Ask Sail: Reusing Old Bolts
Marc Meacham, Queensbury, NY
Q: I am replacing the rubrails on my 26-year-old Pearson. I have removed the many bolts that hold the rub rail to the deck and the deck to the hull. They do not appear to be corroded. Can I reuse them, or is it better to buy new bolts?
Don Casey Replies
A: My own boat turned 45 this year, and the caprail/hull-deck joint is still fastened with the original bolts. However, some time ago I replaced all of the nuts and washers because they had begun bleeding rust. The bolts have recently started to do so as well, and they are now on the list for replacement this year. This sounds like I am saying your fasteners could be good for another couple of decades, but the bolts Pearson used were almost certainly type 304 stainless steel. Type 316 stainless steel bolts are now readily available, and they are substantially more rust resistant. Given the relatively low cost of new bolts, I strongly encourage you to replace all those you have removed with type 316 bolts, nuts and washers. Hardware replacement is a bit like reefing. When you wonder if you should, the safe answer is always, yes.
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