How to Repair a Rubber Boat

Written by anne redler
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How to Repair a Rubber Boat
Any tears or punctures on a dinghy must be repaired immediately. (deflated boat image by Edsweb from

One of the biggest nightmare scenarios when operating a rubber boat, also called a dinghy or an inflatable, is getting a tear or puncture in the hull. This can easily happen when the dinghy hits a rusty nail on a dock, a piece of metal on another boat or when it runs over coral. The repercussion is that air immediately escapes from the body of the rubber boat and the boat will sink unless immediate action is taken. The boat must either be taken from the water right away, or you must perform a makeshift repair. It is prudent to carry a repair kit for your dinghy when it is in operation.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Cleaning solvent
  • Rubber gloves
  • Face mask
  • Rubber patches (at least two)
  • Rubber adhesive
  • Accelerator
  • Plastic or wooden stirring stick
  • Plastic applicator
  • Plastic bucket

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  1. 1

    Take the rubber boat, or dinghy, out of the water immediately. Wash the area of the tear or puncture with soap and water or, even better, a solvent, such as Toluene. Shake out any water that may have entered into the pontoons or inflatable base. Let the boat dry out completely.

  2. 2

    Read the owner's manual of your boat to ensure you follow the manufacturer's directions with regards to repair materials. To complete the repair, you will need one or two rubber patches, depending on how severe the tear is, and an ultra-strong rubber adhesive for a marine climate. Your best bet is to buy a dinghy repair kit for the model of your rubber boat, which will include the aforementioned materials.

  3. 3

    Measure the size of the tear or puncture. Cut the rubber patches to an appropriate size that will more than cover the damaged area. The patches should overlap the damaged area by at least two inches on both sides of the tear or puncture.

  4. 4

    Put on a pair of latex gloves and a face mask.

  5. 5

    Mix the rubber adhesive and accelerator component together in a small plastic bucket with a wooden or plastic stirring stick. Follow the directions that accompany the adhesive and accelerator to ensure you have the appropriate relative adhesive and accelerator mixture.

  6. 6

    Smear the adhesive and accelerator mixture over one of the rubber patches and the damaged area of the hull with a plastic applicator. You can also use a toothbrush to rub in the adhesive, if the rubber has a rougher texture.

  7. 7

    Leave the mixture for at least fifteen minutes, until it has a gummy consistency. You can use the plastic applicator to test this by lightly touching the applicator to the mixture after the appropriate amount of time.

  8. 8

    Apply a second layer of the adhesive and accelerator mixture to the rubber patch with the plastic applicator. Leave the mixture again for another fifteen minutes and test again to see if it has a gummy consistency. If the mixture feels gummy, you may proceed with the repair.

  9. 9

    Slip the first patch in through the tear on the dinghy, adhesive side up. You will need to work against a flat surface. Pull the tear together over the patch and then firmly press the patch against the tear. If the tear or puncture is not large enough to do this, you will just need one external patch.

  10. 10

    Smear the second patch, if needed, with the adhesive and accelerator mixture. This patch will be placed directly on the outside of the hull.

  11. 11

    Stick the exterior patch over the tear on the dinghy and push it firmly against the tear, as well as against the internal patch, if applicable. Smooth out any wrinkles in the patch by spreading your gloved hand over the entire patched area.

  12. 12

    Let the adhesive mixture dry completely. This will take at least twenty four hours to cure, depending on the local temperature.

  13. 13

    Take the rubber boat out for a test drive in a body of water to ensure that the patch holds and the boat is no longer leaking air.

Tips and warnings

  • Check if your rubber boat is still covered under its original warranty. In certain cases, if the boat has sprang a leak due to the rubber seams weakening and you are within the warranty period, you will be able to get the boat replaced or fixed at no cost to you. Severe damage to the hull because of faulty docks or the operator's errors are not usually covered under the warranty.
  • The temperature you are working in to repair the boat should be between sixty four and seventy seven degrees Fahrenheit. Also, do not work in a humid or wet environment as this will negatively impact the drying adhesive mixture.

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