed from aluminum.

While some may find the look of aluminum less than desirable, many boaters enjoy these boats’ sharp and sleek look.

Cons:

  • The shaft tube of aluminum boats often experiences corrosion.
  • Aluminum is loud out on the water without proper insulation.
  • Anti-fouling aluminum boats can be expensive.
  • Aluminum boats are prone to electrical corrosive damage, known as electrolysis.
  • The temperature of aluminum boats is difficult to control without aftermarket insulation.

Related Article: 9 Most-common Problems with Heyday Boats

What do the Reviews Say?

Aluminum boats are budget-friendly, unique, and classic for any fisherman or boater out there!

“They’re light, economical, nearly maintenance-free, easy to repair, and almost impervious to damage…Their high strength-to-weight ratio means they can be built lighter and therefore can run faster for a given amount of power, and are easier to [attach to the] trailer,”

[Source: Boatingmag.com]

Aluminum boats are also undergoing many changes to the industry and how they are made.

“That also has been a game-changer as anglers now look at the aluminum Xpress as an option no matter what size of the lake they frequently fish. The new aluminum is not only lighter and stronger, but the pad hull designs make them perform like a rocket but with the stability of a pontoon,”

[Source: Pantagraph.com]

What’s The Resale Value On Aluminum Boats?

The resale value of aluminum boats depends on a variety of factors, but we’ve gathered the prices for several different types of used aluminum boats and displayed them below:

Year Make & Model Price
2019 Ranger Reata 223C $44,900
2017 Bennington 24 SSX $25,995
2016 SeaArk 2472 VFX $28,995
2015 Moore Center Console Sportfish $89,500
2010 Crownline 240 EX $39,850
2004 Fish Rite 24 Sled $27,745
2002 Sound-Craft Islander Sport $97,500
1990 Kayot 5924 Commander $8,500

Please note that these prices are estimates, and the resale value of an aluminum boat will vary based on make, model, location, and other factors.

Related Article: 4 Most-Common Problems with Key West Boats

Final Thoughts

Aluminum boats are becoming more prominent as design innovations are improved.

Aluminum boats are sturdy and easily glide through the water. Combined with these boats’ signature look, the low base price of the material makes these boats a popular choice.

Thankfully, many of the issues faced by aluminum boats can be fixed with a little hard work and aftermarket products.

Proper maintenance of aluminum boats is also essential.

For boat owners prepared to complete minimal maintenance but do it correctly every time, aluminum boats can be a lasting investment.

References:

Boatingmag.com

Pantagraph.com

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