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Is a Little Regular Deflation Normal with Inflatable Boats?


Beau Schless asked:

What’s the expected amount of normal deflation in an inflatable boat?
I bought a used one last year and it regularly deflates just a tiny bit, even when it is stored indoors (like now). It’s enough that it needs to be pumped up about once every week to 10 days.
Is that normal or is there a small leak somewhere?

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Your problem is quite common. If an inflatable boat is in good shape, there should be no leaks and it should hold air. There are numerous causes for these slow leaks. Most can be corrected but in some cases, it’s just not worth while and you can either live with the leak or retire the boat.

The biggest cause of leaks are the valves. Unscrew them, clean them and make sure that the O Rings are in good shape. If they look pinched, compressed or deformed, replace them. Often particles of sand or dirt are enough to cause a passageway for air to escape.

Next, check for pinhole leaks or leaks around the seams. Inflate the boat hard. Mix a solution of dish detergent and water and wash the boat with a cloth. Keep the boat wet and watch for telltale bubbles. This may require some patience especially if the leak is very slow. You should be able to repair small pinhole leaks by yourself with a special repair kit available at most Inflatable Boat dealerships. If the leak is at, or near a seam, you are better to get a professional to do the repair as this can involve removing the seam and rebuilding it from the inside as well as the outside.

The other cause of slow leaks is porosity in the fabric. This is usually the result of poor, or no maintenance. This can be caused by UV, suntan oil, diesel in the water, or the use of wrong cleaners or protectors which will break down the plasticizers in the fabric and allow air molecules to migrate through the tube. This occurs most often with PVC boats. There are Air Seal products on the market that can be used to extend the life of a boat in this condition, if it’s not too far gone. It’s a coating that is injected into the tube. The tube is then inflated and the boat tumbled to make sure that all interior surfaces are coated. If you use this, it’s a good idea to keep the boat permanently inflated to avoid the fabric from sticking to itself when the boat is deflated.

If the boat has been treated with oil, silicone or Teflon based products, the boat may not be worth repairing as it will be very difficult to get patches or adhesives to stick with any durability and you will be forever patching.

Many major Inflatable Boat manufacturers recommend cleaning their boats, right from the beginning, with Speed Clean and protecting them with Poly Guard. These products are safe for all fabrics, seams and adhesives and will give good protection against UV, suntan oil, diesel, acid rain, dirt, grime, pollutants and other environmental damage. They can also be used to restore older boats that may be chalky, faded, or stained, to like new condition. Inflatable Bottom Spray is recommended for removing marine growth without damaging the tube or fiberglass hull and Repelin is recommended for anti fouling protection if your boat is left in the water for any period of time.

Thanks for your question.

Captain Aurora

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