Kayak-haulers get scratched and salty. They just do. Here’s how one Florida yakker dealt with it.

Author’s truck, before he tackled rust spots under the roof rack.

A few years ago I bought a lightly used, 4WD 5SPD 1998 Toyota 4Runner. It seemed to be the perfect hauler for kayaks and fishing gear, but one day I noticed a small, ¼-inch hole near one of the screws that secures the roof rack. Removing the rack for closer inspection, I found a hole that could house a golf ball, surrounded by thinning metal. (Now that was why I’d heard water swishing around when first stopping at the end of my street on my way to the fishing hole!) Along much of the roof, hood and tops of the doors, the clear coat was coming up. This makes the underlying surface vulnerable to rust, accelerated by exposure to salt water.

My buddy Javier, of Javi’s Auto Body in Port St. Lucie, repaired the hole with strong metal and Bondo, making the area like new again, almost. Aside from the new bright white patch on my roof I knew I needed to do something quick to help prevent this from happening elsewhere. After getting estimates on a new paint job into the thousands, I decided to research other options. What I settled on was a durable, spray-on bedliner that yielded a tough, UV- and saltwater-resistant coating.

After getting samples in the mail from many companies I selected a product from U-Pol, their Raptor bed liner. The bed liner comes in a kit with pre-measured containers that easily mix with one another. After a 2-minute shake, the mix screws into your spray gun through your compressor, and off you are shooting. It comes with the UV inhibitor (important to protect against fading) and not too much grit in the mix (anything with more grit would collect the salt; I wanted it to wash away). The kit ran me no more than $130 with the gun and I was able to do 2 or 3 coats on compromised areas of my SUV, including the roof, hood, bumpers, sides and brush guard.

After body work, author sprayed not only the roof but also the hood, fenders and bumpers with U-Pol Raptor bed liner.

Preparation is the key to getting a good finish with this product, as with any paint or coating. The surface must be clean and clear of defects in order for the spray to adhere. This step may seem tedious, but if you want the result to be worthwhile, you’ll sand as much as you can and tape off areas to avoid overspray. Once you spray, that’s it! If you want to do a redo, it’s even more time out of your schedule to get back to the prep phase.

It took about three days of prep work for me, including taking straight masking tape and making a “rounded” fender look over my tires, each taking about an hour on its own. Total spray time was about 20 minutes per coat with dry time in between, equaling about 3 hours. When you go to put your roof rack back on your vehicle, check over your hardware for aging or rusting. I would say about half of the screws I used were rusted through and some stripped when taking the rack off, creating more problems and a frustrating removal of my rack. For the extra few dollars per part, it’s worth upgrading to stainless steel hardware to prevent any future failure of roof racks, your base to a safe haul of your kayaks.

My results with the U-Pol product were very satisfying. My vehicle looks like it got a hot shave and a massage and should be able to stand up to the elements for many years to come with minimal maintenance. FS

Rust-Busters

 Rinse, rinse, rinse with clean, fresh water after every trip. That goes for your kayak as well as your hauling vehicle.

 If a freshwater rinse is not available on site, at least allow time for your kayak to drip-dry before loading.

 Bring an old towel with you so that you can wipe off any sand or saltwater from your kayak before loading on to your vehicle or trailer.

 As soon as you get home, rinse your vehicle thoroughly (including the undercarriage) and give it a quick scrub with soapy water, followed by another rinse.

 Good option: Install a battery powered pump and spray system in your vehicle, so that you can rinse off your salty kayaks before loading. Or, stop and rinse all at the nearest U-wash on the road.

First published Florida Sportsman October 2014

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