Wednesday, September 20, 2017

How to… repair small kite leaks

Repairing small holes is easy - find out how in this blogDepending on how often you use your kite and how you use it, you’ll most likely get to a point in the kite’s life when you need to do some repairs on it. At one stage or another your kite will start slowly loosing air, be it because you crash your kite a lot or because of normal wear and tear.

Once it starts losing air the kite won’t be as stable or precise as the flying properties of your kite very much depend on the kite being pumped up at the right pressure. Once it starts losing air the kite is also much more vulnerable to being flipped inside out or flipping even further leaving you with a crossed line set. If you lose air in just one strut that really affects steering.

One way of solving the air problem is going back to the beach and pumping it back up every so often, but you’ll get tired of that pretty soon. So this week’s blog entry will look at how to repair small leaks.

Before you start
Choose a day when there is no wind. Finding a leak can take time and if it’s a windy day you’re better off on the water than being onshore looking for the reason why your kite is losing air.

Tools needed
Also make sure you have all the tools necessary. To find the hole you will need a large bathtub, or preferably a swimming pool. You’ll also need some pre-glued patches. When you bought your kite, the manufacturer usually provides a small repair kit which you’ll find somewhere in your kite bag. If not, buy pre-glued super patches from Park Tool. They are the best patches on the market.

Important to know
If your kite is losing its air very slowly there are two possibilities. Either there’s a small hole in one of your bladders, or one of your valves is starting to become unglued. Repairing a hole is easy, valve repair is hard and best left to a professional. If you only have one kite and the problem is related to the valves, find a replacement kite before you bring it in for repairs. Depending on where you get it done, it will usually take between 24 and 48 hours before you see your kite again, and what’s more frustrating than sitting at home waiting for your kite while it’s blowing outside.

Before you take your kite apart
Check the state of your connectors as well as the tie wraps. When these go your kite will deflate fast but sometimes when they are deteriorating they only let little air escape. If you put them in water while the kite is inflated and you see tell-tale bubbles, you know that you need to start off by replacing these.

Finding where the leak is
1.    Make sure you have all the strut clamps (the clamps that are located between your leading edge and the struts on your kite) open and inflate your kite completely to the right pressure.

If your pump doesn’t have a gauge, flick the leading edge and listen to the sound. If the kite makes a “pong” sound the pressure is not enough and you’ll need to pump it up a little more. If you hear a “ping” the pressure is perfect. If the “ping” sounds a little metallic you have pumped the kite up too hard, and you’ll need to release some air from the kite.  If your pump does have a pressure gauge, you need to pump up your kite between 6 and 7 psi. With smaller kites, with thinner leading edges, it’s best to put in 7 psi. Bigger kites and correspondingly thicker leading edges are perfectly inflated when you add 6 psi.

2.    Once it’s pumped up to the right pressure close all the valves. If your kite has a one-pump system, make sure you also close all the clamps between the leading edge and the struts. If your kite has three struts you will need to close three clamps, and if it has five, close all five.
1 - Once inflated make sure you close all strut clamps
3.    Leave the kite for a while. Best to leave it in a shady place with little to no wind so you’ll find it in the spot when you return. Come back after an hour and see which part of the kite is less inflated. If after an hour you don’t spot any difference let it sit for another couple of hours.  With the kite used in the demonstration photos, one of the struts deflated.
2 - After leaving the kite for a while check out which part of the kite is deflated

Disconnecting and extracting the leaking bladder
4.    Now that you have localized where the problem is so you can deflate the kite completely by opening the deflating valve.
3. Once you know which bladder is leaking deflate the kite
5.    To get the leaking strut bladder out you need to disconnect the connector between your strut and the leading edge. Locate the little hard plastic plug that’s inserted into the valve on the strut. You can carefully!! use a screwdriver to help pop out the little plug. Once the plug is disconnected you need take it out of the top part of the valve.
4. To get the bladder out you need to undo the connector 5. Take the little black plug out of the valve
6.    Once the connector is completely disconnected, take out the black cylinder from the valve on the strut.
6. Once the connector is completely disconnected take out the black cylinder
7.    Take your kite line and prepare the same knot you use to connect your lines to the kite. Put it around the strut valve.
7. Attach your kite line to the valve.jpg
8.    Push on the valve to push it inside the strut.
8. Push the valve into the strut
9.    Then go to the end of the strut near the trailing edge and undo the Velcro. Pull back the material so you can extract the bladder completely.
9. Locate the other side of the strut near the trailing edge10. Undo the velcro11. Slowly pull out the bladder
10.    Undo the knot on the valve and tie the line to the kite so that it stays in place. Without this line you’ll have a really hard time trying to put the bladder back in the strut.
12. Once you have extracted the complete bladder undo your line and attach it to the kite

Finding the leak
11.    Now that you have the bladder, inflate it to find the precise location of the hole. If it’s not immediately apparent put the inflated bladder in a large bathtub or swimming pool and look for bubbles. If you don’t have a large bathtub or swimming pool take a bottle of water with some washing-up liquid and poor it over the bladder. Bubbles will point you in the right direction.

Repairing the leak
12.    Once you’ve located the leak, use the repair kit from your kite bag, or if there is none buy some buy pre-glued super patches. If you used water to locate the hole, rinse and dry your bladder. Then use the sand paper to roughen up the material which helps make sure that the patch will glue better.
13. Once you have found the hole, use a pre-glued patch to repair it
13.    Stick the pre-glued patch over the hole making sure you flattened the area and there are no air bubbles trapped under the patch.
14. Make sure the bladder is clean and completely flat when you put the patch on

Replacing the bladder
14.    Attach your kite line back onto the valve like before. Fold the bladder into a loose triangle to make it easier for it to go back into strut.
15. Reattach your kite line and losely fold the bladder so it will go easily into the strut
15.    Pull on the line on the other end while helping the bladder go in smoothly. Once the valve comes out put it back into place.  
16. Pull on the other side of the line and pull in the bladder until the valve pops out
16.    Go to the other side, hold onto the pocket with both hands and shake until any remaining bladder has gone into the strut. Then fold the canopy material back into place and close the Velcro.
17. Shake the remaining part of the bladder into the end and redo the velcro
17.    Undo your line from the valve, pass it through the black cylinder and back around the valve. With this type of kite you need to attach the line very high up on the valve to pinch it. Push the black cylinder back in place while pulling on your line so that the valve pops out. Don’t force it and don’t use a screwdriver or anything as the chances of damaging the valve are very high in that case.
18. Undo your kite line put it through the black cylinder and reattach it to the valve
18.    Push the black plug back into the top of the valve and reconnect it into the valve.
19. Push the cylinder into place while pulling on your line. Once it is in place reattach the connector
19.    Inflate your kite smoothly to make sure that the bladder is properly placed inside the strut. Sometimes the bladder is twisted inside the strut so be sure to inflate slowly and don’t inflate it to full pressure. You’ll notice soon enough if it’s not placed correctly. If the bladder seems to be in the right position inflate to full pressure and let it sit for a while to see if it keeps its pressure. If it does, good job! You can now have fun again with your kite on the water!!

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