Patching your dinghy is no one’s favorite job. If your inflatable dinghy is more of a deflatable, you know what I mean.
If you’ve ever tried to patch a Hypalon dinghy, using the special Hypalon glue, you know what a tough job it can be. Hypalon glue has very strict humidity and temperature requirements – and they almost never exist in the hot and humid areas where we like to cruise.
Consequently, most of us dread trying to repair an inflatable. For years, we lived with pinhole leaks and pumping up the dinghy every day. A couple of years ago, we learned of a better glue: West Systems G-Flex (Amazon).
A Better Glue
G-Flex is a flexible epoxy that can be used in almost any weather – and can even cure underwater. It will also bond to many plastics and can be used on Hypalon and PVC dinghies, even to redo the tube to hull seams.
Just this past week, I re-did a patch that a previous owner had done with Hypalon glue and which failed. It’s not a hard job, just one that takes attention to detail.
My Patching Technique
Here’s my technique for patching your dinghy needing a simple repair:
- remove the old patch if there was one
- if necessary sand all the old glue off with 80-grit sandpaper (getting all the old glue off is key); if no previous patch, mark the area where the patch will go and sand it to rough it up
- clean the area with toluene until nothing more comes off (I use a white paper towel so it’s easy to see if anything is coming off; be sure to follow safety precautions as toluene is toxic)
- sand the back of the new patch to rough it up (if necessary, you can re-use an old patch as long as you sand off ALL the old glue and clean it with toluene)
- clean both the dinghy area and back of the patch with rubbing alcohol
- tape around where the patch will go if needed, leaving 1/8” bare between the patch and the tape – you want a little bit of G-Flex around the edge to thoroughly seal the edge
- release air from the dinghy until there is no pressure where the patch will go
- mix up the G-Flex
- use a small paint brush to cover the back of the patch with G-Flex (I do it on a scrap of cardboard so that I can get all the way to the edges)
- put the patch in place and press it down hard
- remove the tape around the patch area
- press down on the patch area again paying careful attention to the edges
- wait at least 7 hours for the G-Flex to cure before reinflating the dinghy (I usually do the repair in late afternoon and inflate the next morning, so it’s more like 15+ hours)
How Long Does It Take?
From start to finish (well, except for waiting for it to cure) this took about an hour and 20 minutes, including getting everything out and cleaning up afterwards.
It’s now four days since we pumped it up after the repair and we haven’t had to add any air! UPDATE: Now 6+ months without adding air.
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