Float tube fishing can be loads of fun. This truly immersive experience takes you closer to the water than any other fishing style - literally. And because a float tube is perhaps the most affordable fishing vessel around, there’s really no wondering why the hobby is becoming more and more popular.
But because a float tube is essentially an inflatable watercraft, the risk of puncturing your tubes is the biggest danger you face on the water. So if you’re planning to get started of this new fishing hobby, it would be wise to learn how to patch a float tube first.
What You Need to Patch a Float Tube
First off, it’s important to understand that a patch job isn’t a one-size-fits-all.
There are lots of different kinds of air leaks that you might experience, and that means using a different patch technique depending on the kind of leak you’re dealing with. That also means having to prepare a bunch of different materials to guarantee seamless repair. These can include:
Proper Patching Material
It’s important that you match your patch material with the material of your float tube. Read the manual if you’re not sure what your tube is made of. You should be able to find the corresponding material online, or through the manufacturer’s website. They also toss in free patches with some float tubes. Generally, float tubes use vinyl, PVC, rubber, or hypalon.
Remember that not all adhesives will work on the materials listed above. So while most would use a standard vinyl adhesive, it won’t necessarily work on rubber or hypalon. Again, it pays to make sure you’re using the right kind of adhesive to guarantee a reliable patch.
Aquaseal Flexible Durable Repair Adhesive works great for vinyl.
For tiny air leaks that you can’t patch up, sealant would be the ideal product of choice. And as usual, you have to make sure it’s compatible with the material you’re working on.
This could be as simple as a bottle of isopropyl alcohol, or vinyl cleaner if you have it at the ready. If you use a different kind of cleaner recommended by your float tube’s manufacturer, then that should work, too.
We like using Star Brite Ultimate Vinyl Cleaner.
These work wonders when cleaning things like float tube exteriors because they pick up dirt and dust with ease. They’re also extra soft and easy on the material, reducing the chances of scuffing the material and degrading its surface.
Check out these Ultra Soft Microfiber Cleaning Cloth from AmazonBasics.
This isn’t exactly for cleaning, but for finding the air leak. Any soap should do, as long as it’s the kind that lathers up and creates bubbles. For the most part, dish soap proves to be the most ideal for the purpose of a float tube patch job.
You don’t really need to get too complicated with this one. You could use a paint brush or even a cotton bud to get the job done. This just prevents you from getting any of that adhesive on your fingers.
How to Patch a Float Tube
Got everything you need? Now it’s time to get patching. Here’s what you need to do to cover up those air leaks and get your float tub back to working order.
1. Find the Air Leak
First things first - where is that darned air leak in the first place? Air leaks don’t always come from gaping puncture holes. Sometimes, those little slashes can be so small that you won’t see them with your naked eye. You’ll just know they’re there because your float tube deflates over time.
Mix dish soap with some water and pour the stuff over your inflated float tube. Bubbles should form over the air leak. Make a note of the position of the leak or mark it with removable ink.
2. Clean the Area
Dirt, dust, and other contaminants can get in the way of the adhesive and cause your patch to come off over time. Clean the area with your designated float tube cleaning product and dry it completely before you get started on the next step.
3. Prep the Patch and the Area
Partially deflate your float tube, leaving just enough air inside so that the inner walls don’t touch. Applying adhesive to a totally deflated tube risks having the glue drip inside, causing the inner walls to stick together.
Then apply adhesive to the air leak, and then to the patch. Wait five minutes for the adhesive to become tacky, and then apply a second coat to the patch only. Stick the patch directly over the air leak and press down with the palm of your hand to get rid of bubbles underneath the patch.
4. Wait for the Adhesive to Dry
Do not take your float tube out right after the patch job. Wait at least 24 hours for the adhesive to cure before you try to inflate the boat again. Although it’s not entirely necessary, you can wipe away any excess adhesive from the edges of the patch if you want to.
5. Seal Small Leaks
Sometimes, air leaks can be so small that it’s impossible to fix them with a patch. This usually happens around the seams of a float tube, especially close to the air valve. To fix these, you can use a sealant. Just add a few drops into the valve and then carry your tube and move it around so that the sealant spreads throughout the interior.
The way this works is that it creates a fine waterproof layer inside the tube, sealing up any small leaks that might be causing performance issues. Wait for the sealant to cure for 24 to 48 hours, depending on the manufacturer instructions.
All Patched Up
Air leaks and holes are all a part of the float tube fishing business. So if you’re planning to get in on the hobby, it’s important that you know how to patch a float tube in the first place. Fortunately, it really shouldn’t be that hard. Just make sure you’ve got the essentials on standby and that next patch job should be as easy as pie.