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How To Find A Leak In An Inflatable Kayak (And How To Repair It!)

Mark Armstrong
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Inflatable kayaks can be extremely versatile and convenient boats. But occasionally you might be unfortunate enough to suffer a puncture, causing a dreaded leak. Ugh.

But, fear not! A leak in your kayak can be fixed with ease. This guide is your one-stop-shop for discovering the leak and fixing it in no time.

How To Find A Leak In An Inflatable Kayak (And How To Repair It!) - Pinterest ImagePin

Are Air Leaks (Punctures) Common With Inflatable Kayaks?

No, punctures are not common with inflatable kayaks. But they can and do happen.

Inflatable kayaks tend to be extremely tough and durable. They are usually able to withstand being bounced off of rocks and logs, or dragged along the sand (we don’t recommend doing that!).

However, punctures and tears can happen if the kayak comes into contact with a sharp object, such as sharp rocks and branches. This could then cause air to leak out of the affected air chamber.

Another reason that could cause a leak in your inflatable kayak is if the materials have weakened. UV damage and exposure to extreme temperatures can cause the construction materials to degrade over time. This could mean the kayak is more susceptible to being ripped or torn on objects in or out of the water.

Weakened materials could also lead to parts of your kayak becoming frayed or worn away. This could occur on the seams or on the main pieces of fabric on the hull.

Additionally, punctures and leaks can happen if you misuse your inflatable kayak. If you frequently drag your inflatable kayak along gravel or a rocky shoreline, you will probably damage your kayak more quickly than if you carried it off the ground.

Similarly, if you don’t store your kayak properly, such as inside a storage bag and in a safe indoor environment, it could be susceptible to accidental damage. It’s best not to store anything sharp and heavy on top of your kayak. 

How Dangerous Are Leaks?

A leak on an inflatable kayak with just a single chamber will generally be more problematic than a leak on a kayak with multiple chambers.

This is because if an inflatable kayak with more than one chamber suffers a leak, only the chamber with the leak will be affected. The rest of the air chambers will be unaffected. So your boat should remain afloat.

If you happen to get a puncture in your inflatable kayak, you’ll probably notice that it takes quite a long time for air to fully escape through the tiny hole. Think of how long it takes to deflate your kayak when you use a pump to help suck the air out.

So unless the hole in your kayak is very large, you probably won’t immediately notice that you have a leak in your boat.

However, as always, it’s best to wear a PFD (Personal Flotation Device) at all times when you’re paddling.

What Do You Need To Fix A Leaky Inflatable Kayak

  • Dish soap
  • Clean water
  • Sponge
  • Bucket
  • Patch kit (including one or more pieces of suitable material for your particular kayak and a suitable adhesive)
  • Scissors or a box cutter/utility knife
  • Grease pencil or other type of non-permanent marker (even a regular pencil will do)
  • A penny (a dime or a nickel will also do)
  • Hair dryer (or heat gun)

How To Fix An Inflatable Kayak Leak

Step 1: Find The Leak

Before you can fix the leak, you need to find it. To do this, grab some dish soap, a bucket of clean water, and a sponge. Your kayak should be fully inflated before you start.

Put some dish soap on the wet sponge and wipe it over your inflatable kayak (on the chamber that has the leak). The more suds the better.

Once the air chamber is covered in soap suds, press down on the air chamber and look carefully for bubbles starting to rise. Where the bubbles are rising should be where the hole is.

If the hole is relatively large, you may see the bubbles without having to manually squeeze air out. You might also be able to hear the air escaping if you listen carefully.

Once you’ve located the hole, make a mark around it with a grease pencil or a similar marker. You could even use a regular pencil if you have nothing else.

Step 2: Deflate Your Kayak

Once you have marked the location of the hole on your kayak, deflate the kayak.

Step 3: Prepare Your Patch

Grab your patch kit and take out the piece of material. The type of material in your repair kit will depend on the type of inflatable kayak you have and what it’s made of.

Take your penny, or a similar coin, and draw around it on the piece of patch material. You should now have a circle drawn on the material,

Using a box cutter or scissors, cut around the circle you’ve drawn on the fabric. This will be your patch.

Step 4: Apply The Adhesive

Adhesive Tube with the glue leaking outPin

You should have a suitable adhesive in the repair kit that came with your inflatable kayak. The adhesive should be suitable for the type of material on your kayak.

For example, if your kayak is made out of PVC, this should be a PVC adhesive and likewise if it’s Hypalon or rubber, the adhesive should be suitable for Hypalon or rubber.

Now that you have the correct adhesive, apply the glue to the area around the hole on your kayak. The glue should cover an area roughly the size of the penny you used earlier.

Make sure your kayak is dry before you apply the adhesive.

Apply the adhesive to the back of the patch. This is the circular piece of material you cut out in Step 3. Be liberal with your application so that there’s enough glue to create a firm hold.

Video: How To Repair An Inflatable Kayak

Step 5: Heat The Adhesive

Now that your adhesive is applied to both the kayak and the patch material, it’s time to gently warm the adhesive. This is because some glues for PVC, polyurethane and Hypalon require heat activation

Step 6: Apply The Patch

Take your circular piece of material and carefully place it over the hole. The circular fabric should line up with the adhesive you applied to the area around the hole.

Gently press down on the patch. Press from the middle to the outer edges. Make sure you firmly press all over the patch to remove any air from between the patch and the kayak. 

Step 7: Wait 24 Hours

Allow the glue to set for 24 hours so that the bond is strong when it’s time to head back to the water.

Step 8: Inflate Your Kayak

Now that you’ve waited patiently (or impatiently) for 24 hours, it is finally time to reinflate your kayak. Good pumps designed for inflating kayaks will make your life easier.

You’re now ready to launch.

Conclusion: To Fix That Sinking Feeling

Hopefully you’ve discovered some of the answers to your questions on how to fix a puncture on an inflatable kayak. While it may not be a common occurrence with inflatable kayaks, punctures do occasionally happen.

But as you’ve found out, leaks are totally fixable. And it is usually pretty easy to repair most punctures.

Remember, even if you get a hole in your inflatable kayak, chances are your boat will stay afloat if it has more than one air chamber. Always wear your PFD just in case.

Let us know if you managed to fix your own kayak using our guide. Or if you have a better way, tell us about it.

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