Inflatable Kayak Repair: The Most Important Steps You Must Know

Inflatable kayak repair is not that difficult, at least for small repairs. And, there are professional inflatable raft repair shops for the big jobs.

An inflatable kayak repair job done properly will outlast the rest of the boat.

The ability to repair damage to the kayak is a huge advantage they have over hard boats.

On an inexpensive inflatable kayak, it’s usually not cost effective to send the boat to a professional raft repair shop. Do it yourself or find a friend to do it for you.

On more expensive (and better quality) boats, it can be a great way to add years of fun to your kayak.

inflatable kayak repair

Photo by Vern

Have you checked the valves?

Maybe there is not a leak.

The easiest inflatable kayak repair is fixing the valve.

Newer inflatable kayak valves are great.

They are tough and durable. And, they are one-way. A simple twist of the inner valve stem keeps air from coming out of the tube. A twist in the other direction allows air to come out.

This is great.

If you’ve ever had to try to keep pumping air in while closing the valve, you know. If you haven’t, trust me; one way valves are great.

Theses valves can also be a source of slow, but problematic, air leaks.

There are usually two situations where this occurs:

  1. The valve becomes loose. This usually only occurs in boats that have an inner air bladder and an outer shell. This includes boats by Aire, Stearns, and Advanced Elements.
    The fix is simple. Tighten the valve. Most boats come with a valve tool that you can use to tighten the valve.
  2. Dirt & grit get into the valve.
    Blow the inflatable kayak up fully. Release the air from the valve. Repeat 5 or 6 times. This usually blows the grit out. If this doesn’t work, you can put a little bit of liquid soap in the valve. This “lubricates” the valve.

Valves do sometimes fail and need to be replaced, but with good quality valves it doesn’t happen often.

These problems may not be worth repairing

Sometimes an inflatable fishing kayak repair is not worth the time, money and/or effort to do the repair.

Here are three situations in which the repair effort may not be worth it.

Blown seams on an inexpensive boat.

A blown seam is difficult to repair and usually requires special tools. On an inexpensive inflatable kayak, a blown seam may be the end of the boat. Professional raft repair shops can repair a blown seam in an inflatable kayak, but it is not cheap.

Excessive UV (Ultra-violet) damage.

This is not as common as it was several years ago. Protectants (such as 303 Protectant) are used by most outfitters. Most private users don’t leave their boat in the sun long enough for major damage.

UV damage usually causes weakening, cracking and flaking of the raft material. Air slowly passes through these weakened areas. There are materials to repair this. Some are applied inside the tube and some are applied on the outside.

The problem is that this problem seldom occurs in only one place. Excessive UV (via sunlight) reached a large area of the boat. You get one area sealed and another appears. And another. Soon you’ve got more time and materials in the boat than it will be worth.

A large rip, tear, or hole in an inexpensive inflatable kayak or an old inflatable kayak.

Large rips, tears & holes are hard to repair correctly. It requires skill and patience. It doesn’t always work.

If the boat is a good quality boat that has quite a bit of use left in it, then you can have the job done by a professional raft repair shop.

In an old inflatable kayak or an inexpensive one, you can try it yourself; but understand that your repair job may not work.

When do you need it repaired by?

There are three time frames to consider when doing inflatable kayak repair.

  1. A repair good enough to get you to the end of your current trip.
  2. A repair good enough to get you through the busy season.
  3. A repair that will last the lifetime of the boat.

Many times, one repair takes care of all three. But there are times when you need to just get through the trip or get through the busy season.

Check with nrsweb.com or rivergear.com for repair supplies.

The Basics of Inflatable Kayak Repair

The basic inflatable kayak repair is not difficult, but I still hate to do it. And, I’m not very good at it.

Despite being mechanically challenged and despising it, I have completed several repairs to inflatable kayaks and rafts.

My repair work almost always looks ugly, but it usually holds up well.

Inflatable kayak repair glues and solvents can be toxic to you and to the environment. Take care of both.

The basic procedure for inflatable kayak repair:

This procedure gets me through the busy season. My repairs are usually cosmetically ugly, but they work. After the season, I’ll get a professional raft repair person to make it look good. We don’t have the need to do raft repairs on the river. You can get patches for quick, on the river repair from nrsweb.com or manofrubber.com

  1. Work in a dry, well ventilated place away from most people.
  2. Position the boat so that the area to be patched is on a flat surface. You should have a few inches in each direction beyond the area to be patched on the flat surface. It’s best if you don’t have to move the boat for 24 hours.
  3. Get your materials ready. Patch, glue, solvent, scissors, sandpaper, roller or screwdriver.
  4. Put on protective gear. Gloves and possibly a respirator.
  5. Mark the area to be patched. Patch a couple of inches beyond the whole. Less for a pinhole leak. More for a large rip or tear.
  6. Cut your patch.
  7. Clean both with solvent.
  8. Abrade both with sandpaper.
  9. Blow off grit.
  10. Apply glue to both. Let dry for 10 to 30 minutes.
  11. Apply another coat of glue to each.
  12. Let dry until tacky. Usually about 5 minutes.
  13. Now is a good time to cash in a small amount of Karma. You do not want to screw up the next step.
  14. Place the patch on the area to be patched. This is contact glue. Once it makes contact with the other part of glue, a bond begins to form. You only get one shot at this. If you get it wrong, you’ve got a gluey mess.
    Once the glue makes contact, keep going. Don’t lift it up. Your aim does not have to be perfect. Remember your patch covers a couple of inches beyond the hole. Small bumps are okay at this point.
  15. Once the patch is applied, working from the center of the patch outward, take a roller or a screwdriver and press the patch onto the inflatable kayak.
    Spend extra time doing this. Press the patch to the boat. Start at the center of the patch and work your way out. Do it several times. Make sure every piece of the raft is pressed down several times. Your goal is to get maximum contact between the patch and the boat. Air can squeeze through a tiny whole.
  16. Let it cure in place. I like to let my patches cure for 24 hours. You can use the boat sooner, even just 30 minutes after the repair. But the less curing time, the greater the chance of the patch failing.
  17. After the glue has cured, you can use solvent to clean up excess glue.

Material & Manufacturer Matter

Repair procedures vary depending on the material the boat is made of and the manufacturer. Most new inflatable kayaks come with instructions on performing basic repair. Many new boats come with repair kits.

If you have an older boat, check with the manufacturer.

It’s difficult to undo an inflatable kayak repair. Make sure you have the right materials before you start.

Wear Pads

If you use your inflatable kayak a lot (or if you buy a used one from an outfitter), you’ll start to notice wear spots.

There is a solution to this that works great. Brush on wear pads.

This inflatable kayak repair can add years of use to a good quality boat.

Here’s a source: manofrubber.com

Some Final Thoughts

If your mechanical skills are average or better, then you can do basic inflatable kayak repair. You may even be able to perform a major repair.

If you are not mechanical, you could probably do a minor inflatable kayak repair. A better option may be to persuade a friend who is mechanically inclined to do the job for you.

Remember that the glues and solvents that are used for raft repair can be dangerous to you and to the environment. Take proper precautions.

A good repair job to an inflatable kayak can outlast the rest of the boat.

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