The Official Magazine of the Bluewater Cruising Association

New Life for Old Plastic

Rob Murray

Beneteau First 435 Sloop
October 16th, 2019

Plastic cowl vents suffer from age-related degradation in the Pacific Northwest, and suffer extraordinarily in the hot sun of Mexico. On our 1985 boat, Avant, the cowl vents developed age spots, intractable mildew stains, and a generally unattractive patina. Before we departed for Mexico in 2013, we investigated replacing the then 28 year old cowls with new ones and found replacements would be over $200 each. Since I am really cheap, I wasn’t very excited by that news.

Some investigation for more budget friendly alternatives uncovered a then-new spray paint from Krylon, ‘Krylon Fusion for Plastics’ (now apparently replaced with a new product, ‘Krylon Fusion All-In-One’). At that time, paint rang in at about $8 a can, and I would need two cans, gloss red for the interior and gloss white for the exterior. Since $16 was better than $400 in my mind, I thought we would give it a try.

We removed them, cleaned them with soap and hot water, lightly sanded them with a sanding sponge, wiped them with a thinner-soaked rag, and spray painted them with the ‘Krylon for Fusion Plastics’ (two coats, following the instructions on the can). We used the two colours, red for the interior and white for the exterior, masking as appropriate. The results were fantastic, and the vents looked new again.

After five years in Mexico, the vents were once again looking somewhat tired on the exterior where the white had been applied, despite being covered with tin foil in the off season (the interiors were still a bright red).  They had lost their gloss and were looking like they wanted to grow a new crop of mildew in the moist air of the tropics. So we refinished them again. The Krylon we used before was not available locally, but we found a Rustoleum ‘pintura for plasticos’ (paint for plastics) at the Home Depot in Chiapas, Mexico and it seems to be the same sort of stuff. Wash, light sand with a sanding sponge, thinner wipe down, spray it on (again, two coats, following the instructions on the can) and they look like new again!

The paint has stood up well, and has not cracked or crazed, even though the plastic cowls are somewhat flexible. The time and effort to do the refinishing was clearly rewarded by the results.


  1. Greg says:

    Very helpful. I have a ’88 Beneteau and have the same dorade vents – they are tired. I’ll give this a shot.

  2. Jane Poulston says:

    Fantastic news, need to do ours and this is a winner – thanks

  3. Yvonne says:

    Great information to have. Thank you Rob & Deborah.

  4. Shawn Wright, SV Callisto says:

    Thanks for the tip. I have four of these on our C&C 35 that are in need of this. I have already used the Rustoleum paint on some plastic access panels with good results, but wasn’t sure if it would work on the soft cowl vents.

  5. Wayne Lidstone says:

    Thanks Rob….Another very useful tip. Our cowl vent looks miserable. Like you, Judy and I were unable to reach for into our wallets when we found out out how much a replacement would cost. Unlike you. we have been willing to live with our miserable piece of deck hardware. I don’t know what we have here in Australia that will do the job but we’re going to look for some paint for plastics with the hope of giving our cowl vent a facelift.

  6. Rob Dodge says:

    Great idea – I kept the old ones when I replaced ours thinking I would put them back on in the winters to prolong the life of the new ones – you know that never happened so now I have 6 to rejuvenate!

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