Refurbishing an old Rib

Discussion in 'Materials' started by Steve W, Sep 21, 2014.

  1. Steve W
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    Steve W Senior Member

    Ok, I have zero experience with inflatables but i have always had the hots for the Sea Doo Explorer Rib and have just stumbled on one for sale and thought it might make a great mooring runner as well as a fun toy.The only real concern is that these things are all over 15 years old and the tubes are going to be near or past their use by date. So, how long can you extend the lifespan realistically? Can you paint the tubes, is there any type of foam you can fill the tubes with? Ribs have never really made sense to me because with all of the fiberglass components you are really not going to be deflating and rolling them up for storage so there doesn't seem to be any reason to deflate them, particularly ones like the Explorer and ones with center consoles etc so filling the tubes with something does not seem like any disadvantage to me. Yeah theres he added weight issue but the things weigh a ton anyway so its not something I would be taking along with the mothership, it would just stay on the mooring when we are out sailing.
    So, as I see it it would need to be something that will not absorb water, ever. So that rules out the standard A/B foams including the coast guard approved floatation foams so anyone have any ideas or know of a foam made for this purpose. The reason im thinking this way is it seems that eventually leaks occur that become very difficult to repair at which time new tubes are in order and i don't think there are any made for these anymore.

    Steve.
     
  2. gonzo
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    gonzo Senior Member

    A RIB that age is likely to leak. You can keep on patching seams to fix it, but it will be an ongoing headache. Tubes can be made for it, but the price may not be worth it. Filling tubes with foam is not a good idea. When you hit something (and you will) the foam will crush and the whole thing will start sagging.
     
  3. Steve W
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    Steve W Senior Member

    Every one of these ive seen sitting on a trailer has had flacid tubes so leaks are a given which is why im looking for a possible solution. Any idea where a person could have new tubes made? It would be worth a call to see if its worthwhile or not. These things are pretty unique and may be worth spending a bit on. I just looked it over a couple of hours ago and it looks to be in quite good shape, the tubes look quite good too but are clearly leaking as they are a lot softer than they were a week ago. I imagine to repair them properly you would want to remove them and find all the leaks with soapy water, then patch them and do a leak down test, maybe introduce some kind of sealer to the inside like slime and rotate to coat the entire inside then perhaps paint the outside with a suitable paint. I think trying to chase leak with them on the boat may be an exercise in futility. I would hate to think these things are scrap when the tubes get old. BTW I was in no way suggesting filling the tubes with an inappropriate foam, just trying to find out if there is a formulation for this specific purpose already out there.

    Steve.
     
  4. gonzo
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    gonzo Senior Member

    You could glue a tape over all the seams, which is the usual place for leaks.
     
  5. Petros
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    Petros Senior Member

    there is hypalon paint available that you might be able to paint over the outside of the tubes, it is a thick rubbery paint (and highly toxic, so use it out doors or with a respirator). -xylene solvent. I would think it would seal up any pin hole leaks and add thickness to places worn down to the fabric layer. I have used it to seal skin-on-frame kayak skins, though I have switched to polyurethane finish, it costs less is not as toxic.

    A more aggressive solution might be to cut the ends off, turn it inside out and than paint the whole inside surface with the hypalon paint, and than glue the cut ends back on. Only do this if you are confident you can get a good bond on reassembling it after you cut it open.

    I would rough up the surface of the coated fabric with 100 grit sandpaper, and wipe it down with xylene solvet, before I painted it on so it will bond good to the old fabric coating.
     
  6. Steve W
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    Steve W Senior Member

    That's the kind of thinking im after, I have looked the boat over pretty closely and there does not seem to be any worn areas, certainly no exposed fabric but it is old and im sure has small leaks as the tubes have visably deflated some over the last week. I have been looking on google and believe the tubes are hypalon but not definativly. Ideally i think removing the tubes and pouring in a gallon or so of something that sets up as a flexible membrane, rotate it around to get a good coat everywhere then drain it out and lightly inflate. After the stuff cures reassemble the tubes and then paint the outside. Anyone know of anyone who has successfully done something like this?

    Steve.
     
  7. Petros
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    Petros Senior Member

    I think the hypalon paint would work that way. I have used it to make perhaps 3 or 4 skin on frame kayaks with it applied directly to nylon fabric, one was even a sewn "skin" for a folder. I just painted right over the seams with 3 coats, the skin was still very flexible.

    If you thin it some, and than slosh it around inside through the plug, inflated it and than slosh it around again, drain the excess out, than reinflate it and put it out in the sun to cure. I am not sure how fast it would cure inside an air chamber, so it may take evacuating and reinflating it a number of times to get the solvent to evaporate out.

    OTHO, if you cut it open and turned it inside out, you will have better luck with it curing. but than you would have to repair the cut you made to turn it inside out.
     
  8. Steve W
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    Steve W Senior Member

    Actually i just found the exact products i would need online, Toobseal for inside the tubes and Liquid rubber repair paint for the outside, both products formulated for this exact purpose. Both products are for either PVC or Hypalon.

    Steve.
     
  9. Steve W
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    Steve W Senior Member

    Update, i went ahead and bought the thing, i just removed the tubes and i am going to locate all the leaks with soapy water and patch them properly then coat the insides with toobseal or some such product, then paint all the seams with liquid epdm then paint them. The tubes, apart from the leaks are in good shape as the boat has spent most of its life indoors when not being used. Its going to make a great mooring runner.

    Steve.
     
  10. Steve W
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    Steve W Senior Member

    Ok, the leaks were easy to find, there were 2 leaks, both where the tube goes across the bow. There are a few previous patches in this area on the underside so it looks like it has been a vulnerable area. One leak is actually in the middle of an existing patch and the other was leaking out from under a poorly installed patch which just peeled right off.
    So, what I plan to do is peel off and re do the existing patches properly and then add an overall, neatly tailored large patch to just reinforce the area. The folks that sell the Toob seal product actually talked me out of using it as a preventative measure so I will just paint all the tube seams with the liquid rubber product and the paint the entire tube set with the paint they sell. Apart from the few leaks the tubes are in great condition with no thin or worn spots so t thin they will last a long time with care. I have scrubbed the tubes and inspected them thoroughly and pressure washed out the engine bay and the whole fiberglass hull and it cleaned up like new.
    So I have a question for you guys, does anyone know a source for a good size piece of hypalon, like maybe a yd2, all ive come up with thus far are kits with small pieces.

    Steve.
     
  11. gonzo
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    gonzo Senior Member

    Check with roofing companies. They use Hypalon as a membrane. I am sure you can get leftovers for free.
     
  12. Steve W
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    Steve W Senior Member

    Thanks Gonzo, I did not know that ,i will ask around.

    Steve.
     
  13. whitepointer23

    whitepointer23 Previous Member

    google universal hovercraft steve, they sell hypalon and pvc for skirts. I am looking at a jet powered rib at the minute. the ad says it needs a seam repair on one chamber, are the seams glued at the factory or welded normally.
     
  14. Brian@BNE
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    Brian@BNE Senior Member

    I used Tuff Coat (link below) with good outcome. It sealed the seams quite well, except for one slight leak. It would still hold air for several days. Had I prepped the seams better I'm sure it would have sealed completely. It was a quick patch-up job before selling RIB/engine.

    The first coat is Xylene solvent but the top coat is water based. I guess they have the bonding aspect sorted.....

    http://www.tuff-coat.com/
     

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  15. CDK
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    CDK retired engineer

    Hypalon or PVC makes a lot of difference.
    Hypalon tubes always leak a bit but resist UV much better than PVC and are easy to repair. PVC tubes are welded so they stay airtight until punctured, patching usually becomes a never ending story. They also become sticky when exposed to UV because the softening agent migrates to the surface.

    My white PVC RIB looked like it had a skin disease after 5 years and was impossible to clean except with toluene or acetone that removes the whole surface layer. I decided to paint it with 2 coats of Veneziani "Gummipaint", mixed with some dye to a creamy color my wife calls "ecru".
    It looks like new, is airtight and the PVC is no longer exposed to UV, so it should be maintenance free for several years.
     

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