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Inflatable Boat & Rib Repair Guide  

Identifying The Build Material Of Your Inflatable Boat or Rib.

rib repair – Before you can begin repairing your inflatable boat, whether it is an inflatable RIB, kayak, life raft, or dinghy — it is very important that you correctly identify the material used to manufacture the boat. Adhesives and solvents are specifically designed to work with one type of material. Not knowing the correct material to choose can result in a patch failing or the repair not lasting as long as it should do. There are 3 types of materials that are used to create inflatable boats: PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride), Polyurethane, and Hypalon. Here is what you need to know about each material:

pvc fabric diagram

PVC: Your inflatable boat may be made out of a material such as polyester or another type of fabric (including nylon), but it could be coated with a PVC. As plastics are added to the PVC, the fabric of older inflatable boats may become degraded by the action of ultraviolet radiation in sunlight. Cracks on your RIB or inflatable boat may be due to this type of exposure. Typically, modern RIBs are sold with a guarantee against damage to the PVC by UV radiation for 10 (or more) years. PVC is the cheapest material that coats most inflatable boats, and manufacture is easier because it can be welded by applying heat. Glue can also be used to manufacture and repair PVC.

Rib Repair Guide

hypalon fabric diagram

Hypalon: Hypalon is a different type of coating used for polyester and nylon fabrics. Hypalon is a synthetic rubber and most often neoprene. Hypalon is one of the most durable materials used to coat boats. If you keep your dinghy free from dirt and other grime it will last a very long time, up to twice as long as PVC coatings. Because hypalon is of higher quality than PVC, and often comes with multiple textures and colours, it is often more expensive than PVC. The seams of hypalon coatings are held together with glued strips applied on the seams. PU: Polyurathane is one of the highest quality fabrics available and, compared to hypalon, leaks less air and is extremely unlikely to suffer much damage from wear and tear. Polyurathane is similar to hypalon and has a similar life expectancy—about 15 to 20 years. However, polyurethane is less often chosen as a coating by major manufacturers today.

How to determine the fabric of your Inflatable Boat

Look through the list of manufacturers below and see if your manufacturer is listed. On the inside of the tube fabric (BACK OF THE FABRIC) you may be able to determine the type of fabric you have by the colour. If its a shinier version of the top colour this will most likely be PVC. If the colour of the fabric is a very dark grey, or black it is most likely hypalon. (Please note early Avons are the same colour on both sides but can be hypalon). Glossy fabrics are most likely PVC or PU.

Manufacturers that use HYPALON in manufacturing inflatables and RIBs: 

BEAUFORT METZLER (older versions check first!) SELVA
COBRA REDBAY WETLINE RIBS (only available as option on larger RIBS – check first!)
DELTA REVENGER XS-RIBS (also manufacture with Hypalon – check first!)
DOMINO RIBCRAFT YAM RIBS (different from YAM inflatables)
DUNLOP RIBEYE (‘S’ Series/Larger RIBS only – check first!) ZODIAC (pre-1986 models but also a customer option on some RIBS – check first!)* (early models).

    Manufacturers that use PVC to manufacture inflatables and RIBs:

AVON (MUST CHECK FIRST) METZLER (more recent models – check first!) SUZUMAR
BOMBARD NARWHAL (also provide PU option – check first!) TOHATSU
BRIG NEUVISA (also provide PU option – check first!) TYPHOON
COMPASS II/24 OMC EXPRESS VALIANT (some commercial / larger RIBS are PU – check first!)
EXCEL (Do have a Hypalon Option) PROWAVE WETLINE (larger RIBS are Hypalon – check first!
GEMINI (dinghy’s only) QUICKSILVER(Do have a hypalon option) YAM (Inflatables, RIBS are Hypalon)
HONDA RIBEYE (Except the S range) ZED
MAXXON SEVYLOR ZODIAC (but Hypalon is a customer option on some RIBS – check first!)

Manufacturers that use POLYURETHANE (PU) in manufacturing their inflatables and RIBs:

TORNADO VANGUARD (also manufacture using Hypalon and PVC– check first!) NARWHAL (produces PVC but also offer a PU option )
VALIANT (some smaller/Leisure RIBS are PVC) NEUVISA (mostly PVC but also offer a PU option) XS-RIBS (but also manufacture using Hypalon –)

How To Find Leaks In Your Inflatable Boat or Rib Repair :

Once you have determined what type of material is coating your inflatable boat you will be able to make your Rib repair. The most common type of Rib repair that you will need to make is stopping a leak. Sometimes when trying to inflate your RIB it simply will not hold pressure. This may be because of a cut, tear or maybe even a deep scratch within the material itself but, it could be due to a faulty valve.

Here are the steps you need to take to find where the leak is coming from:

  • Pump air into your boat until you reach the optimal pressure indicated in your owner’s manual. If you slap the tubes with your hand it should produce a hollow ring like beating a drum would.
  • When your inflatable boat has been filled with air, check all of the tubes as well as the keel (if you have one) or collars to see if there are any areas where the fabric has been damaged.
  • To check the valve stems to see if they are the cause of the leak, remove the cap and see if the rubber diaphragms show any signs of escaping air and make sure they are seated properly.
  • Take a spray bottle and create a mixture of mild soap (such as dish washing detergent) and water; add the mixture to the spray bottle.
  • Spray the mixture on the boat areas and look for any bubbles. You may need to do this slowly and only spray small areas that you can watch carefully. If you see bubbles in one area, make sure you check in other places; you could have leaks in multiple areas.
  • After you have sprayed the entire area and found leaks, deflate the inflatable boat. It may be best to mark the areas where the leaks have occurred with removal ink. NOTE ALL SOAPY WATER MUST COMPLETLY REMOVED BEFORE YOUR REPAIR.
  • Use the correct patches and adhesives found on our site to make the repair.

Inflatable Boat & Rib Repair – Applying a Patch

Applying A Patch To Your Inflatable Tubes – With Images

The first thing you need to do before attempting any inflatable boat repair, whether to the tubes or to any other area, is to have the right work area. You do not want to have a very humid space to work in as this can affect the adhesive. Working in a shaded, dry area that is around 18-25 degrees Celsius and less than 60% humidity is best. After you have prepared your workspace, you need to get the right tools for the job.  You will need the right fabric, solvents, and adhesive. Please contact us if you are unsure which products to use.

Items you will need for your inflatable boat or Rib repair :

  • For a temporary adhesive Rib repair you will need a 1-part adhesive. For a permanent or large patch you will need a 2-part adhesive. Fabric patch (it is imperative that you use the right fabric & adhesive)
  • Primer and/or solvent for the patch (Solvent is optional but advised for larger repairs).
  • A short, stiff brush (a paint brush is fine).
  • A lint-free, clean cloth (any debris can ruin the adhesive).
  • Fine sand paper. (Only needed with Hypalon)
  • If you are using a 2-part adhesive you will need a mixing stick.
  • Pencil or marker that has removable ink.
  • Masking or painter’s tape.
  • Seam roller or Something heavy to make sure the patch is firmly stuck.

Inside Patch (Only needed if the hole/tear is greater than 30mm if this is not the case skip to Outside Patch)

  • Measure the hole and cut your patch to be 30mm longer in every direction over the hole. Make sure when cutting the material that all of the corners are rounded.
  • If you are undertaking a Hypalon Rib repair you will need to sand the top surface around the hole until it has a matt finish. The same process needs to be repeated to sand down the inside surface of the tube and the patch. Using the solvent cleaner, wipe down the area that was sanded and allow the solvent sufficient time to evaporate until the surface is dry (Solvent is not essential but advised for larger repairs).
  • Following the directions on the adhesive tin, mix half. Using the small stiff brush, thinly apply a layer of adhesive onto both surfaces so that it looks wet.
  • Allow the surfaces to dry for approximately 30 minutes.
  • Add a second coat of adhesive to both surfaces and allow it to dry for an additional 3/15 minutes (See your tin of adhesive). At this point, the adhesive should feel tacky when lightly touched.
  • With the inside patch, apply a piece of polythene onto the adhesive on the patch so that it can be rolled up and pressed into the hole.
  • Place it inside the tube and put it in position. Using the seam roller, roll from the middle to the outside of the patch. It is important to make sure that no air is trapped between the patch and the adhesive.
  • Let the adhesive dry for at least 18 hours.
  • Once the adhesive has dried, inflate the tube and check for any leaks.

Outside Patch:

  • Once the area has been identified, cut a patch of fabric about 5cm larger than the hole the leak is coming from. Place the piece of fabric over the hole and outline it with your marker.
  • Using your sandpaper, lightly sand the area where the patch will be added (NOTE ONLY SAND HYPALON).
  • Using a Solvent & a cloth carefully wipe down the area to be repaired as well as the back of the piece of fabric to be used as a patch. Use the correct solvent on the fabric (MEK for PVC and PU or Toluene for hypalon) Note solvent is not essential
  • Use masking or painter’s tape surround the area that will be patched so that no adhesive leaks over.
  • Apply the adhesive according to the package directions using the brush; 2-part adhesives will have to be mixed and typically cure quicker.
  • After the adhesive dries for 30 minutes, add a second and  third coat leave for 3-10 minutes (See your tin of adhesive) or till the surface becomes tacky.
  • Once the surface is tacky, add the fabric patch to the area. Be careful because once you add the patch there is not a chance to add it again. Use a decorator’s wallpaper seam roller or a rounded object to roll across the patch and remove any air bottles.
  • Remove the tape and clean any adhesive that leaked onto the tube using the solvent.
  • After you have cleaned the area place something heavy on top of the patch and let it set for at least 18 hours to cure. After 18 hours you should be able to re-inflate your boat and hit the water.

How to Find a Water Leak in Your Inflatable Dinghy Floor:

Damage to the floor is another common problem that affects inflatable boats and dinghies is damage to the floor. Here are the steps you should take to make a repair to the floor of your inflatable boat:

  • Ensure that your inflatable boat repair is on a dry, flat, such as a table. It is not advisable to attempt floor repairs on the ground outside as moisture can cause problems.
  • Inflate the boat completely and turn it upside down so that the bottom is facing up. Sprinkle talcum powder across the entire base of the boat and use a dry brush to spread it onto every part of the surface.
  • Turn the boat back over and pour about 1 litre of water into the boat. Gently move the boat back and forth to ensure that the water has completely reached every part of the floor.
  • Lift the boat up and see if where the leaks are coming from. The talcum powder will appear wet and make any leaks visible. Use a marker to mark where any holes may be in the floor.
  • Repair the hole using a patch of the right fabric, the proper solvent, and the correct adhesive (found in our shop).

How to Perform a Valve Replacement on Your Boat:

If you discover that the leak is coming from the valve, it will need to be replaced. If you cannot find an exact replica of your valve, a modern valve such as a C7 valve can be used as an affordable alternative. A valve doubler will work as the patch when you replace your valve. Again, it is very important to use the right adhesive, solvent, and valve doubler patch. You can browse our online shop to find the right parts. Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions, or if you are having trouble choosing the right items. To perform your replacement use steps below:

  • Deflate the tube entirely. You will not be able to remove the valve easily unless you deflate the tube.
  • Using a knife carefully cut around the valve to remove the inflation valve. The best tool to make the cut is a simple craft knife. Be careful not to make any accidental cuts that could result in more damage.
  • Dismantle the replacement valve and add the valve doubler (patch) to the valve, and then re-assemble it. Attach the patch in the same way as described above in the tube patching guide Rib Repair Guide.

Repair the Valve Or Servicing a Leafield A7 Or B7

See guides:A7 B7 InstallationA7 B7 Valve Seal ReplacementRequirements include:

  • The A7/B7 service kit, which includes a new spring, valve spindle, and rubber diaphragm (1 kit for a valve).
  • A7/B7 Socket or large pair of grips plus grip cloth to cover the jaws of the wrench and to clean the components.
  • A Pair of pliers.
  • Study the diagram of the valve assembly to familiarize yourself with the valve and its components before you begin the job.

Steps to follow:

  • Release the air in the tube and open the valve spindle by pushing inwards and twisting the spindle.
  • With your A7/B7 ring or flat spanner, (when using large pair of grips, use a grip cloth for covering the jaw of your grips in order not to damage the plastic valve) loosen in a counter clockwise movement and remove from the inner assembly of the valve from the outer assembly. Do not allow the Grip properly inner assembly properly to prevent it from falling in. At the same time as you continue to grip the inner assembly of the valve through the tube fabric, drive the internal part of the valve inside the tube as you cautiously twist the valve about such that you now see the end of the assembly of the inner-valve through the valve aperture felt inside the wall of the tube.
  • Now, undo the rubber diaphragm from the spindle using a pair of long-nosed pliers as your grip for the rubber diaphragm as you unscrew it in the counter clockwise direction. Once you have successfully removed the diaphragm, you can then turn the valve around again, move the spindle to its closed position and take out the spring. Make sure the valve and all its components are free from particles that could stop the valve from sealing tightly when it is re-assembled.
  • Put the new spring and spindle into the valve by thrusting it in and turning it to lock it in position. Then, slightly turn the valve within the tube to see the rear of the valve assembly. Screw the rubber diaphragm onto the spindle. Avoid cross threading so as not to damage the diaphragm.
  • Turn round the valve assembly inside and with care jerk the thread of the valve body forward through the opening wall of the tube, and screw down the outer valve assembly through the thread to hold the valve body firm in place.
  • Re-inflate and go boating!

Rib Repair Guide

Note that the B7 Valve is same as the A7 except for the contoured cap. Repairing the Valve or Servicing A Leafield C7 Or D7 See guides:C7 Installation Instructions     C7 Valve Service AdviceD7 Installation Instructions     D7 Valve Service Advice The C7/D7 inflation valve may suddenly fail after few years of usage due to a number of causes. This could be as a result of the rubber material becoming brittle (in which case it is not well-seated within the inflation valve), or the spring or the plastic diaphragm spindle may have failed. Replacement of the C7/D7 inflation valve diaphragm is a simple step wise job and the service kits are also available from our online shop. Requirements include:

  • C7 service kit, comprising of a new spring, valve spindle, and rubber diaphragm (1 kit for a valve)
  • C7 valve wrench spanner
  • Study the diagram of the valve assembly to familiarize yourself with the valve and its components before you begin the job.

 Steps to follow:

  • Release the air from the tube or collar and place the deflated tube flat, such that you can exert downward pressure on the valve body. Grip the part of the valve sitting within the tube by holding it through the tube fabric to prevent it from turning.
  • With a C7 wrench, loosen the outer section (Male) of the valve, turning it in a counter clockwise direction. Ensure that the inner section of the valve, which is inside the tube, is in place and that it remains in place even when the outer portion is removed.
  • Hold the large black washer and thrust to turn the valve spindle to lock it in the open position. Replace the sealing washer if it has turned grey or has perished.
  • Take out the black rubber diaphragm, which is at the end of spindle, pulling off the spindle end and returning it to the closed position. Now remove the old spring and spindle by sliding out through the valve front.
  • Fit in your new spindle and spring, and lock the spindle in open position. Fix a new diaphragm to the spindle end. Ensure that the rubber diaphragm is correctly attached to the spindle, and ensure that the plastic flange positioned on the end of the spindle locks the rubber diaphragm in place and is also visible.
  • Loosen the spindle to test the spring movement of the diaphragm and also ensure that the rubber diaphragm is seated correctly onto the body of the valve to prevent air from escaping.
  • Holding the tube fabric, firmly grip the inner section of valve sitting right inside the tube to prevent it from turning. Then replace the outer section into the inner or female section, turning in a clockwise direction until it is hand tight. Do not forget to replace back the plastic washer with the ridges on it facing your tube fabric.
  • Using the C7 wrench, tighten the valve and then re-inflate the collar or tube. Test for leaks by spraying the valve area with some soap solution and check for bubbles. Tighten the valve properly with the C7 wrench if any leakages are observed.
  • Done – Go boating!

GRP Rib Repair GuideSee our online store for productsWe would like to thank Leafield Marine, for the in-depth information they supplied on their valves.