Though most of today’s inflatable towables are made from heavy-duty PVC and Vinyl materials, they are bound to get punctured or damaged at some point, either due to improper inflation or normal wear and tear.

When that happens and your towable falls outside the warranty period, you might need to figure out ways of fixing it yourself.

And knowing a few tricks on how to repair towable tube can go a long way in saving you a lot of money that you would have otherwise spent on a repair shop.

 

Here is a step by step guide on how to go about it:

Things to Consider Before Starting Anything

Before you start looking for the leak on your inflatable tube, you might need to check the valve to find out whether there’s any grit or sand jamming the device.

It could be that these foreign fragments are causing the safety valve flap not to close properly leading to air leaks.

If that’s the case, you need to blow them out using an air pump or if necessary, replace the valve completely.

If indeed there are any holes or tears on the inflatable, you need to identify the extent of the damage and choose the right repair kit to purchase. Most inflatable towables are made of a substrate and a coating.

The role of the substrate is usually to provide strength while the coating is tasked with the work of providing waterproofing.

A coating can be in the form of a neoprene, Hypalon or copolymer like PVC. On the other hand, a substrate can either be in the form of nylon or polyester.

Understanding your inflatable’s material will help you choose the right glue for your repair work. For instance, a glue that bonds perfectly with a neoprene material cannot work with a PVC or Hypalon material. Hence you need to be careful when choosing glues.


How to Detect the Leak

One of the most effective ways of identifying a leak on your inflatable is by mixing up dish soap or detergent in water, probably in a small bucket, inflating the tube fully and pouring or brushing the soapy water on the section(s) you suspect to be leaking. If there’s any hole or leak on the tube, you’ll see soap bubbles form around the spot.

Another method is by removing the inflatable tube from its protective cover; deflating it till it’s about 3/4 full of air and slowly submerging it in water. If you see a line of bubbles from the water, it’s a sign of a leak in the given section. You can continue checking the rest of the tube surface to identify any other possible leaks.



What Material Do You Need?

If you are repairing an inflatable boat made from PVC fabric, you’ll need the following materials:

  • 2903 PVC primer and cleaner
  • 3026 two-part adhesive
  • Paintbrush (20 to 25mm bristles)
  • PVC material
  • Lint-free cloth
  • Polythene
  • Masking tape
  • Smoother for rubbing down

The Process of Repairing a Towable from PVC and vinyl

Whether you want to repair a minor hole or a large tear, there are different repair kits that can be suitable for any type of inflatable you may have. The kits are always available for both PVC and Vinyl materials.

Steps for Repairing Small Holes in an Inflatable:
  1. Clean the repair area using water (preferably warm) and mild soap. Let it air dry for about 5 to 6 hours.
  2. Apply two or more drops of repair adhesive directly around the hole.
  3. Leave it for 24 hours for the adhesive to dry properly.
Steps for Repairing Large Holes in an Inflatable:

If you’re dealing with large holes, you’ll need a PVC or vinyl patch. And to complete the repair, you’ll need to proceed as follows:

  1. Cut the PVC or vinyl patch to a size big enough to cover the hole up to 12 mm beyond it. Be sure to form the patch into an oval or round shape.
  2. Using the lint-free cloth, wipe the surface of the patch and that of the tube with the primer and cleaner. Wipe until the surface is tacky and then allow it to flash off.
  3. Smear or brush a thin layer across the surface of the patch and over the area that needs repair
  4. Allow the patch to dry for close to 5 minutes till it’s tacky before positioning it on the inflatable
  5. Carefully put the patch onto the damaged area or section of the inflatable
  6. Work from the center to the outside of the edges of the patch by pressing down and sliding the smoother to create a seal
  7. Set a heavy object, such as a landscaping stone, on the patched area to ensure it dries perfectly
  8. Leave the adhesive to dry for a minimum of 24 hours


How to Ensure a Towable Repair Success

When applying the adhesive to the damaged area of the inflatable, make sure you smear it throughout the entire hole. You should do the same for the patch.

And if you’re using a self-adhesive patch from the inflatable’s kit, you may need to add some adhesive to its edges after drying for an even stronger seal.

Always check to confirm whether the adhesive is completely dry and the patch is airtight by pumping the chamber.

Once you are certain the inflatable is leak-free when fully pumped, you can go ahead and launch it back into the waters.


Dos and Don’ts

Before doing any gluing, you should ensure your workplace is well ventilated, warm and dry. Air that’s too humid can cause the adhesive to bloom fast.

Since an inflatable repair adhesive is highly flammable, you should avoid using it near a gas fire, naked flame heat source or smoking near it.

While applying the adhesive, you should take precaution to ensure it doesn’t come into direct contact with your eyes, skin or clothing. If you are working with a two-part adhesive, do not use it if it has been mixed 4 hours or more.


Tips

  1. Always make sure you have all the materials you need before starting the repair process. That means you’ll start and complete the repair quite seamlessly. If the cut is larger than 75 mm or the towable tube badly damaged, you should consider having it professionally inspected and repaired.

2. Though inflatable tubes are made of highly durable materials, the outer covering is usually very malleable, making them susceptible to abrasions and punctures. So taking proper care of your inflatable is the surest way of avoiding any repairs.

3. Don’t place the inflatable near sharp objects. And you should avoid dragging it on rocks, shells or barnacles while planning to launch it into the water. If the dock has rough wood edges, you should avoid tying it there.

4. Instead, you should deflate it immediately at the shore after you’re done towing or floating on the waters. Proper care and good maintenance will surely ensure your towable lasts for the longest time possible to give the much fun you so crave for.


In Conclusion

Now that you have all the tips and tricks on how to fix a towable tube, you shouldn’t bother wasting your time and money going to a repair shop next time your toy gets punctured or torn a bit.

But all the same, you should take good care of your inflatable and maintain it properly in order to ensure it lasts longer and gives you more value for money.

 

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Do you know other ways to repair a towable? If so, you are welcome to share your experience in the comments below.

 

4 COMMENTS

  1. Wow, this is great information! We have all kinds of inflatables because we live on the beach. When something gets a hole, I have always just tossed it away! Some are expensive too. I didn’t really think about repairing them. I am going to bookmark this information and save it for when we get our next hole. They do happen unfortunately. But now, we can repair them 🙂 Do these repairs close the hole completely, meaning we won’t have to worry about the hole breaking back open or leaking air?

    • Hi Matt,

      Yes, the problem with inflatables is that they get pierced quite easily because they are often dragged on pebbles or sand. It’s a shame to throw this fun toy away! Next time, try to repair it by yourself:) 
      If you follow the instruction on the article, it will last for a long time. The glue is solid!

      I hope it helped. 

      Thank you for the comment and wish you a fantastic day!

  2. This has been an interesting read! and will come in very useful to people who may find themselves with this situation out at sea or or on the water in general. I have worked on yachts and sometimes things like this happen out at sea with nothing around, so it is nice to see a web page that can help with these kinds of issues that may arise unexpectedly. 🙂

    • Hi Keith,

      Indeed, it’s always good to know how to repair your own floatable, this way you don’t depend on anyone, and you save money, which is also an important detail not to overlook:)

      Thank you for the comment and wish you a lovely day!

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