A well-built Hypalon inflatable dinghy can last well over 10 years if properly cared for. In many cases, the first thing to fail isn’t the fabric but the fiddly little spring-loaded valves used to keep the boat inflated. Typically, the small diaphragm inside the valve deforms and won’t seat properly, or the valve stem separates from the diaphragm and shoots off into the stratosphere.
This happened to my faithful Avon dinghy recently, and I was relieved to find a valve rebuild kit (Avon Part #V00001) that soon had the dink holding air again.
With a large crescent wrench or a big pair of channel-lock pliers, it is easy to remove the outer valve body from the inner part and then insert the new valve stem. The tricky part is when you push the inner part of the valve into the inflatable compartment and then turn it around so you can screw the little diaphragm on to the bottom end of the valve stem. It’s not very hard to accidentally unlock the stem while trying to do this, in which case it will shoot off into the interior of the compartment, where it can be difficult or even impossible to retrieve.
The best way to prevent this is to stuff the valve with a bit of paper towel and then cover it with masking tape so the valve stem can’t spring free. With the stem thus restrained, screwing on the diaphragm and reseating the inner part of the valve becomes a good deal easier, and you’ll soon have your dink floating again.
Photos by Charles J. Doane