How to Fix Leaky Rivets in Your Aluminum Boat

Understanding the Cause of Leaky Rivets

Leaky Rivets

Leaky rivets are a common problem in aluminum boats, but the good news is that they’re usually not too difficult to fix. The first step in fixing leaky rivets is to understand what causes them.

Aluminum boats are held together by rivets, which are essentially small metal pins that are inserted through holes in the boat’s aluminum sheets and then hammered down on the other side to create a watertight seal. Over time, however, the constant pounding of waves and general wear and tear can cause these rivets to loosen or even come completely out of their holes. When this happens, water can seep through the holes and into the boat, causing damage and potentially even sinking the boat.

One of the main causes of leaky rivets is simply age. As boats get older, the metal sheets can become more brittle and prone to cracking, which can then cause the rivets to loosen or fail entirely. Another possible source of leaks is poor maintenance. Boats that aren’t properly cared for, cleaned, and stored can be more prone to rust and corrosion, which can weaken both the aluminum sheets and the rivets themselves.

Finally, it’s worth noting that some boats may simply be more prone to leaky rivets than others. Factors like the boat’s size, weight, and intended use can all affect how much wear and tear its rivets are subjected to, and boats that are used more frequently or more aggressively are likely to experience leaking rivets more often than those that are more gently and sporadically used.

No matter what the cause of your leaky rivets, however, the most important thing is to address the problem quickly and decisively. Even small leaks can quickly become big problems in the harsh marine environment, so don’t ignore any signs of water infiltration. Instead, take the time to diagnose the problem, assess the damage, and then make any necessary repairs as soon as possible.

Gathering the Necessary Tools and Materials

Tools and Materials for Repairing Leaky Rivets in Aluminum Boats

Before attempting to fix leaky rivets in your aluminum boat, it is important to gather all the necessary tools and materials to ensure a successful repair. Here is a list of things you will need:


1. Drill bit

2. Rivet gun

3. Screwdriver

4. Hammer

5. Pliers

6. Wrench

7. Sandpaper


1. New rivets

2. Sealant

3. Epoxy

4. Aluminum patch

5. Duct tape

6. Clean cloth

When buying new rivets, it is important to get the right size and type for your boat. A rivet that is too small or too large will not hold properly and may cause more damage to the aluminum hull. You should also purchase sealant to apply after the repair to prevent leaks from happening again.

Epoxy is a two-part adhesive that can be used to repair small holes and cracks on the aluminum boat. It is important to apply epoxy on clean and dry surfaces to make sure it bonds properly and sticks to the metal surface. An aluminum patch can also be used to cover larger holes before applying epoxy or sealant on top for added protection.

Another important material to have when repairing leaky rivets is duct tape. Duct tape can be used as a temporary fix to cover small holes or cracks to keep water from coming in while you’re out on the water. However, it is not a long-term solution and should only be used as a last resort. The best thing to do is to properly fix the leaky rivets using the aforementioned tools and materials.

Lastly, it is important to use a clean cloth to wipe the area around the leaky rivets before beginning the repair process. This ensures that the area is clean of debris and dirt, which can affect the bonding process and prevent the sealant or epoxy from adhering properly.

Gathering all these tools and materials beforehand can save you time and effort when repairing leaky rivets on your aluminum boat. Remember to take your time and follow the proper repair process to ensure your safety and enjoyment on the water.

Removing Damaged Rivets

Removing Damaged Rivets in Aluminum Boat

Leaky rivets in aluminum boats can be a significant problem that needs to be addressed immediately. Over time, wear and tear or just regular use can cause rivets to become damaged, which results in leaks. Damaged rivets are a common cause of leaks in aluminum boats, and it is crucial to address them as soon as possible before they lead to more significant damage. In this section, we will discuss how to remove damaged rivets from an aluminum boat so that you can repair the leaks.

The first step in removing damaged rivets is to identify where the leak is coming from. This can be done by using a hose to spray water onto the outside of the boat and identifying the point where the water is entering the vessel. Once you have identified the location of the leaks, you can start removing the damaged rivets.

The easiest way to remove damaged rivets is by using a drill bit that is slightly larger than the head of the rivet. Start by drilling through the center of the rivet until you break the head off. Once you have done this, you can use a punch and hammer to push the rivet out of the hull. Be careful not to damage the surface of the boat while doing this.

If the rivet doesn’t want to come out, you can try a few things. First, try twisting the drill bit back and forth while drilling. This should help break the rivet free. If that doesn’t work, try applying some heat to the rivet using a small propane torch. The heat will loosen the rivet, making it easier to remove. Once the rivet is out of the boat, repeat this process on all of the other damaged rivets that are causing leaks.

Once you have removed all the damaged rivets from the boat, you need to replace them with new ones. This is a relatively simple process, but it does require some skill and patience. Start by drilling a hole through the center of the location where the old rivet was. Be sure to use a drill bit that is slightly smaller than the new rivet you will be using. Next, insert the new rivet into the hole and use a rivet gun to secure it in place.

A rivet gun is a tool that is used to hammer the stem of the rivet, causing it to expand and securely fasten the new rivet. When using a rivet gun, be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions and use the appropriate size and type of rivet for your boat.

Another option when replacing damaged rivets is to use waterproof adhesive sealant. This type of sealant is ideal for boats that are subject to frequent exposure to water. It is easy to use and can be applied directly to the hole where the old rivet was located. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully when using this type of sealant and allow it sufficient time to dry before using the boat again.

In conclusion, repairing leaky rivets is an essential maintenance task that should not be ignored. Removing damaged rivets and replacing them with new ones requires a bit of skill and patience, but it is a straightforward process that can be completed with the right tools and materials. By following the steps outlined in this section, you will be able to remove damaged rivets from your aluminum boat and restore it to its former glory.

Installing New Rivets

leaky rivets in aluminum boat

If you have a leaky rivet in your aluminum boat, the best solution is often to install a new rivet. Here are the steps you can follow to replace a leaking rivet.

Step 1: Identify the Leak

The first thing you need to do is identify which rivet is leaking. Look for any signs of water around the rivets or bubbles in the paint. You can also lightly tap each rivet with a hammer to see if any sound different than the rest. Once you have identified the leak, circle it with a marker to make it easier to find later.

Step 2: Remove the Old Rivet

The next step is to remove the old rivet. To do this, you will need to drill out the center of the rivet with a drill bit that is slightly smaller than the diameter of the rivet. Be sure to drill only the center of the rivet and not into the aluminum sheeting. Once the center is drilled out, use a punch and hammer to knock out the old rivet.

Step 3: Clean the Hole

With the old rivet removed, you need to clean out the hole to prepare it for the new rivet. Use a drill bit that is slightly larger than the diameter of the old hole to remove any dirt, debris, or corrosion. Then use a wire brush to clean the edges of the hole and remove any sharp edges that might damage the new rivet.

Step 4: Insert the New Rivet

Insert the new rivet into the hole, ensuring that it fits snugly. You can use a rivet gun to secure the new rivet, but if you don’t have one, you can also use a hammer and a bucking bar. Place the bucking bar on the back of the rivet and hammer the rivet until it is flush with the aluminum sheeting.

Step 5: Finish the Rivet

Finally, finish the rivet by peening it. This process involves using a peening tool to hammer the end of the rivet until it mushrooms out and fills the hole. This will create a tight seal and prevent water from leaking into your boat through the rivet.


Replacing a leaking rivet may seem like a daunting task, but it is actually a fairly simple process. With the right tools and a bit of patience, you can easily fix any leaks in your aluminum boat caused by leaky rivets.

Testing and Sealing the Rivet Repairs

leaky rivets in aluminum boat

After making necessary repairs to the leaky rivets in your aluminum boat, it is crucial to test and seal them effectively. It ensures that there are no further leaks, and your boat stays afloat. Here are some ways to test your rivet repairs and seal them properly:

1. Testing Rivet Repairs

Testing Rivet Repairs

After making repairs to the rivets on your boat, it is crucial to test the area to which the repairs were made thoroughly. Fill the boat with water and check for leaks. If you identify any problems, drill out the faulty rivets and re-rivet them.

You can check for leaks by filling the boat with water until it has reached the required waterline. Observe the area around other rivets to see if they have started to leak. You can also check for leaks by shining a bright light around the patched area while inside the boat. You will be able to see any small leaks that may have gone unnoticed.

Another method to test the rivet repairs is by increasing the weight on the area you repaired. You can do this by filling the boat and the area around the rivets with sandbags. If you notice the repaired area is leaking, remove the sandbags and identify any faulty rivets that need attention.

2. Sealing Rivet Repairs

Sealing Rivet Repairs

Once you have made necessary repairs and have tested the repaired area, it’s time to seal the rivet repairs. Sealing repaid rivets is easy and can be done in minutes. Some of the ways you can seal rivet repairs are:

2.1 Using Sealant Tape:

Using Sealant Tape

Sealant tape is an effective way to seal repaid rivets of your boat. It’s effortless to use and helps keep rivets from leaking. The tape is made of high-strength adhesive material, making it durable and long-lasting.

You can easily seal the repaired rivets by cutting the tape into strips slightly longer than the rivet. Apply the tape over the repaired rivet, ensuring it covers it to avoid any further leaks. It’s important to use marine-grade sealant tape for the best results.

2.2 Using Epoxy Resin:

Using Epoxy Resin

Epoxy resin is a premium way to seal repaired rivets. The resin is strong, durable, and fixes watertight seals. It’s essential to use a marine-grade epoxy resin for fixing rivets.

Epoxy resin is easy to use, simply mix the marine-grade epoxy with a hardener, and then apply it over the repaired rivet area. You can use a small brush or a spatula to apply the resin. Ensure that you apply the resin generously over the repaired area. Leave the resin to dry as per the manufacturer’s instruction.

2.3 Using Liquid Rubber:

Using Liquid Rubber

Liquid rubber is another effective way to seal repaired rivets. The rubber is flexible, durable, and provides a watertight seal. Liquid rubber is easy to apply and doesn’t require any expert knowledge or skills.

You can apply liquid rubber over the repaired rivets using a spatula or a small brush. Ensure that you apply the rubber generously over the repaired area. Leave the sealant to dry overnight, or as per the manufacturer’s instructions, before using your boat again.

Using any of the above-mentioned methods to test and seal your repaired rivets will keep them from leaking, thus ensuring that your boat stays afloat.

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