Home Forums Fishing General Fishing Forum Hairline cracks in aluminum boat

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  • AvatarTrapCyclone
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    So I’ve been doing some off-season work on my garaged fishing boat and while working on the trailer I noticed a couple hairline cracks in the aluminum underneath the boat. The boat has been out on the water a few times since I purchased it and it floats just fine, but a small amount of water seems to get in, enough to require running the sump pump every now and then. So now that I know those cracks are there I would much rather have it repaired before I take the boat out again. I’ve been doing some research online to figure out what would be the best way to repair the cracks and have decided that having it welded it is probably the best way to go. The boat itself is an older Bass Tracker and has a combination of welds and rivets along its length, so I presume it is safe for welding. The cracks do not appear to be from structural issues, but instead appear on the bottom near a couple rivets and seem to be from the type of trailer it is on and the way the boat moves along the trailer when loading and unloading.

    I’ve located a couple local welders and am going to have them give it a look-see as soon as the weather warms up a bit. So my question for those out there who have experience with this type of thing is whether it is absolutely necessary to open up the top of the boat in order to weld from both sides and/or to clear out any foam insulation such that it isn’t a fire hazard and doesn’t potentially contaminate the weld. It would be infinitely easier if the welder can just fix it from the bottom side by drilling out the crack tips and then welding along the crack. Obviously I would like this done right and done well enough to be essentially a permanent fix. However, pulling all the floorboards as well as the steering console, etc. would make this a much, much bigger job and I’d like to avoid that if at all possible. So what do you think is doable in terms of repairing hairline cracks on the bottom of an aluminum boat?

    On a related note, do you have to empty the fuel tank in order for someone to do any type of welding on the boat itself? Does the battery have to be disconnected? Thanks, in advance, for any and all input.

    AvatarTeamAsgrow
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    I would want to make sure that there was nothing on the inside of the hull that would catch fire. Foam, wires, lines would all be things that would need to be inspected. I am guessing any shop would require it to be cleared to avoid a fire risk. You might think it is ok from the bottom, then it could smolder inside the hull for a while and engulf the whole boat. I would make sure the fuel tank is empty and purged, also remove the battery.

    AvatarTrapCyclone
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    Quote by: TeamAsgrow

    I would want to make sure that there was nothing on the inside of the hull that would catch fire. Foam, wires, lines would all be things that would need to be inspected. I am guessing any shop would require it to be cleared to avoid a fire risk. You might think it is ok from the bottom, then it could smolder inside the hull for a while and engulf the whole boat. I would make sure the fuel tank is empty and purged, also remove the battery.

    Those are some of the things that I am worried about. It would just be a heck of a job to pull everything including the steering console and motor controls. It is probably the safer and better route, but also is the most painful. I guess I am just hoping there might be some way to seal it off without having to do all that. It would be interesting to hear if anyone has tried welding directly onto the bottom from one side and how it turned out.

    If it is necessary to empty the gas tank how do you typically do it? I know you can siphon it off and let gravity do the work, but then that would require a long hose and another tank just as big. I filled the tank pretty much to the top for winter storage to avoid condensation issues.

    OlefartOlefart
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    You might try some Devcon Liquid Aluminum. If you can clean up leak area really well. Have seen that stuff really work well on boat patch jobs, but area around patch needs to be sanded down to bare aluminum before application.

    Avatarkenhump
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    Avatarmhock
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    You could saw that boat in half and still be confident in FlexSeal!

    Avatarwmgeorge64
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    Quote by: TrapCyclone

    Quote by: TeamAsgrow

    I would want to make sure that there was nothing on the inside of the hull that would catch fire. Foam, wires, lines would all be things that would need to be inspected. I am guessing any shop would require it to be cleared to avoid a fire risk. You might think it is ok from the bottom, then it could smolder inside the hull for a while and engulf the whole boat. I would make sure the fuel tank is empty and purged, also remove the battery.

    Those are some of the things that I am worried about. It would just be a heck of a job to pull everything including the steering console and motor controls. It is probably the safer and better route, but also is the most painful. I guess I am just hoping there might be some way to seal it off without having to do all that. It would be interesting to hear if anyone has tried welding directly onto the bottom from one side and how it turned out.

    If it is necessary to empty the gas tank how do you typically do it? I know you can siphon it off and let gravity do the work, but then that would require a long hose and another tank just as big. I filled the tank pretty much to the top for winter storage to avoid condensation issues.

    First I would take the model and SN and a picture of the cracks and contact Bass Pro shops perhaps there was a recall or free repair?
    My guess and I have done a little aluminum welding that it will be TIG welded but any welding is going to maybe stress the metal and cause more cracks. Anything under that area on the inside of the hull needs to moved out of the way, your welder will cover that in detail. That metal is thin enough welding from one side should cover it.

    Avatarmoonfish
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    yank the floor up and glue some patches on the inside. done

    llewellinsetterllewellinsetter
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    Quote by: moonfish

    yank the floor up and glue some patches on the inside. done

    If you’re going to take the time to pull the floor and not weld it up you are wasting your time with a quick fix that will need to eventually be done correctly. Take the time and do it right the first time.

    Sarcasm entails a few things: one of them is intellect, another one is a sense of humor, and a third - not taking things too personally.

    Avatarmhock
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    Sell it

    AvatarTrapCyclone
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    I did some more digging and it seems another alternative is to braze the crack with a high-strength brazing rod such as HTS-2000. If I were not having any welding done or needed to do it myself this is probably the route that I would take. While an epoxy might work I would probably prefer something a bit stronger and more permanent. There are quite a few videos out there of people successfully repairing holes and cracks using one of a variety of aluminum brazing rods. A good example may be found here: https://www.aluminumrepair.com.

    So I decided to start pulling some flooring last night and took off about as much as I could without having to start disconnecting the electronics, steering, and so forth. It looks like there are just two insulation boards running along the width of the boat that are in close proximity to the crack locations. Welding from the top side does not appear to be possible due to the presence of a variety of ribs that are riveted to the hull of the boat. Has anyone ever attempted to seal a crack by brazing? It seems all you need is a torch and the brazing rod. One advantage of brazing is that the filler material will seep into the crack via capillary action, thereby giving a nice seal. One thing that might be an issue is that brazing usually necessitates heating a larger area.

    Avatarstevenoak
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    You have a deck stacked against you. I have owned 3 older Trackers, and seen several more. They were mass produced to be cheaper than a good used boat. Not a slam, it was a very successful venture. They worked great for the boater that wanted everything new. And boated calm water a few times a year. Look at Jonny Morris today, he’s the largest boat manufacturer in the world. First a permanent fix to an old Tracker would be a pipe dream , as they have continued to crack since they were new. I would try to weld structural areas such as bow and transom corners. Smaller cracks on the bottom that are near impossible to get clean enough. I would do a sealant repair when you notice you are taking on some water. Older aluminum is hard to impossible to get clean enough for a good weld. Because it is so porous the contamination gets deep within the metal. Plus unless you flip the boat, it’s an overhead weld that doesn’t help. As for the gas tank. They would want it removed or full. Vapor is far more explosive than liquid.
    Depending on how close the weld. Again another case for epoxy type repair. My buddy had a small hole poked in the side of his new Lund. He had a a couple shops refuse to weld it because of foam problem. I knew the one guy I referred him to for 25 years, and was able to get him to weld it. If I gutted the interior and removed the foam. But that was one 4 inch clean tear in new aluminum. It was about $1500 with paint. Welded aluminium boats are not as durable as you might think.. My duck boat was a new Gen-3 all welded. After a couple years I had 43 small cracks where the ribs met the sides. If you think rivets are a inferior was to build with aluminum. Look at the rivets to welds the next time you fly a jumbo jet. Rivets let the aluminum flex a little more than welds. The new hydro form is a different animal though. If you boat rough water a lot. It may make sense in time to trade up to a higher end hull boat. Older Trackers just were not designed for a lot of use, and you have some stressed aluminum now.

    AvatarTrapCyclone
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    Quote by: stevenoak

    You have a deck stacked against you. I have owned 3 older Trackers, and seen several more. They were mass produced to be cheaper than a good used boat. Not a slam, it was a very successful venture. They worked great for the boater that wanted everything new. And boated calm water a few times a year. Look at Jonny Morris today, he’s the largest boat manufacturer in the world. First a permanent fix to an old Tracker would be a pipe dream , as they have continued to crack since they were new. I would try to weld structural areas such as bow and transom corners. Smaller cracks on the bottom that are near impossible to get clean enough. I would do a sealant repair when you notice you are taking on some water. Older aluminum is hard to impossible to get clean enough for a good weld. Because it is so porous the contamination gets deep within the metal. Plus unless you flip the boat, it’s an overhead weld that doesn’t help. As for the gas tank. They would want it removed or full. Vapor is far more explosive than liquid.
    Depending on how close the weld. Again another case for epoxy type repair. My buddy had a small hole poked in the side of his new Lund. He had a a couple shops refuse to weld it because of foam problem. I knew the one guy I referred him to for 25 years, and was able to get him to weld it. If I gutted the interior and removed the foam. But that was one 4 inch clean tear in new aluminum. It was about $1500 with paint. Welded aluminium boats are not as durable as you might think.. My duck boat was a new Gen-3 all welded. After a couple years I had 43 small cracks where the ribs met the sides. If you think rivets are a inferior was to build with aluminum. Look at the rivets to welds the next time you fly a jumbo jet. Rivets let the aluminum flex a little more than welds. The new hydro form is a different animal though. If you boat rough water a lot. It may make sense in time to trade up to a higher end hull boat. Older Trackers just were not designed for a lot of use, and you have some stressed aluminum now.

    Thanks for for providing your honest input. For my purposes, this is basically a starter bass boat that I plan to use for panfish, bass, wally, and pike fishing on smaller bodies of water such as Big Creek, Brushy Creek, and so forth. If it gets some wear and tear or will never be 100% leak-proof, that is okay. I just want it to be structurally sound and reliable enough to take the kids fishing for several hours up to a full day. Then after a few years I will probably look to trade up. Do all aluminum boats suffer from these cracking issues or it is it just certain brands due to the way they were manufactured?

    I have been in touch with a few welders, but if you know of others around Des Moines who have considerable experience welding aluminum boats it would be much appreciated if you could pass along their info.

    Avatarspeng5
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    Quote by: mhock

    You could saw that boat in half and still be confident in FlexSeal!

    Just cut out the bottom and replace with an old screen door. Good as new (or better).

    AvatarTeamAsgrow
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    Post count: 9152

    I would look into epoxy fixes, save what you would pay a welder for your next boat, and fish it.

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