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Oil Canning In Plastic Kayaks – What Is It And How To Fix

Mark Armstrong
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Whether you’re looking to purchase a used kayak or you’re looking for ways to fix up your own, knowing what oil canning is can be useful, especially if you intend to repair it on your own.

But before you can know how to fix it, you need to know what oil canning in plastic kayaks actually is. So we’re here to give you some advice on how you can prevent it and how you might be able to fix it on your own.

What Is Oil Canning?

Oil canning is a term used to describe the indentations that your kayak may have on its hull. These indentations can happen as a result of your yak being tied down too tightly on a roof rack or being stored on the bottom of its hull. An oil canning example can be seen below…

It can also happen because of the wear and tear that can occur from dragging your yak along the ground (keel guard anyone?). You will often notice it as a large dent on the underside of the hull causing that section to curve inwards, instead of outwards in line with the rest of the hull.

dent kayak hull - oil canningPin
Image courtesy: theweatheredpaddle

Usually it will appear in the areas that have suffered more stress or pressure, such as from where the vessel has been resting on a roof rack.

Because of the way in which plastic kayaks and canoes are designed it might be that the bottom of the hull is thinner than the sides, which could make it more susceptible to damage and oil canning.

While it may be more likely to occur in older vessels that have seen a lot of use, it can also happen in newer vessels.

The type of indentations that can occur could mean that your vessel’s performance is affected, usually because of the location of the dents on the bottom of the hull.

Depending on the areas where the dents are, oil canning could affect your speed or tracking as it can alter your hull’s original design. However, you may or may not notice these performance issues, depending on the type of paddling you do.

Can You Prevent It?

While not all instances of oil canning will be preventable, there are some things you can do to make sure you get the most life out of your plastic yak or canoe.

When you’re taking it to and from the water, try to make sure you don’t need to drag the hull along the ground. Ask a second person to help you carry it if you can’t carry it yourself.

How you store your boat can also affect the longevity of the hull. It can be a good idea to make sure the hull is not sitting on the ground. Racks and suspended systems can be ideal for storing kayaks on their sides of upside down to avoid the hull from being damaged or weakened.

Steps On How To Repair The Oil Canning Issue (DIY)

What You’ll Need

  • Hot sunshine
  • Hairdryer
  • Hot water
  • Just a little patience! (quote shamelessly stolen from Axl Rose)

Step 1: Turn Your Kayak Or Canoe Upside Down

The first thing you will want to do to start the repair process is to turn your canoe or kayak upside down so that the bottom of the hull is facing upwards. This will allow you to see where the oil canning has occurred and you should be able to see where the indentations are.

Step 2: Use The Sun

Bright Sun - sun fishingPin

The heat of the sun can be ideal for fixing the oil canning problem. With your yak or canoe still upside down, let it sit in this position with the bottom of the hull facing the sun. Leave it in the sun for around two hours until the hull begins to soften in the heat.

Step 3: Nature Does The Trick

After about a couple of hours you may find that the dents will automatically pop out themselves, putting your hull back to its original shape. Depending on the strength of the sun, you may want to leave it for several hours.

Step 4: Pop The Dents Out Yourself

If the sun hasn’t made the dents pop out automatically you could also push up on the dented area yourself from the inside of the hull, using your hands. This, combined with the warmth of the sun, should force the dent back out and allow your hull to go back to its original molded hull design.

Video: Repairing Oil Canning Kayaks and Canoes Dents

Step 5: Use A Hairdryer

You may find that if it’s not summer or you don’t live in a warm climate, the sun might not have enough heat to warm up the hull. This is when a hairdryer can help.

Using a hairdryer, gently warm up the area where the oil canning has occurred. Be careful not to melt or burn the plastic or you may end up with more problems than just oil canning.

Step 6: Push Out The Dent

Now that the hull is warm, you can push the dent out from the inside of the hull. You might find that the heat of the hairdryer caused the dent to pop out itself, so you may or may not need to do it by hand.

Step 7: Pour In Hot Water

If all the other steps have failed and you’re still trying to get the dents out of your yak, another option you can try is to pour hot water inside the hull so that it covers the dented area.

This should heat the hull up enough to push the dent back out, with the hot water also acting as a weight to help force the hull to regain its original shape.


Hopefully you should now know what oil canning is. While you might find it can happen to both old and new plastic canoes and kayaks, you should also now know that should be several ways you can fix it without too much trouble.

Remember to look after your vessel, as transporting and storing it correctly could help lessen the chance of oil canning in your kayak.

If you’ve enjoyed this guide, share it with your followers. And if you’ve experienced oil canning before and have any other solutions that might work, leave us a comment to let us know. 

Oil Canning In Plastic Kayaks - What Is It And How To Fix - Pinterest ImagePin

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