It makes absolutely no sense to purchase an expensive kayak if you don't know how to keep
your kayak safe. Take care of your kayak and your kayak will take care of you. The following are some helpful hints and tips to help you maintain your kayak.
Kayak maintenance should be minimal if you maintain your kayak on a regular basis. If you let your kayak go for a long time without any maintenance, it might turn up that your kayak now has a problem that has turned into a maintenance nightmare. Routine maintenance is essential.
Inspect your kayak
The simplest maintenance is just looking at your kayak for anything that might be out of the ordinary. If you have a rudder, look at the cotter pins, the wire, etc. for rust or frayed wires. Repair anything that looks like it might be a problem before it becomes a problem. Check for any hull damage or hairline cracks. Use a light inside the cockpit or the hatches in a dark room or garage and look for those hairline cracks. Inspect the deck rigging, the bungies, the bolts, seats, grab loops, etc. If you have had water in the cockpit and you have never seen water leaks in the hatches, then you don't have to test the hatches. Otherwise, with your kayak on a foam mat on the ground, fill the cockpit with a hose to see if any water leaks into the hatches. Don't confuse a gel-coat hair line crack with a real crack. Usually gel-coat cracks are just cosmetic and don't lead to a real crack. Do not attempt to fix a gel-coat crack as you will end up with a mess. Only professionals can repair a gel-coat crack and even then the color patch might not match correctly.
Wash your kayak
Wash your kayak with water and mild dish washing soap on a routine basis. If you paddle in salt water, you should rinse your kayak each time you have finished paddling on the weekend. Salt water will become your number one enemy. The salt will eventually corrode all metals so don't forget to wash out the inside of the cockpit.
Stains will sometimes occur if you are paddling in marsh water. Even a good soapy water washing will not get rid of some of the stains. Use dish washer soap directly on a soft towel and rub in a circular motion. Sometimes rubbing the stain with just your wet thumb will remove the stain. If the stain is not removed, use a very mild automotive polish with abrasive. It is an expensive product and only a very small drop or two on the towel will remove the stain.
Spray your plastic or fiberglass kayak with UV protection at least 3 times a year or more (depending on how often your boat is in the water). This will keep the gel-coat finish from fading as the kayak is directly exposed to the sun. I never use boat wax on my kevlar kayak as it would make the kayak too slippery and possibly create a problem during a rescue. Don't store your kayak directly in the sun.
Read manufacturer instructions
Read the manufacturer instructions for maintenance on the rudder, skeg, etc. Don't ever spray any oil, etc. without contacting the manufacturer directly.
Light scratches can be eliminated with 600 - 800 grade sandpaper (soak the sandpaper in a cup of water). Then use the very fine automotive polish abrasive and UV protectant. Scratches are a part of kayaking so if the scratches are not too annoying, just leave them as you might end up with a worst situation than you started with. Go slow. Leave larger repairs up to the professionals.
Have fun paddling and don't forget to take care of your kayak when you return from your paddle.