How to Repair an Inflatable Zodiac

by Mike Frees
You can fix small tears in your inflatable boat yourself

You can fix small tears in your inflatable boat yourself

Inflatable boats like the Zodiac offer many advantages; they are lightweight, versatile, extremely buoyant and easy to store when not in use. One disadvantage is that, although very tough and durable, the material -- Hypalon, PVC or other -- forming the skin of the flotation tubes, can be punctured or torn. If this happens, the damage can often be repaired by using the proper materials and following the steps outlined by your boat's manufacturer.

Find a location out of direct sunlight -- preferably indoors -- with a temperature between 64 and 77 degrees. Humidity must be below 70 percent; as low as 40 percent is acceptable. These conditions are critical for the proper bonding of the material. The surface to be repaired must be clean and dry. If the area has been patched before, all old glue must be removed. Deflate the boat.

Cut the patching material to the proper size to extend 1 to 2 inches around the tear. Round the corners of the patch to approximately the curvature of a quarter.

Mix the glue and the accelerator thoroughly. Be sure to keep the accelerator off of your hands; it is toxic. Note the time: After mixing, the glue should be used within one hour. Note: you can also mix the glue during the next step while waiting for the solvent to dry.

Scrub the area to be patched with MEK solvent on a rag. After scrubbing, wait five full minutes. Repeat the scrubbing with MEK. Wait five minutes more, then scrub a third time. Wait five more minutes.

Apply a thin layer of glue to the patch and the area to be repaired. Work the glue in well. It is important not to apply it too thickly; it should look very thin. Wait five full minutes. Apply another thin layer of glue to both sides and wait five minutes. Apply a third layer and wait 10 minutes.

Place the patch carefully onto the tear and press it firmly in place. Use a hard rounded object, such as the back of a spoon, to press down the patch and roll out any air bubbles. After the patch is in place, wait at least 48 hours before moving the boat from the climate controlled area. The bond will continue to grow stronger over the next week.

Items you will need

  • MEK (methyl ethyl ketone) solvent
  • Zodiac #7097 glue or polymarine urethane glue (two-parts: glue and accelerator)
  • Zodiac PVC boat fabric for patch
  • Rags for cleaning
  • Small stiff brush for applying glue
  • Timer or stopwatch

Warning

  • Zodiac recommends that large tears or torn seams should be repaired by a professional facility to ensure the seaworthiness of the boat.

About the Author

Mike Frees is an I.T. professional who was first published in the Apollo Computer corporate journal in the 1980s. He has since seen print in fiction magazines, local newspapers and nonprofit newsletters, and has been writing online articles for the past year. He has a bachelor's degree from San Jose State University and a master's degree from the College of Notre Dame.

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