Fixing A Leaky Bladder

Fixing A Leaky Bladder

Getting a leak in a bladder can be fairly common and is not a major drama. You are much better to sort the problem out than keep pumping up the leaky bladder every so often, especially if it is a leading edge bladder. The repair is simple, first you need to dry off your kite and find somewhere out of the wind to lay it out. Usually the grassy backyard or nearest park is good. Lay the kite out on the ground upside down (struts exposed). Unroll your lines from the bar and untangle the lines (you’ll need them).

Removal of bladder in struts: Tie a line end around the valve part of the bladder and remove any velcro which is attached to the valve cap. Undo the enclosure system at the trailing edge of the strut (many different manufacturers have slightly different systems) it is usually some form of velcro covering. Then once the line is attached to the valve, push the valve through the hole in the strut and inside the strut. Pull the bladder out of the tailpipe and remove the line from the valve leaving it running thru the strut casing and out the opening in the end of the strut.

Removal of LE bladder :For the Leading edge bladder, simply tie the lines (2) one to each end of the wingtip bladders after removing the wingtip enclosures. Then unzip the zipper in the middle of the leading edge. Pull the leading edge out of the zippered opening very carefully. It is a good idea to only do one side at a time in case you can find the hole in the side you remove first, it will save you time and hassle. Test for leaks and patch as below. If you have to pull the entire Leading edge bladder out, no worries, just make sure the lines are tied to the ends to be able to get the bladder back in. Make sure the lines are well and truly out of the zipper so you can get the bladder back in.

Finding the hole and repairing it: Inflate the bladder until it takes shape, but do not inflate hard. Put it in a swimming pool or bathtub and look for the bubbles. A cup of soapy water and a brush can suffice if you have no large vessel of water handy. Once you find the hole, mark it and dry the area after rinsing if necessary. Place a patch that should come with your kite over the hole. If you have no self adhesive patches, go to a cycle store and buy a simple patch kit with self adhesive patches. Deflate the bladder entirely and fold it keeping the seams to the edges or flat. You can sprinkle the bladder with talc or baby powder to help it go back into the LE without twisting.  (Highly recommended)

Re-inserting the strut bladder: Tie the line you left running through the strut casing around the valve again and by pulling the line thru the hole, pull the bladder back into the strut until the valve comes thru the hole. Remove the line and close the end cap on the trailing edge of the strut. Re-inflate the strut with soft pressure and work the bladder into all corners of the strut before pumping it up hard. Once it is firmly in place with no creases or wrinkles visible, pump it up to normal pressure and test your work. Re-inserting the Leading edge bladder: is done by completely deflating, and folding the bladder flat with seams at the edges. Fold it into a pile “accordion fold style” ie back and forth starting from the middle near the valves and ending with the tips on top. Lay the leading edge casing out flat with the seam to the rear and edge (it will have a reverse curve against the normal lay). With the LE flat and the bladder flat, retie the line to the wingtip and start pulling it back into the zipper towards the wingtip. Do the same to the other wingtip. If working by yourself, run the line around a screw driver in the ground out beyond the end of the wing tip and back to the zipper so you can pull the bladder and feed the bladder into the zipper at the same time. Seal the enclosures off at each end and re insert the valves. Close the zipper. Re-inflate the LE to very soft pressure and check for wrinkles and creases and twists. If you find any, “work” the creases out by kneading the outside skin. Once it is back in and straight you can inflate to full pressure and check for twists. It is best to coat the bladder with a coating baby powder to make it more easy to “work” once inside the LE casing.