The complete guide to kayak oil canning (kayak denting)

The complete guide to kayak oil canning (kayak denting)
Photo by Dewang Gupta / Unsplash

Whether you are new to the kayaking world or have been around a while. Oil canning is a term that you won't often hear but can be pretty important. Especially when looking to buy a new kayak.

Knowing what oil canning is and how to fix it can be very beneficial to the longevity, durability, and resale value of your kayak as well as the boater experience.

In this guide, we are going to look at what oil canning is, why it's bad and how to prevent and fix it. Hopefully, by the end, you will have a deeper understanding of the design and maintenance of kayaks.

Table of contents

What is kayak oil canning?

Kayak oil canning is a term used to describe the waviness and indentations to the plastic hull of your kayak. This damage can sometimes be hard to see and can cause all sorts of performance issues as well as weaken the integrity of your kayak.

Visibly, the indent on your kayak from oil canning will look either flat or concave instead of the kayak's original bowed shape. It is called oil canning because when weight is applied to the indentation, the hull pops back out much like an actual oil can.

the oil can
Photo by Jack Douglass / Unsplash

Why is oil canning a problem for your kayak?

There are many issues that oil canning can cause for your kayak that can give you many headaches down the road.

Reduce kayak durability

One of the big reasons you want to prevent oil canning on your kayak is because it can lower the durability of your boat.  If your kayak is showing signs of oil canning, it may be because it is losing its structural integrity or the kayak material is wearing thin, which can cause cracks and splinters in the hull.

Lower the kayaks resale value

If you are trying to sell your kayak second-hand and it has some oil canning on the hull then you might not be getting as much value as you can out of it.

Generally, oil canning can be seen as a small defect as well as wear and tear therefore making experienced buyers cautious of buying for a high price. Oil canning can also demonstrate a lack of care by the owner leading buyers into thinking there may be other things wrong with the kayak.

Being proactive and fixing any oil canning issues before you decide to list your used kayak online can help you from being haggled down on your price because of the defect.

On the flip side, if you are a potential buyer, looking for a used kayak. You might be able to find a good deal on a used kayak with oil canning and talk down the price because of the indentation. Of course, with buying anything online, take lots of precautions and buyer beware.

Make paddling harder

This one may have the smallest impact of any of the other factors but it still affects the paddling experience.

Having an indentation on your kayak's hull can create more drag on the boat making you paddle just a little bit harder. Unless you have a giant dent on the bottom though, this may not be something that you notice.

Many hull designs made nowadays are made with efficiency in mind and any damage or indentations can change that. Luckily, newer kayaks are less susceptible to oil canning.

What causes kayak oil canning?

There are quite a few things that can cause oil canning on your kayak, most of the time it will be because of improper care or damage from heat.

The most common issue that I've seen with oil canning was because the paddler strapped their boat down too hard on the vehicle, causing the hull to dent. This can cause a lot of damage to the boat, depending on how tight it was strapped down.

Another common issue I've seen is having the kayak stored on its hull during the kayak off-season. Over a long period of time, the weight of the kayak will put pressure on the hull causing it to dent. Proper storage is key for preventing this among other issues.

Dragging your kayak around a lot can also cause oil canning on the hull. Doing this often can cause lots of wear and tear. Practicing proper kayaking carrying techniques or investing in a keel guard can go a long way in the longevity of your kayak.

As you may have already noticed, lots of the damage to the hull happens when the kayak is not in the water but actually on land, especially during transportation. It is important to always be aware of how you are treating your kayak and paddling in the water is only half the story when it comes to this sport.

Photo by A n v e s h / Unsplash

How to prevent kayak oil canning

As noted above, a lot of the damage that causes oil canning on your kayak comes mostly from activities outside of the water. Mostly coming from how your kayak is stored or during transportation. Here are some tips for preventing oil canning on your kayak.

Proper storage

When your kayak is not in the water, there are a few places you can store your boat to minimize the potential for damage, including oil canning.

The first is investing in a kayak rack. These are great if you have many kayaks you want to store or have lots of wall space. They are also quite inexpensive and easy to set up making them a fan favorite for many kayakers.

Another option is a hoist for your kayak. These are perfect if you want to suspend your kayak from the roof. Either because it's more convenient or you don't have the wall space for a kayak rack. While they are less accessible than a storage rack, they do a better job at keeping the kayak out of your way, especially in a tight space.

Be sure to place your kayaks upside down or on their side when storing them somewhere for a long period of time. If not stored properly, the weight of the boat will press down on the hull, potentially causing oil canning on your kayak.

Proper transportation

Proper transportation is another key element in preventing your kayak from oil canning. While this is something that varies a lot from person to person, there are a few things you can do to prevent your boat from getting dented.

Firstly, make sure to never drag your boat - across any surface. If you are with a friend, get them to help you with transportation or learn how to properly transport a kayak by yourself. Dragging your kayak can cause wear and tear damage to the hull.

Also, make sure that you know how to properly load and unload your kayak from your vehicle when transporting it somewhere. There are many things involved in this process that can cause damage such as strapping it down too tight or not properly loading it on the rack. If unsure about how to properly load your kayak, refer to the owner's manual of your car rack, or here is a quick video to help you out.

How to fix kayak oil canning

Now that we've identified what oil canning is in your kayak and what can cause it, we are going to look at how you can potentially fix this issue.

There are a few ways that you can do this, each using a similar technique of applying heat to the hull and popping the dent out. Here is a quick guide to get you started with fixing your kayak dents.

Prepare and inspect the kayak

The first step to fixing oil canning is to find a space where you can lay your kayak upside down (aka hull side up). There are two main reasons for this.

  1. It provides easy access for you to perform the next steps. Not having a dedicated place for your boat where you can leave it upside down somewhere for a bit of time may affect your results.
  2. It prevents the weight of the kayak from putting more pressure on the dent. This can potentially cause more damage or reduce the recovery of the oil canning.

Inspecting your vessel and knowing where to apply a solution is an important first step to fixing the problem.

Warm up the hull

Now that we have our kayak laid out and we've inspected it or oil canning. We need a way to apply some sort of heat to it so that we can pop it back out into its original shape. Here are a few ways that you can try this:

  • The sun. If it's going to be hot weather then why not use the hot glowing orb in the sky to apply heat to the hull of the kayak. With just a few hours in the sunny heat, the hull should start to soften and you can continue on the next step.
  • Hot water. Using some hot water can be another method for getting dents out of the hull. This method has the benefit of providing lots of heat to a specific area but also the weight can help weigh down the dented area. This works best for dents that are easily accessible from inside the kayak.
  • Heat gun or hair dryer. If the sun isn't an option for you then using a heating tool such as a heat gun or even a hair dryer can be another way to warm up and soften the hull of the kayak. With this method, you can also have easy access to the inside of the hull giving you more precision for fixing any dents.
When using these methods, make sure that you aren't providing too much heat to the hull or any specific areas as you may run the risk of damaging the material of your boat. If you arent sure how hot your boat can get, please consult the owner's manual

Now that you've applied heat to the oil canning on your kayak, you are now ready to proceed to the next step of knocking it out.

Knock out dent if needed

Hopefully, the heat would have made the dent pop out on its own and fixed the issue with your kayak. This isn't always the case though and sometimes you will have to go inside and apply pressure to the hull, popping it out yourself.

Be careful when attempting this since the hull may still be hot from the heat and you may burn yourself. Try using gloves if you don't feel comfortable.

If you still feel like the denting hasn't been fixed, try re-visiting the previous step and attempting a different method, or maybe try a bit more heat.

Hopefully, the boat has now been restored to its original shape!


We are going to end this just as we started, by inspecting the hull of our kayak. Look at where the oil canning was happening and see how this process affected the shape of the area.

Hopefully, the damage was not too bad and the dents were able to come out. If you are still noticing some canning to a specific area, you can re-visit the second step and try it with a different heat method.

If you still notice some canning, then be sure to take really good care of your boat to prevent further damage from happening. Unfortunately, this solution is never a 100% guarantee.


So here it is! Hopefully, you are now familiar with the ins and out of kayak oil canning and what causes kayaks to dent. As you can see, there are many ways this can happen, and taking proper precautions can be a great way to prevent this.

If you do find yourself with some oil canning on the bottom of your kayak. You now know how to inspect it, apply heat, and pop the dent out yourself.

I hope that you have found this guide useful and best of luck on your adventures!

Happy Paddling!!