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New Life for Old Plastic

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.