Rigid-Hull Inflatable Repair and Maintenance Guide

A rigid-hull inflatable boat (RIB) is a type of boat with a hard bottom and air-filled tubes that form the sides. The rigid hull provides structural support and rigidity, while the inflatable tubes provide buoyancy, shock absorption and additional stability.

RIBs are lightweight, high-performance, high-capacity boats suitable for many activities, including military and law enforcement operations, rescue missions and recreational boating. They're popular among boaters because the inflatable siding and laminate hull construction make them fast, fuel-efficient and easier to store than traditional boats. They're also easy to maneuver, thanks to their lightweight, powerful engines. 

RIBs require proper maintenance and repair to ensure safety and performance, just like other boats. Neglecting RIB maintenance can lead to costly repairs or the need for a complete replacement. Learn how to keep your boat in great shape with our RIB maintenance and repair guide.

Rigid-Hull Inflatable Repair and Maintenance Guide

Tips for Keeping Your RIB in Good Condition

Keep your RIB functioning well with the following tips: 

  • Regularly clean and dry the exterior and interior: Inflatable boat cleaners wash away dirt, grime and stains without damaging the RIB's surface. Working with a small area at a time, wet the surface, spray it down with cleaner, allow the cleaner to sit for 60 seconds, then scrub with a soft-bristle brush. Dry the area promptly with a clean, soft cloth to prevent mold formation.  
  • Protect the boat from UV exposure and extreme weather conditions: A UV protectant can help shield your RIB from damaging sun rays. These products are safe to use on common RIB materials such as rubber, vinyl and plastics. Sewing chaps onto the inflatable pontoons can also provide UV and chafe protection. Covering the boat and storing it properly when not in use also helps protect it from the elements and lengthen its life span. 
  • Store the boat properly when not in use: While you can store your RIB inflated or deflated, we recommend storing it inflated in a dry, enclosed space. Storing the RIB inflated allows the tubing surface to remain taut and resistant to snags or punctures. RIB tubing is strongest when inflated, and the seams and attachments hold up best under pressure. If you must store your RIB outdoors, protect it from the elements with a durable, tightly fitting cover. 
  • Adhere to the manufacturer's recommended maintenance schedule: Using the RIB manufacturer's maintenance schedule is the best way to ensure the longevity and proper operation of the boat. These guidelines account for the boat's specific materials and construction and include the recommended cleaning and storage procedures.
  • Check and replace outdated or worn components periodically to improve performance and safety: Parts may become worn or damaged over time, which could lead to structural or system failure. Faulty components can also impact the RIB's speed, maneuverability and fuel efficiency. 

Regular RIB Maintenance Tasks

Regular RIB maintenance involves checking the hull, propulsion system, safety equipment and electrical system. Learn how below:  

  • Hull maintenance: Inspect and maintain the hull, checking for cracks or damage and applying a protective coating. This protective layer provides a barrier against abrasion, weathering and UV rays that can deteriorate the boat's exterior. A protective coating also functions as a layer of impact resistance and hardness, making the RIB less prone to scratches, dings and other damage. 
  • Propulsion system maintenance: Check and maintain the propulsion system, including the engine, propeller and steering system. Flush the engine after each use to remove salt, dirt and other debris that can cause corrosion. Check the oil levels and replace the oil and oil filter as the manufacturer recommends to keep the engine running smoothly. In addition, checking the condition of the propeller, inspecting the fuel system for leaks or damage and replacing the fuel filter are all important steps to maintain your RIB's propulsion system.
  • Safety equipment maintenance: Inspect and maintain safety equipment, such as life jackets and flares, to ensure they're in good working condition and ready to use in an emergency.
  • Electrical system maintenance: Check and maintain the electrical system, including the battery and wiring, to ensure passenger safety and proper functioning. Maintain your RIB's electrical system according to the manufacturer's recommendations in the owner's manual.   

Repairing Damage to RIBs

Use the tips below to create a repair plan for a rigid hull boat leak: 

Identify the Damage Source and Determine the Necessary Repairs 

If you're unsure of the exact location of the damage, pour soapy water on the tube and watch for bubbling, which indicates a puncture. Observe the hole size — you can repair small punctures with a single patch to the tube's exterior, while larger tears need a patch inside and outside the tube. 

You can opt for DIY RIB repair or take the boat to a professional repair service, depending on how comfortable you are with making repairs and the extent of the damage. If you'd rather take the boat to a professional, you can still make temporary repairs in the meantime using the patch repair kit your RIB likely came with. 

If you choose to repair a small leak yourself, follow these steps: 

  1. Deflate the affected area to make it easier to work on. 
  2. Clean the area with soap and water to remove dirt and debris and allow it to dry. 
  3. Cut a patch slightly larger than the damaged area and apply it to the boat, pressing down firmly to ensure a good seal. 
  4. Apply an adhesive appropriate for your RIB's material around the patch's edges and press firmly. 
  5. Allow the adhesive to dry thoroughly before reinflating the boat. 

Seek Professional Repair Services for Complex Issues

If you're unsure of how to patch a RIB, or the damage is significant or in a hard-to-reach area, a professional repair service can help. Professionals will determine the best approach and carry out the necessary repairs so you can enjoy your boat once again. 

Keep in mind that if your RIB is on the smaller side, you may only need a RIB retube. For larger RIBs, it may make more financial sense to get a new boat altogether. Your RIB servicer will explain your options to help you make an informed choice. 



Find RIB Maintenance and Repair Products at Fawcett Boat Supplies 

Maintaining and repairing your RIB requires the right tools, and you can find them at Fawcett Boat Supplies. We're a boater's one-stop shop for equipment, supplies, accessories, sales and repair services. We're happy to handle any rigid hull inflatable repairs you can't do yourself. Contact Fawcett Boat Supplies today to discuss how we can best serve you.

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