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ALASKA RAFT CONNECTION DO-IT-YOURSELF INFLATABLE BOAT REPAIR INSTRUCTIONS - SELF-HELP FOR REPAIRING YOUR RAFT, CATARAFT, KAYAK, CANOE, PONTOON, SPORTBOAT OR RIB AT HOME OR IN THE FIELD

12-Step Do-It-Yourself Inflatable Boat Repairs

Fix your inflatable raft, cataraft, kayak, canoe, packraft, pontoon, runabout, tender, dinghy, liferaft, RIB, sportboat, inflatable boat parts, and accessories at home or out in the field.  This self-help information will explain all the elements, tooling, and procedures involved with repairing an inflatable boat without taking it to the repair shop.

Repair information for Achilles, Advanced Elements, AIRE, Airib, Airis, Alaska Series by Gary King, Alpaca, Apex, Aqualine, AVON, Bombard, Buck’s Bag, Campways, Colman, Delphin, DIB, DRE, Feathercraft, Fishcat, Grabner, Hyside, Incept, Innova, Intex, Jack’s Plastic Welding, Klepper, Little Creek Company, Maravia, Metzeler, Momentum, Maxxon, NAIAD, NRS, Nautiraid, Outcast, Polaris, Riken, SeaEagle, Saturn, Sevylor, Soar, Solaris, SOTAR, Sportsmans, Star, Sterns, Tributary, Thrillseaker, Vangaurd, Wing, Zebek, ZODIAC.

Step 1:  Investigate and Evaluate

Before diving into any inflatable boat repair project, it is important to know the make, model, year of manufacture, and the manufactures warranty policy.

Look at the boat’s overall condition.  See that it holds air pressure for 24-60 hours.

Examine valves, fabrics, seams, D-rings, carry handles, or other essential components (like transom on motorized sportboats) for damage.  Identify if anything is missing (like valve-caps).

Knowing exactly what the fix entails enables the repair person to accurately layout the project and to acquire all the necessary materials in advance.

  SOAP CHECK - The most common method of assessing damages to an inflatable boat is soap checking.  Soap checks are one of the easiest, least expensive, and best ways to locate the most commonly occurring punctures, cuts, abrasions, or pinhole leaks.  Properly inflate your boat.  Suds up the entire raft, kayak, or canoe (including all ‘uncapped’ valves) like hand washing the car.  Damage areas foam up, make bubble trails, or create larger bubbles.  Smaller leaks may take a few seconds to detect.  Let the soap sit and flood the suspect area for a while if you do not see any evidence right away.  Try the same soapy solution in a spray bottle to better target less revealing seepage of air.  Keep track of what you find by marking problem spots on the boat with a pencil or pen.  Draw an illustration of the damages on a sheet of paper if multiple holes exist for later reference. Soap checking is not all that useful for larger more evident injuries.

Step 2:  ‘I have a blue raft!’… Rubber or Plastic?

People may know the inflatable boat brand, model, year of manufacture, where and when purchased.  When the repair shop asks what kind of fabric your boat is made of… the all too familiar reply is, ‘I have a blue one.’  Many are uncertain if it is constructed using rubber or plastic fabrics.  Answering this frequently asked question is fundamental to determining different preparations, adhesives, materials, and even what types of field repair kits.  When in doubt, verify what your inflatable is made of with helpful tips or hands-on visual inspection from ALASKA RAFT CONNECTION repair shop and check with the manufacturer.

Step 3: Obtain equipment with supplies --- Organize a clean work environment

This part of the Do-It-Yourself information will give How-To repair details on inflatable boats made of natural or synthetic rubber-based Hypalon, Neoprene, Gum, and EPDM.

CAUTION - Ideally, inflatable boat repairs are done in well-ventilated areas due to the nature of the chemical’s flammability and hazardous vapors they produce.  It is a good practice to use personal protective equipment like eye protection, respirator, and gloves when working with harmful chemicals.  When indoors, have a fire extinguisher readily available and give yourself more than one escape exit.  Most repairs can be done in any heated garage having sufficient room to place the boat on the floor with some additional workspace.  Perfect temperatures are a controlled, dry 60-70 degrees Fahrenheit while working with boat repair adhesives or coatings.

Fact that this self-help, how-to instruction covers similar steps for field repair and provides useful references and resources… venturing outside in an attempt to produce professional, factory-level repairs on hot sunny days, during rain showers, under windy circumstances, or enduring cold to freezing conditions is just not likely to turn out quite the same.

 Suggested Equipment & Materials needed:

-Mixing container                  -Disposable paint brush         -Clifton hypalon glue

-Chemical gloves                    - Rotary tool                           -Clifton hypalon accelerator

-Respirator                             -Toluene                                 -Clean workspace

-Fabric roller                          -Clean shop rag                      -Sharp scissors

-Pen/Pencil                              -Goggles                                 -Hypalon rubber fabric

-Putty Knife

Step 4: Cut out Patch

The extent of damage determines the size of patch. Patches should cover the damage by 2” on all sides.

Use round objects of varying sizes as stencils for patches.  (Lids, buckets, cups, etc.)

Carefully cut out the patch leave no rough or serrated edges.  Sharp scissors make clean cuts without wasting material.

Step 5: Trace Patch on Boat

Fold patch in half centering over damaged area for proper alignment.

Trace around the perimeter of the patch with a pen or pencil.

Draw points of reference on the boat and patch so they may be oriented for the repair.  Mark as many times as you like (1 or 2 works… more intricate patches may require more detailed marks to identify ideal placement).

Step 6:  Sand Boat

Position a hard flat surface (board, metal plate, etc.) beneath the boat fabric to be sanded.

Stabilize the project with clamps to prevent shifting and repositioning while sanding.

Use rotary tools to sand the inside of the circle.  Stay within the lines!  Careful edge work is done using a smaller flap wheel for finer detail.  Sand the remaining area with a larger flap wheel.  Sanding with the small flap wheel creates an uneven surface texture versus larger flap wheels laying down a homogenous plane.  Sanded boat fabric should have a suede-like surface.  After completely sanding, brush all rubber dust away.

Step 7:  Sand Patch

Place patch on a soft textured surface (like a piece of carpet).  Position the patch on top of the carpet and begin sanding.  For best results, never sand a patch on a hard surface. This may cause surface conformity to interface of the hard plane leading to poor adhesion and failed air retention.  Sand with a large flap wheel until all the sheen is removed.  Shiny patches do not stick!  Sanded patches should have a suede-like surface.  After thoroughly sanding, brush all rubber dust away.

Step 8: Mix Clifton FA-4844 Adhesive (rubber glue)

Pour 2oz of Clifton’s FA-4844 adhesive into a clean mixing container.  Do not use Styrofoam or disposable party cups…they will dissolve! You will waste glue and make a mess.

If needed add a little toluene until the glue’s gooeyness thins down to the consistency of pancake batter.  Mix well with a disposable brush or mixing stick like a Popsicle stick, tongue depressor, etc.

Strengthen adhesive and quicken process by adding Clifton Hypalon Accelerator.  Clifton adhesive to accelerator ratio is 1 gallon to 0.8 oz.  A few drops of accelerator will be sufficient for the perfect rubber glue mixture.

REMEMBER - Cover glue containers when not in use to minimize fumes and spills.  This good habit also keeps the adhesive from curing in the container and hardening on the brush.

Step 9:  Glue Patch (Performed simultaneously with Step 10)

Working on a clean surface, evenly apply a thin layer of rubber glue to patch with a disposable paint brush.  As stated (steps 6 and 7) uneven surface textures are a troublemaker because it leads to poor adhesion and failed air retention.  Paint patch consistently within 10-15 seconds.  Avoid too many harsh brush strokes because glue will set up unevenly by streaking.

Allow patch to dry until no longer tacky to touch.  Usually 20 minutes depending on conditions.  When testing a patch for tackiness, touch with the back of hand because fingertips are oily. 

Lay down another coat of glue; also allow it to dry a second time.

Step 10:  Glue Boat (Performed simultaneously with Step 9)

Paint rubber glue on consistently, being careful not to over-stroke and streak.  Stay within the lines!  Gluing beyond the patch area is unnecessary.  Let dry approximately 20 minutes. 

Lay down another coat of glue and let dry.

Step 11:  Stick Patch to Boat

Dampen a clean, lint-free cloth, T- shirt rag, or disposable towel with Toluene.  Think along the lines of preparation or sterile wipe weave – not paper towels.

‘Gently’ flash wipe over repair area.  This will reactivate the adhesive. 

Sticky Patch - Rubber glue on boat surface will reactivate for only sufficient time to promptly place the patch on.

Advantages to the gluing/flashing technique are:

A.)  Means to position patches flawlessly sticking them down the first time around.

B.)  Facilitating swift removal of misaligned, irregular patch work to get a subsequent try.

Step 12: Finishing Methods

Using a putty knife apply firm pressure to patch starting from center and pushing toward the outside edges.  This removes air pockets between fabric layers.

Using a fabric roller, forcefully roll the entire patch to guaranty secure, airtight adhesion. 

For best results, let the job cure for 72hours before soap checking again to look for missed maintenance or evaluating unsatisfactory repair.


The next section of the Do-It-Yourself information will give How-To repair details on inflatable boats made of PVC, Urethane, and other plastomer/plastic based fabrics.


Applying a Plastic Patch

Several steps will be familiar to rubber-based inflatable boat repairs… There are particular elements and ingredients to the procedure that will be different.

Step 1:  Investigate and Evaluate

Before diving into any inflatable boat repair project, it is important to know the make, model, year of manufacture, and the manufactures warranty policy.

Look at the boat’s overall condition.  See that it holds air pressure for 24-60 hours.

Examine valves, fabrics, seams, D-rings, carry handles, or other essential components (like transom on motorized sportboats) for damage.  Identify if anything is missing (like valve-caps).

Knowing exactly what the fix entails enables the repair person to accurately layout the project and to acquire all the necessary materials in advance.

SOAP CHECK - The most common method of assessing damages to an inflatable boat is soap checking.  Soap checks are one of the easiest, least expensive, and best ways to locate the most commonly occurring punctures, cuts, abrasions, or pinhole leaks.  Properly inflate your boat.  Suds up the entire raft, kayak, or canoe (including all ‘uncapped’ valves) like hand washing the car.  Damage areas foam up, make bubble trails, or create larger bubbles.  Smaller leaks may take a few seconds to detect.  Let the soap sit and flood the suspect area for a while if you do not see any evidence right away.  Try the same soapy solution in a spray bottle to better target less revealing seepage of air.  Keep track of what you find by marking problem spots on the boat with a pencil or pen.  Draw an illustration of the damages on a sheet of paper if multiple holes exist for later reference. Soap checking is not all that useful for larger more evident injuries.

Step 2:  ‘I have a red boat!’… Plastic or Rubber?

People may know the inflatable boat brand, model, year of manufacture, where and when purchased.  When the repair shop asks what kind of fabric your boat is made of… the all too familiar reply is, ‘I have a red one.’  Many are uncertain if it is constructed using rubber or plastic fabrics.  Answering this frequently asked question is fundamental to determining different preparations, adhesives, materials, and even what types of field repair kits.  When in doubt, verify what your inflatable is made of with helpful tips or hands-on visual inspection from ALASKA RAFT CONNECTION repair shop and check with the manufacturer.

Step 3: Obtain equipment with supplies --- Organize a clean work environment

This part of the Do-It-Yourself information will give How-To repair details on inflatable boats made of Plastic-based PVC, Elvaloy, Urethane, and vinyl Fabrics.  This self-help information will explain all the elements, tooling and procedures involved with repairing an inflatable boat without taking it to the repair shop.

CAUTION - Ideally, inflatable boat repairs are done in well-ventilated areas due to the nature of the chemical’s flammability and hazardous vapors they produce.  It is a good practice to use personal protective equipment like eye protection, respirator, and gloves when working with harmful chemicals.  When indoors, have a fire extinguisher readily available and give yourself more than one escape exit.  Most repairs can be done in any heated garage having sufficient room to place the boat on the floor with some additional workspace.  Perfect temperatures are a controlled, dry 60-70 degrees Fahrenheit while working with boat repair adhesives or coatings.

Fact that this self-help, how-to instruction covers similar steps for field repair and provides useful references and resources… venturing outside in an attempt to produce professional, factory-level repairs on hot sunny days, during rain showers, under windy circumstances, or enduring cold to freezing conditions is just not likely to turn out quite the same.

Suggested Equipment & Materials needed:

-mixing cups                           -MEK                                      -PVC glue and activator

-disposable paint brush          -fabric roller                           -heat gun

-sharp scissors                        -respirator                              -chemical gloves

-eye protection                       -putty knife                              -pen/pencil

-PVC/Plastic fabric

Step 4: Cut Out Patch

The extent of damage determines the size of patch. Patches should cover the damage by 2” on all sides.

Use round objects of varying sizes as stencils for patches.  (Lids, buckets, cups, etc.)

Carefully cut out the patch leave no rough or serrated edges.  Sharp scissors make clean cuts without wasting material.

Step 5: Trace Patch on Boat

Fold patch in half centering over damaged area for proper alignment.

Trace around the perimeter of the patch with a pen or pencil.

Draw points of reference on the boat and patch so they may be oriented for the repair.  Mark as many times as you like (1 or 2 works… more intricate patches may require more detailed marks to identify ideal placement).

MEK is a strong solvent/degreaser and can wash away light lines.

Step 6:  Preparing PVC/Plastic Patch

Plastic fabric can be chemically etched with Methyl Ethyl Ketone (MEK) and does not require sanding in most cases.

Tougher urethane fabrics may involve sanding to remove original factory surface.

WARNING! - Use respirator, gloves, and eye protection.

Pour about 4 oz of MEK into a mixing cup.  Do not use Styrofoam or disposable party cups…they will dissolve! You will waste chemical and make a mess.

Using a disposable paintbrush, aggressively wash the surface with MEK at least 5 times allowing the surface to dry between washings.

Step 7:  Preparing PVC/Plastic Boat

Thoroughly wash repair area at least 5 times with MEK.

Care must be taken to prevent MEK from running all over the boat.  Use a shop rag to absorb excess chemical.

Sanding could be involved to remove old glue or prepare sturdy urethane fabrics.

Step 8:  Mixing PVC/Plastic Glue

Pour Stabond UK-148 into a mixing cup.  Add the adhesive’s accelerator.  Stabond recommends mixture of 10 parts adhesive to 1 part accelerator.

AVOID - Styrofoam or disposable party cups…they will dissolve! You will waste glue and make a mess.

REMEMBER - Cover glue containers when not in use to minimize fumes and spills.  This good habit also keeps the adhesive from curing in the container and hardening on the brush.

Step 9:  Glue Patch (Performed simultaneously with Step 10)

Working on a clean surface, evenly apply a thin layer of Stabond to patch with a disposable paint brush.  As in steps 6 and 7, uneven surface texture is a troublemaker because it leads to poor adhesion and failed air retention.  Paint patch consistently within 10-15 seconds.  Avoid too many harsh brush strokes because glue will set up unevenly by streaking.

Allow patch to dry until nolonger tacky to touch.  Usually 20 minutes depending on conditions.  When testing a patch for tackiness, touch with the back of hand because fingertips are oily.

Lay down another coat of glue;also allow it to dry a second time.

Step 10:  Glue Boat (Performed simultaneously with Step 9)

Paint glue on consistently, being careful not to over-stroke and streak.  Stay within the lines!  Gluing beyond the patch area is unnecessary.  Let dry approximately 20 minutes.

Lay down another coat of glue and let dry.

Step 11:  Stick Patch to Boat

Have heat gun handy.

Place patch over repair area by aligning any points of reference.  Notice patch will not stick to the raft until a heat source is added.  Try not to drop it.  When satisfied with the patch’s position use the heat gun to activate the glue.

AVOID - Aiming heat gun directly at the repair area.  Continuously move heat gun above any fabric or it will delaminate.  A good rule of thumb is that if its too hot for your hand….it’s too hot for the boat.

Step 12: Finishing Methods

Using a putty knife apply firm pressure to patch starting from center and pushing toward the outside edges.  This removes air pockets between fabric layers. 

Using a fabric roller, forcefully roll the entire patch to guaranty secure, airtight adhesion.  If any obvious air pockets are present use the heat gun to reheat the area and work the pocket to the outside with a putty knife or fabric roller.

For best results, let the job cure for 72 hours before soap checking again to look for missed maintenance or evaluating unsatisfactory repair.



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