Boat Cover Snaps Repair
and the Right Tools for the Job


    Boat Cover Snaps Repair:
  • The DIY Boat Snap Toolkit Essentials
  • Tips for Installing Boat Snaps in Canvas
  • Tips for Installing Screw Studs
  • Tips for Boat Cover Snaps Repair

DIY Boat Cover Snaps Repair Toolkit

Boat Cover Snaps Repair Tools:

Snap setter
Sharp scissors
Sharp pencil
Flat head screwdriver with narrow ¼” tip
Hammer or mallet
Block of wood – end grain
Cobalt or titanium drill bits 1/8”, 9/64”, 5/32”, 3/16”
Plastic Wall Anchors 8-10 x 3/4” for enlarged holes in the fiberglass

The most common type of boat snaps you will want to install for boat cover snaps repair are Dot fasteners.

Dot SnapDot Fasteners

It is a common problem for boat snaps to come apart on the canvas due to crimping failure.  

An equally troublesome problem is when boat cover snaps actually pull through the canvas from a tear or an enlarged hole in the canvas.

This always requires a patch to be sewn on before setting a new snap for your boat cover snaps repair.

See how to sew on a patch on our boat cover repair page.

Installing Dot and Fasnap Boat Snaps in Canvas

Professionals mostly use the Pres-n-snap tool built by Hoover to set snaps, but it is costly and may not be necessary for the DIY boat snap installer.

pres-n-snap tool

Boat cover snaps can be set with an anvil style set tool as pictured below. The quality of anvil style tool will vary the quality of the crimp. If you are desiring a professional crimp for your boat cover snaps repair, the press style snap tools are your choice.

The tool pictured below is the heavy duty anvil we sell.  It will do a fine job for your boat cover snaps repair, even with the stainless steel snaps we sell.  It will set both cap and socket (Female) or eyelet and stud (Male) just by flipping it over.  

Anvil Snap Setter

The vice grip tools shown below are a little quicker and no hammering will be required for your boat cover snaps repair.

The first photo below shows the Time Saver vice pliers which do a good job with the nickel/brass snaps, but the stainless steel might be a bit much for the snap-on dies shown here.  It also easy to loose the dies.

Time Saver tools does sell kits that include nickel/brass snaps for your boat cover snaps repair.

Bare in mind that even though we use stainless steel snaps in our shop, nickel/brass snaps have been used for many years by fabricators and many still use them.  They are perfectly acceptable for any climate when doing your boat cover snaps repair.

The second photo is the style of vice grips we sell. The difference in these pliers is that the dies are welded on. The welded on dies are for the cap and socket snap which is the most common snap installed on boat canvas. 

Caps and sockets mate with the screw-in studs commonly screwed into fiberglass boats everywhere.  However, buying this tool leaves you without the dies used for installing the eyelet and stud side of the snap.    

Boat Snap Tool

DIY Tip:  The vice grips in this kit are bigger than average, so don't buy the dies by themselves, because they may not fit on the tool you have at home for your boat cover snaps repair.

Vice Grip

Installing Curtain/Twist Fasteners & Lift-The-Dot Fasteners

Professionals install these fasteners using an expensive hand punch tool, and again this is not practical for the DIY boater.

The curtain fastener (twist fastener) and the Lift-The-Dot fasteners all come with two parts – the 4 prong male top side and the female backing plate which sandwiches the fabric between itself and the male side.  The prongs crimp down and hold tight to the backing plate. Both of these boat cover snap fasteners can be installed with a little patience and without expensive tools.

Lift the Dot and Twist Fastener

Here is a what you'll need for this task:

  • Block of wood with the end grain up
  • Flat nose screwdriver 1/8” - 1/4” wide
  • Hammer
  • Sharp pair of scissors
  • Chalk
  • Sharp pencil for marking

1. First make sure the canvas where the boat snap is being installed is reinforced so the snap will not rip through the fabric. If you need to repair the canvas first, do so.

2. Mark where the fastener will go in your cover.

3. Chalk the tips of the prongs on the male side of the fastener.

4. Center the chalked prongs over your original snap mark on the fabric and touch the tips of the prongs to the fabric to transfer the chalk marks.

5. Flip your pronged male fastener over, then position and mark the oval center hole that is between the four prongs.

6. Putting a block of wood under your fabric, use your tiny tip flat head screwdriver and tap with a hammer to punch the holes for your prongs.

7. Next use the same technique to start a pilot hole in the center, finishing with a pair of sharp scissors and carefully cutting the oval hole in the fabric. Try not to cut the center hole too large.

8. Insert your male curtain or LTD fasteners into the hole and crimp the prongs down over your backing plate using a small hammer on the back side.

You have now successfully installed a nice, new fastener!

Installing a screw stud into your boat

    Basic screw studs and Lift the Dot studs have a #8 screw base

Screw studs

These require either a 1/8” or 9/64” drill bit

Always start with an 1/8 inch drill bit to test the thickness of the fiberglass in your boat.

After you drill any hole in fiberglass, you will need to countersink the hole. This just means that you need to clean away the sharp edges of fiberglass from the opening of the hole.

You can use a #2 Phillips head bit in your drill to countersink the top of the hole if you don't have a countersink.

Just spin the Phillips head in the drilled hole while asserting pressure and you will clear away a nice opening as shown in the photo below.

Countersink holeCountersink Hole

Now test screw by hand your #8 screw stud or your Lift-the-Dot stud into your fiberglass hole, applying firm downward pressure as you twist. The downward pressure helps limit the possibly of cracking your fiberglass.

As you go along, if you feel too much resistance and the fiberglass feels too thick, stop! You are in danger of twisting off the screw, stripping your screw head, or even worse cracking the fiberglass.

Now switch to your 9/64 inch drill bit and re-drill the hole again. You're screw should now go in snugly, but with less resistance.

If you feel the need, you can drill all of your holes with the 1/8 inch drill bit and test, you can always go back and drill again with your 9/64 inch drill bit.

This will help you get a feel for drilling into the varying thicknesses of your boats fiberglass.

Installing screw studs into aluminum

You can install a screw stud into thin aluminum using the correct drill bit and Phillips head bit. Aluminum is usually found on your windshields and pontoon railing. 

I use a 9/64 drill bit for aluminum. Again, you can test your screw on this size hole and if the aluminum is too thick and you meet with too much resistance, move up to a 5/32” size.

If you are using pop rivets with a dot stud, a 1/8” bit should be correct.

Be very careful when drilling into windshield metal. In 30 years of doing this, I did break a side windshield and getting the glass replaced was a huge pain. So if you are unsure of where your glass lays inside the metal windshield,  get help or hire a professional.

How to repair boat cover snaps

If your boat snaps have pulled out of the fiberglass and left an enlarged hole, you have a couple of different choices.

First choice would be to try a screw stud with a #10 screw base and see if it is large enough to hold in the fiberglass. Keep the smallest size available on your boat which should be a 8-10 x 3/4”.

Dot screw studs

If the hole is still too large you can use a plastic drywall anchor like this one. They do come in varying sizes.

Use a 3/16” drill bit for the plastic anchor and add a little 4200 marine adhesive before you insert the anchor. We like the 4200 over the 5200 because it stays just a little flexible. You should meet some resistance when tapping it into the hole, but not enough to mash the plastic anchor.

Once it is inserted in the hole, you can then secure your screw into the anchor. You should now have a solid hold.

Repairing your own screw studs and boat cover snaps is easy and something any DIY guy or gal can do for themselves. So go for it and good luck!

C.S.Osborne is a registered trademark of C.S.Osborne & Co.
Pres-n-snap is a registered trademark of Hoover products
Lift-The-Dot is a registered trademark of Dot Fasterners

Please come visit me at Cover Girl Marine Canvas & Upholstery to see some of our awesome covers!  If you happen to be located near me, I would love to build your custom boat cover.  

check out our EZ-Xtend Boat Zipper products:

EZ-Xtend Boat Zippers
EZ-Xtend Boat Track
EZ-Xtend Drip Shields