As a family, we love to spend quality time on the river with our Sea-doo jet ski and towable tubes. The kids love our Airhead 3 person biscuit and always invite their friends out for a day on the water.
Our G-Force Airhead towable tube is 7 years old now and we finally got our first puncture on it. It was quite a let down (no pun intended) as we had a big day planned.
The towable tube would only last about 5 minutes before the air pressure was not enough to keep the tube afloat.
Rather than throw it out we looked into repairing it ourselves. As we have a 3-Person Airhead biscuit a quick look online showed that the removable bladder was made out of heavy-duty vinyl.
This means that you can use most generic vinyl pool repair kits to patch these towable tubes. We have listed the steps in this post on how to patch a vinyl inflatable towable tube in under 20 minutes.
Repairing holes in inflatables
- The first step is to remove the bladder from the towable tube. There should be a zipper or velcro seam which you will need to open up to pull out the bladder.
- Pump up the bladder to 2psi or just under full pressure.
- Use some dishwashing liquid mixed in a bucket to make a bubble solution.
- Wash down the biscuit with the soapy solution to find the hole. If you don’t have access to some soap solution you can put the tube into a pool, ocean, river, hot tube, or bathtub to find where the bubbles are coming from.
- Dry the area around the hole and mark with a permanent marker.
- Use some 400 grit sandpaper to lightly rub the area around the hole to allow the vinyl patch to hold onto.
- Clean the hole with methylated spirits on a rag. If you don’t have access to metho just use warm water. make sure it is fully dry before moving onto the next step.
- Appy the vinyl glue around the hole on the towable tube the same size as the patch.
- Cut the patch to a round shape so the corners don’t catch when you re-insert the bladder.
- Place the new patch onto the glue and press down firmly.
- Use a credit card to smooth out the excess glue.
- Place a flat heavy book onto the patch to make sure pressure is applied for 24 hours. Gladwrap can be placed between the patch and the book to protect the book. I found the patch was already dry and stuck on fast within 30 minutes.
- If you want a stronger patch like if it is a big hole or tear you can use another patch over the original patch. Just make it slightly bigger. This will be a very strong bond.
Don’t forget to test your vinyl inflatable repair before you put it back into the nylon cover.
That is how to patch a vinyl inflatable towable tube fast with minimal cost.
Airhead Vinyl Repair Kit
Airhead actually makes a towable vinyl repair kit. I ordered one to keep in our car for the next time we get a puncture in our towable biscuit.
To get our towable tube back in the water for the next day’s trip, I went to a nearby pool shop to grab a generic pool repair vinyl patch.
Don’t buy the sticky pool patches that are peel and stick. They won’t work well on the towable tube. Make sure to buy the repair kit that has a tube of vinyl glue in it.
The airhead vinyl repair kit has a thicker vinyl patch than the ones that you get at the pool shop. This is why I did a double up layer repair job.
Towable tube seam repair
Towable tube seam repair is a little bit more difficult as you have to patch a seam that has irregular shapes.
The process is the same as repairing holes in inflatables shown above apart from you use a long strip of the vinyl repair patch.
It is best to use two or three layers of the vinyl patch as the seams take a lot of pressure. Each strip patch should be bigger than the previous.
Make sure to leave 24 hours between each patch repair. So if you are doing three layers you will need to do it over 3 days.
Towable tube nylon cover repair
Of all the towable tube nylon cover failures that I have seen it is because of failed stitching.
As a boat driver, you have to be aware of the tension you are applying to the biscuit.
Never let the towable tube line go slack while you are traveling at speed. The shock of the line going slack and then tight will eventually pull out the stitching and cause a failure.
If it is a small tear or some stitching coming loose on the handles it will be easy to repair yourself.
Remove the vinyl bladder and use some nylon thread to restitch the problem area. Sometimes you can use Fabri fuse fabric glue to repair failed bladder covers. This is the best glue to will join two bits of fabric together. It is very strong and waterproof.
Can you get towable tube replacement bladders?
Yes, some manufacturers make replacement bladders. They are cheaper than buying the whole tube. If your towable tube is over 7 years old I would look at getting a new one as the nylon cover will soon deteriorate.
What else can you use vinyl repair kits on?
You can use pool vinyl repair kits on the following items:
- Pool liners
- Towable tubes
- Inflatable boats
- Pool floats
- Vinyl spa covers
- Vinyl paddleboards
- Inflatable pool toys
- Air beads
- Water beds
What is vinyl glue made of?
My vinyl glue for inflatables and pools is made out of the following ingredients:
- Methyl Ethyl Keton Butanone
- Ethyl Acetate
- Methyl Acetate
Can vinyl repair glue be used underwater?
Yes, the chemical composition allows for vinyl repair glue to be used underwater. This is because the clue actually fuses or melts into the vinyl. Any excess moisture will be squeezed out once you press it flat.
This underwater glue for pools and towable tubes is fantastic. It is what I use.
Can you use PVC glue on vinyl pool liner?
No, PVC glue is designed especially for PVC pipes. It will not work well on vinyl pool liners. You must only use vinyl glue on pool liners and inflatable tubes.
We have done a test where we used PVC glue on two pieces of vinyl and it made the vinyl very soft and you could peel the two pieces apart very easily even after 24 hours.
The picture above shows the test using PVC cement to glue two sheets of vinyl. It was not successful.
Do not use PVC glue on vinyl pool liners or inflatable air mattresses/towable tubes.
After repairing our Airhead towable tube we have had many fun outings in biscuit. I suspect we holed the tube in two places with a small stick floating in the river. There was no obvious tear in the nylon cover.
The patch is holding fast even after 6 months of heavy use.
We now keep the Airhead repair kit in the glove box of the car just in case we get another hole while out on a weekend boating trip.
Have a look around your house sometimes air bed mattresses or water beds come with a repair kit. It may get you out of trouble in a hurry.
If you would like to read more about our biscuit we have done a full review of the Airhead G-Force 3 person towable tube. It is very popular.
All the best and stay safe out in the water.