|Kite Bladder Patching|
Patching a Bladder from a Leading Edge Inflatable Kiteboarding Kite
Grease pen or marker
Bathtub, pool, lake, etc.... worst case scenario spray bottle with soapy water
"Tear-Aid" Type A Patch Tape
Alcohol and clean towel or pre-soaked mini-sanitizer
Possibly a tennis ball, orange, grapefruit, or other small spherical object (not for throwing when frustrated, although quite fun)
Patience, bring extra just in case
Locate the Leak
The gamble is that this may save lots of time, or it may take more time.
Leave the bladders in the kite.
If you have easy access to a pool or other large area of water, inflate the problem strut or leading edge, then submerge it in the water. This is best done in about 18 in of water. Look for the bubbles. If the leak is in a strut near the trailing edge, you may not even have to remove the bladder from the kite, saving quite a bit of time. If the bubbles are coming out of the trailing edge near the wigtips, deflate the leading edge, then open up the leading edge inspection point nearest the leak, and pull 12-18 in. of the bladder out. Check if you can see exactly where the leak is by inflating it a bit and sticking it underwater again. If you find the spot, mark it with a permanent marker or pen.
If the leak is elsewhere make a mental note where it is, then remove the bladder. Now stick sections of the inflated bladder underwater until you identify the exact location of leak and mark it with a permanent marker or pen.
Take the bladder out, inflate it, and find the leak by dipping sections of it into the bathtub. Look and listen for bubbles. You can also use soapy water sprayed onto the bladder. When you find the leak, mark it with a permanent marker or pen.
Identify the Severity of the Leak and Fix, or not...
Pin Holes and Other Easy to Fix Small Leaks
As long as it is not close (3/4"inch) to a seem or a valve.
Very lucky and a good omen, things could be much worse. You should be able to patch from the outside of the bladder. Simply clean the area of the leak with alcohol, allow to dry, and apply a patch which goes at least 3/4 in (1.6 cm) past the hole on all sides. So if you have a pin hole you will want a 1 in circular patch at minimum. If the hole is slightly larger, say 1 1/4 in., then use a larger patch of minimum 1 1/4 in circle as so on.
The main two things here are:
1. Be sure to have the bladder nice and flat before applying the patch.
It is best to have one person hold the bladder flattened out and smooth while a second person applies the patch. If you get creases under the patch, it might leak. If you do, try to pull the patch and bladder away from the crease at a right angle to get the air out and get the adhesive to stick across the entire crease. You can often save a bad patch placement, by simply working the creases.
2. Tear-Aid is SUPER STICKY, you only get one shot so you have to get it right the first time, otherwise you will have to re-patch from the inside of the bladder.
Small Herniations and Tears
Not a heart transplant, yet more difficult. The best thing to do here is resign yourself to buying a new bladder.... then experiment with these instructions and see if you can make it work. If you get the leak to seal, bonus you don't have to buy the new bladder. If not, you got some practice, and next time you might be able to fix it.
Decide if you want to cut the herniation area. If it is extensive cut it out as it stretched material will most likely crease under your patch and leak. If it is a small area that is stretched you may be able to flatten it out with the orange or tennis ball.
Try patching it from the outside after cleaning it with alcohol and allowing to dry. Then test, and pray, not necessarily in that order.
Patch From the Inside
This is a great technique for holes that are close to on on a seam, and minor herniations. By patching from the inside of the bladder the pressure, when inflated is pushing the patch in place, rather than pushing it off, in the case of an external patch.
Cut a 3 in. straight hole in the center of the bladder. Now pull the problem area inside out. Clean, dry, and apply patch. Pull the bladder back right side out and use a 1 1/4 wide piece of Tear-Aid tape to seal the 3 in opening, after clean and dry.
OK, time to buy a new bladder. Unless you have both time and patience. Here you may try patching from the inside with a second patch on the outside. In other cases you may choose to glue a large piece of spare bladder in, or you may opt to weld a piece of spare bladder in. Let it be said right now that this stuff is professional level bladder repair and you might need to attempt the repairs many times before mastering the technique. We messed up countless repairs in order to figure this much out!
Let us know if you have a master bladder repair technique that isn't included here and we will add your wisdom and give you credit, if it's genius, maybe even free gear for you.