How to Glue an Inflatable Dinghy

Written by chris stevenson
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How to Glue an Inflatable Dinghy
Rubber boats can be repaired easily with the right patch kit. (dinghy 02 image by Harvey Hudson from

Inflatable boats come in all shapes and sizes. Many recreational rubber boats and dinghies have lengths of less than 12 feet and can be towed by regular passenger cars or trucks. Dinghy air tubes and chambers can be damaged from UV (ultraviolet light) exposure, oxidation and impact or abrasion. Leaks can occur in the chambers or seams caused by pinching or punctures from sharp objects. Fortunately, a variety of products can be purchased to patch small or large holes or tears on the boat's surface. The boat owner can use these products with confidence by following some simply directions and repair techniques.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Patch repair kit
  • Sandpaper (heavy grits)
  • Alcohol
  • Masking tape
  • Gloves
  • Particle mask

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  1. 1

    Remove the dinghy from the tow trailer or water and transport it to a large enclosed work area. Make sure the boat has been completely wiped down with soft-cloth towels to remove any excess moisture. Make note of the relative humidity; it should be less than 70 per cent, with ideal conditions below 40 per cent. The outside air temperature should be between 17.8 degrees C and 25 degrees C. This will ensure the proper set-up and bonding of the adhesive. If not done, remove any floor boards from the boat and inflate it to maximum allowance. Brush a combination of water and thick soap over the surface of the exterior of the boat to locate the leak -- soap bubbles will appear over the leak area. Deflate the boat.

  2. 2

    Clean the puncture area thoroughly with the toluene (or MEK) solution provided in the kit. Rub the solution into the rubber surface, removing all oils, waxes and oxidation. Use masking tape to outline the puncture area by taping a perimeter around it. Leave a 1/2-inch to 1-inch extra border area.

  3. 3

    Sand the puncture area with heavy 60-grit sandpaper. Use a crosshatch method of sanding back and forth at 90-degree angles. Do not sand over the masking tape border, and do not sand hard enough to penetrate into the thread fabric of the boat. Wipe with the toluene or MEK cleaner solution after sanding. Cut a round patch from the patching sheet provided in the kit. The patch should extend about 2 inches from the puncture or tear in all directions. Sand the underside of the patch in the same fashion you did with the boat's rubber surface.

  4. 4

    Apply the kit adhesive to the boat's rubber surface and the underside of the patch at the same time. Set the patch aside face up, and let it dry to a tacky consistency (follow the directions for tacky set-up). In the case of a two-part adhesive kit, mix the adhesive and hardener according to directions then apply to the surfaces.

  5. 5

    Apply the patch to the surface and use the roller supplied in the kit to press-roll the patch firmly down. Start rolling from the centre of the patch and radiate outward in all directions to remove all air. Once the patch has been applied, tape some waxed paper over it to aid in the curing process. Let it dry for the specified amount of time according to the directions.

    Inflate the boat and check for leaks.

  6. 6

    Use an interior sealer kit for minor seam tears or pinhole leaks. Pour the contents of the interior sealer into the chamber or tube that has the hole. Turn the chamber upside down, face up and side to side to allow the interior adhesive to coat all surfaces inside. Let dry according to directions. Inflate and test for leaks.

Tips and warnings

  • Wear gloves and particle mask when working around cleaning solutions and adhesive if you are sensitive to such chemicals.

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