As a repair center for PVC inflatables, we’ve seen many patched inflatable leaks that didn’t hold up. Here’s how to get a successful patch:
1) Get the proper supplies. Most inflatables come with a patch kit that has likely been stored on board for some time.The included glue usually lasts for about a year, so it’s a good idea to order a can of HH-66 glue to have on board. HH-66 is a versatile glue that works well and is readily available. You’ll also need a can of MEK, or acetone, as a cleaner. The first step is to locate your patch material(s) and gather other needed supplies such as a one-inch brush, marker, scissors, mixing cup, squeegee, and hair dryer if no heat gun is available.
2) Find your leak by spraying a soapy solution over any suspected areas — fully inflate your product and spray it down. Blowing bubbles will indicate the leak. Be sure to also spray all inflation and PRV valves many times as they get debris in them that will cause a leak. If air is leaking from inside the inflation or PRV valve, then it may be a bad valve. If air is leaking around the valve’s outside, then it needs to be tightened.
3) Prep the area once you identify the leak. Put some MEK or acetone on a clean, dry towel and wipe both the patch and the area to be glued. Wear goggles and gloves to prevent any chemical from splashing you.
4) If you do not have pre-cut patches, carve a patch from the provided patch material. A properly cut patch should extend past all edges of the leak by a minimum of 2.5 centimeters. It’s very important to round the patch’s corners.
5) Mark your patch by matching the patch’s center over the center of the leak. Draw a line around the perimeter.
6) Apply a good coating of glue to both the patch’s and the inflatable’s surface. To help with placement, it’s okay to brush the glue about one to two millimeters outside your line to ensure the patch is fully glued on.
7) IMPORTANT — DO NOT APPLY THE PATCH WHEN WET! Let the glue on both surfaces dry 100 percent to the touch. Use the heat gun to help dry the surfaces. Line the patch up by matching the center of the patch to the center of the leak first, then work the patch out from the center to the edges with a squeegee.
8) Use the heat gun to warm the area while using the squeegee to re-activate the glue.
9) Inspect the area to make sure there are no lifting edges.
10) Let the patch cure for 24 hours if possible. Spray the leak during the next inflation to ensure it holds.
This column is taken from the July 2020 issue of Dockwalk.