Mending Marine Toys
A step-by-step guide to fixing your inflatable.
Have you ever thrown out an inflatable or towable tube because of a tear, puncture or hole that you thought was impossible to fix? Gemini shows us how any opening or tear in your tube can be mended and, best of all; you can do it yourself in 10 easy steps! Leisure Boating had an inflatable with a sizable hole burnt into the side of it and decided to take it down inflatable experts Gemini Marine in Cape Town to see if it could be repaired. Gemini’s Mark Diedericks, a man with 18 years of experience in the inflatable business, shows us how it’s done.
What you will need: A pair of sturdy scissors; a section of the appropriate PVC that most resembles the texture and elasticity of your tube; PVC glue; a paint brush; a heat gun or strong hairdryer; a flat metal tool such as a steel ruler; a bucket of soapy water; acetone; masking tape and a pencil.
Pick a hot day to mend your tube as the PVC adhesive is heatactivated and will not set and cure properly on a cold day. First, use a pair of scissors to clean up the hole; insert one of the scissor blades into the hole/ tear/burn and cut around it so that your hole is now perfectly square or rectangular with clean, smooth edges.
STEP 2. Take the section of PVC and cut a rectangle or square slightly larger than the hole you cut in the tube (approximately 2 cm longer and wider on all sides). Now place it on the inside of the hole so that it overlaps the hole’s edges by about 2 cm. Use a pencil and go along the edges of the hole, marking the outline of the hole on the new piece of PVC.
STEP 3. Remove the PVC cut-out with the pencil outline on it and clean the edges (outside of the pencil lines) with acetone using a cloth. (TIP: always use acetone to clean PVC; with other tougher materials use toluene). Now, using a paint brush, apply PVC glue to the outlined edges in a thin but consistent layer.
STEP 4. Do the same with the edges of the hole on the inside of the tube. Clean it meticulously with acetone and then apply a layer of the PVC glue using a paint brush. After applying adhesive to the cut-out and the inside edges of the hole, let it dry for five minutes (depending on the weather) before sticking it into place.
STEP 5. Make sure you’re working on a flat surface – place a cutting board or something similar beneath the tube if necessary. Also, ensure that the tube surface is dust-free and that your hands are clean and oil-free. Now, insert the cut-out on the inside of the hole, placing the hole’s edges exactly on the pencil outlines as marked before to avoid creases or bubbles. To aid the bonding process, use a heat gun or hairdryer. Use the steel ruler or any other flat metal tool to flatten and smooth any ridges or creases while using the heat gun intermittently. After making sure that the newly patched hole is smooth and without any bubbles where glue was applied, leave it to dry for 24 hours to allow the adhesive to cure thoroughly.
STEP 6. After 24 hours, pump the tube – but not to its full capacity. Fill a bucket with soapy water (Sunlight Liquid or something similar) and generously wet the edges of the mended area using a paint brush to check for leaks. Soapy bubbles will appear where there’s an air leak. After making sure there are no leaks, clean the soap water off with a dry cloth.
STEP 7. Use the measuring tape and cut another piece of PVC for an external patch, again 2 cm longer and wider than the hole on all sides but ensure that the new cut-out’s corners are rounded so that it doesn’t peel easily. Now place the newly cut out piece of PVC over the mended area and mark the outlines with a pencil. Remove the PVC and stick lengths of masking tape along the pencil outlines to avoid getting glue outside of the marked off area.
STEP 8. Clean the area with acetone and then apply PVC glue to the part cordoned off by the masking tape with a paint brush. Spread the glue in a thin and consistent layer so as to avoid bubbles forming. Apply glue to the new cut-out and let both dry for five minutes.
STEP 9. Peel off the masking tape and heat up the area slightly with a heat gun. Place the cutout over the hole exactly in the pencil outlines and, again, flatten any creases with a metal ruler, using the heat gun intermittently.
STEP 10. Allow the external patch of PVC to dry for an additional 24 hours. Towable tubes and other water toys of the like are expensive and, with a little effort, you avoid paying the steep price of a new one and your tube is ultimately as good as the day you bought it. Now go and enjoy your good-as-new inflatable!