Locating and assessing leaks in your inflatable tubes.

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Im a professional boat builder and RIB repair specialist based in West Sussex and this is a guide as to how to easily and quickly locate and assess the extent of a leak in an inflatable, dinghy, RIB or watersports accessory.
Remember looking for leaks in your old bike inner tubes with soapy water? Well that’s just what the pros do when seeking out a leak in RIB or dinghy tubes!!
Basically ll you need to do is....

• Fully inflate boat
• Grab a bucket, water, washing up liquid and a fair sized paint brush.
• Squirt small amount of liquid into a bucket of water
• Agitate mixture until frothy
• Paint mixture ALL over boat starting with obvious places i.e.: valves or existing repairs, but it’s always a good idea to go over the whole lot and when there is little or no noise around as some leaks, such as fast pin prick leaks can be missed and so your hearing will be better than sight.

After covering with suds where its starts to ‘bubble’ is where you’ll find your leak. Worth remembering is that if a leak is located on a fitting or rubbing strake this does not necessarily mean that this is where the leak originates as sometimes air will track along until it finds an exit. If this is the case it is usually best to get a professional to do the job. I generally class a slow leak as one that will only show pressure loss over a period of around three days, these leaks can be tricky to locate unless the tubes are pressurised to their maximum rating (which, most run of the mill foot pumps struggle to achieve)
Finally double check and go over the whole boat again as most slow leaks are only evident after about 10 minutes when suds have dripped off or evaporated.- some R.I.Bs have tube carriers and bow mouldings where grit or stones can get stuck and cause leaks so ensure to get suds into these areas also.

Do you really have a leak?

Im always amazed at how many people call me to assess a leak only to find (luckily) the valve(s) are just open ….. There are many valve types but most modern valves apart from one or two exceptions can of course be opened and shut.
To open a valve (let the air out) remove the cap, depress the centre and turn anti clockwise -this holds the valve open and likewise depress and turn clockwise to close.
Also a point to remember is that the cheaper valves (i.e. most dingy valves, and some RIB valves) don’t hold air even from new, and it’s actually the valve cap that provides the final seal, so ensure caps are securely tightened before assuming you have a leak that warrants a repair.

Jamie Dobson 2010
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