How to replace / repair an LEI Bladder
So you've pranged your Leading Edge Inflatable (LEI) kite and now it ain't holding the air! In this feature we aim to show you how to replace a bladder. You could try and repair the bladder if the hole is small, using self adhesive bike puncture repair patches (scabs or super patch from Parktools work great). Bigger tears or holes can also be repaired but in our experience it's often better to replace a bladder once the hole is larger than a 5p coin as the material stretches and makes a good bond with glue / patch difficult.
So let's get cracking, you will need the following;
SPACE preferably out of the wind as it makes life much easier, back yards good and if you want happiness in the home best to avoid the kitechen table!
PLIERS used for removing the plastic ties on one pump systems
STRING need 2 lengths long enough to go from a wing tip to the centre of the kite and a bit spare
TALCUM POWDER helps the bladder settle into the Leading Edge
BIN BAG so you don't get chucked out of the house getting talc all over your furniture
ZIP TIES need these to re-attach one pump tubes to valves (if no one pump not required).
So let's begin the grunt work, you need to allow a couple of hours it may take less time but you never know!
First locate the wing tip openings on the Leading Edge usually they are a folded over velcro but on this kite (a Slingshot Link) they are zipped.
Open up the LE and pull the end of the bladder out, next tie some string on the end of the exposed bladder
Do the same on the other wing tip.
If you have a one pump by any manufacturer other than Best or Naish you need to remove the one pump tubes from the valves on the Leading Edge, best done with pliers as a slip with a knife may result in tears!
Do this for all the one pump valves. If you have an internal one pump system like the Naish Octopus system you'll need to open up each strut zip and disconnect the valves on the inside. Usually there is a plastic circlip you'll need to remove before unplugging the valves.
Push all the valves (including the inflate & deflate valves), through the LE it helps on some valves if you give a little bit of a twist just to un-seat the material from the valve.
Next open up the zip or velcro flap in the centre of the LE
And gently but firmly pull the bladder out through this flap, it helps if you can get a buddy to hold the end of the wingtip so the kite doesn't ruck up as you remove the bladder, or you could tie a line to some kind of anchor (door knobs work well!)
DISCONNECT THE LINE BUT LEAVE IN THE KITE, YOU'LL NEED TO PULL THE NEW / REPAIRED BLADDER BACK IN WITH THIS LINE
Once you have the bladder out you have 2 choices, replace the bladder with a new one or try to repair the bladder. If you're going to try and repair you'll need to locate the hole / puncture, with a big tear this is just a case of looking for it. If on the other hand it's a pin prick it's much more difficult. Best to twist the bladder and inflate in sections (on a one pump kite twist the sections either side of the valves and just blow it up using your breath). Then submerge the section in the bath (cool water), just like looking for a puncture in a bike inner tube. Once you find the puncture mark it (i find OHP pens work best even when wet). Then dry & apply a bike scab or "parktool" quickpatch, give it a press then check the bladder again (you never know it may be more than one puncture!)
Next it's time to put your new / replacement bladder back in the LE and this is the tricky bit! For this bit you'll need Talcum Powder & a bin bag, (you could use a carrier bag but due to the holes in the bottom you end up with talc everywhere!)
Put the new / repaired bladder in a bin bag,
Pump in a load of talc, this acts as a lubricant and reduces the friction when you put the bladder back into the LE, makes a right mess but washes off the kite!
Give it a damn good shale up! (make sure you keep the bag closed eh!)
You need a buddy for this bit, it is possible on your own but is much, much harder! If you're going to try it on your own it helps to anchor the wing tips of the kite with weight or tie the leader lines to a line and attach to something solid (door knobs work well!)
You'll need to fold up the bladder in preperation to insert it back into one side of the LE, I find it best to "lap" the bladder but first make sure that the inflate / deflate valves are going into the kite the right way round otherwise you'll have to pull it back out and start again!
Lap the bladder with the valves in position as for the leading edge of the kite.
Re-connect the string that you left in the kite to the end of the bladder.
Once all is prepared get a mate to pull the line you left inside the kite, whilst they are pulling try to feed the bladder through the opening in the LE as flat as possible and guide the valves through the opening. It's important to try and prevent the bladder from twisting as you insert it as this will result in taking the bladder back out again.
Once you've got the bladder in on one side of the kite you need to repeat the process for the other side. I've found that if you re-connect the one pump system (don't bother with the zip ties just yet),and twist the bladder in the middle you can check one side of the kite before inserting the other side but it's really, really vital that you ONLY PARTIALLY INFLATE THE BLADDER AS OVER INFLATING AT THIS POINT COULD RESULT IN THE BLADDER GOING BANG! To see if the bladder is twisted look along the LE for dips in the material, a sure fire way of spotting a twist. Also when you've partially inflated the LE massage along it's length to help the bladder settle into the material.
Once the bladders all inside the kite, re-seat all the valves making sure that the bladder isn't pinched between the kite material and the valve, (again this could result in a POP). re-connect the one pump system (don't bother with the zip ties until you've checked all is well), partially re-inflate the ktie checking for possible twists (as above) and massaging the kite, if in doubt take it out and try again, better this than an exploded LE!
Hopefully if it's all gone well you can, bung the zip ties back onto the valves for a one pump system and fully inflate your kite and leave it for a few hours to check!
Article provided with thanks by
Please note that Hangtime Ltd accept no liability for damage to equipment by omission, this document is intended as guidance only.
Where customers purchase kites from Hangtime Ltd we are happy to perform bladder replacement and repair (where possible) for free. We will also do this on kites purchased from other retailers but there is a charge of £15.00 per hour up to a maximum of 3 hours (2 hours for replacement with new bladder, 3 hours for repair) for this service. Contact 01253 870 000 to arrange repair.