Drysuit leak test - with soap/water mix

Discussion in 'Gear Talk' started by nootka, Oct 17, 2019.

  1. nootka

    nootka Paddler

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    All the kayak drysuit tests I've heard about have involved partially filling the suit with water and looking for leaks. Or wading into a lake and then looking for wet spots on clothes. I've tried the water thing and it can work but it is non-trivial to do.
    If you look online, there are youtube videos of divers doing leak tests with compressed air and soap/water sprays. I tried this and it worked great.

    Materials:
    neck plug (empty javex bleach plastic bottle)
    wrist plugs (Nalgene 250 ml container)
    1 schrader valve stem (ask your local bike shop for a discarded tube)
    car or bicycle pump
    elastic bands or 1/8" bungy cord
    spray bottle with soap/water mix (50/50 ?)
    small paintbrush 1/2" or 1"
    drill & bits (21/64")
    old shower curtain

    The easiest way to get a schrader valve stem is to cut one out of a discarded bicycle tire tube. I got one at my local bike shop for free when I was buying some brake pads. I cut a 1.5" diameter cycle around the stem and glued it into a wrist plug. I had some extra pvc parts around so I used 1.5" pvc tubing & cap. I drilled a 21/64" hole in the pvc cap & put the valve in. For my initial test I didn't glue the valve or the pvc tube to the pvc cap. The 1.5" pvc tube was a bit small for the wrist gasket, but stretching the gasket over the cap gave a good seal and I didn't need the bungy/elastic. I did bungy the neck seal and one wrist. I did not put elastic on the other wrist - allowing it to be a pressure release.

    Turn the suit inside out and lay it on the shower curtain. Put in the wrist plugs. Put the neck plug inside the suit and then do up the zippers. I had to reach in through the neck to do up the zip. Then pull the neck plug into place (the bleach container has a loop to grab!). Attach the pump and start pumping - it took forever - I should have looked for a car pump or at least a larger diameter bike pump.

    When the suit is rigid you can start spraying. Start with the seams as they are the usual source of a leak. Painting the soap solution helps it cover pinholes. Pump more air in as needed. You might want to mark holes with a sharpie but I just wrote down a description. I found half a dozen leaks in about a half hour.

    Wash the soap off and let the suit dry before patching. Small holes can be patched with a small dab of aquaseal but larger ones need some kind of seam tape. MEC used to sell seam tape but don't seem to have any now. If you know of a source, please let me know.

    This method was quite convenient. No wrestling with a suit partially full of water. I'd say you can get a better pinpoint location with the soap bubbles than you can with a water test.
     
    JohnAbercrombie, AM and chodups like this.
  2. JohnAbercrombie

    JohnAbercrombie Paddler

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    Nootka-
    Thanks for that test method.
    When I made some GoreTex 'Launch Socks' (copying Kokatat idea) a few years ago, I bought seam tape from a US source, but I can't find find the supplier info right now.
    It looked a lot like this (and was similarly expensive, IIRC)
    https://www.amazon.ca/Seam-Sealing-Tape-T-2000X-Waterproof/dp/B019H4NN80/ref=sr_1_2?

    It worked well on the DIY project and I've used it on the inside of my eVent LevelSix suit to patch a few holes.
     
    nootka likes this.
  3. Astoriadave

    Astoriadave Paddler

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  4. nootka

    nootka Paddler

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    Thanks Dave, that's a great price.
     
  5. JohnAbercrombie

    JohnAbercrombie Paddler

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    I looked in my files - I got the tape from Rockywoods Fabrics.
    Receipt:
    Rockywoods Seam Sealing Tape.JPG
    The Rockywoods website is down today, but the cached files show it has been working recently.
    Shipping was expensive; I should have bought some other items at the same time.

    Melco makes a number of seam sealing tapes - it looks like the one from Seattle Fabrics might be the tape for neoprene, which is more stretchy, and doesn't look to me to be waterproof, but I haven't tested it.

    More info:
    http://www.san-chemicals.com/products2.html

    The Melco '5000' tape for neoprene is different:
    http://www.san-chemicals.com/products3.html

    From another website:
    http://www.wbm-uk.com/3layer.htm?LMCL=U3DCvw

    On Ali Express, similar-looking seam sealing tape is about $1 USD/meter with cheap shipping - but it will take a few weeks to arrive.
    Search for "goretex seam tape" at the Ali express site.
     
    Last edited: Oct 18, 2019
  6. Astoriadave

    Astoriadave Paddler

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    I think that Melco 5000 may not be the right stuff. I got some OEM seam tape from MSR, aka REI one time, I think, for a complete redo of seam tape on a Hubba tent. Was not 7/8 inch wide. Maybe half inch?