DIY - Replacing Latex Gaskets
You’ve just put your hand through the gasket and as you’re about to climb onto another cold river you realise that latex seal is torn. The top is ruined and you’re about to toss it away when you remember that it can easily be fixed! All is not last, except for a guaranteed freezing cold day on the river...
[Warning: All advice offered in this article is to be used at your own risk. If in doubt, take the dry top/dry pants/dry suit to a professional, a friend, a scuba diving shop that deals with dry suits or even back to the manufacturer. I followed the advice of a friend who did plenty of repairs guiding in Iceland so I guess he can’t be far wrong. Thanks to Jussi Tanskanen for the advice! It worked out perfectly for me.]
Damn! A torn gasket! It can happen to any one on any top. All is not lost though. Read on...
The first step is to buy some replacement latex seals. I bought mine when I was in Norway at a shop called Strie Strømmer. You might as well buy both wrists and a neck seal because if one has torn, assuming old age, then it would be smarter to do everything at the same time to avoid the hassle of doing it later on. Starting with a wrist seal, turn back the outer covering at the end of the arm so that the entire seal is exposed. Take a sharp pair of scissors and cut away most of the seal. Make sure you cut evenly and slowly, leaving a smooth finish. You don’t want any nicks or small tears on the newly cut edge as these create weak points. It is very important to leave about 1cm worth of latex still behind. Do not cut the seal flush with where it joins the material of the top. Have a good look at the photos. The amount of latex left over might be greater when viewed from the outside. Check inside to make sure you have at least 1cm left over.
Cut away the old seal carefully. Make sure you leave enough meat on it. Read the text in this article carefully!
Your replacement seal will attach onto the old gasket and also a little onto the material of the top itself.
You need to now find a cylindrical object to fit into the arm of the top, or the leg if it’s a pair of pants you’re repairing. Choose something with parallel sides. If the object tapers in any way it is going to give you grief! In my case, a 1.5 litre Nalgene water bottle was the perfect fit. Just make sure whatever it is that you’re using, that it’s not critical if some glue gets on it. I used some brown tape to protect the bottle just in case but in the end, it wasn’t even necessary. But take the precaution anyway. Slide your bottle or whatever you’re using from the inside of the arm. Let it project out by around 5 cm. You may need to adjust this so it’s not serious.
Slide your object into the arm from the inside. Make sure you leave enough space at the end, but not too much.
Get your glue at the ready. I used Aquaseal. It worked wonders.
Take your new seal and slip it over the bottle and allow it to overlap over the remaining seal and also a little bit of the material of the jacket/trousers. Now fold it back onto itself so that a small piece of the bottle is visible. Be careful that the seal doesn’t slip off the bottle. If you apply the glue and the latex seal jumps off the bottle, it’s a real bugger up! Watch it carefully and if you chose the correct bottle/cylindrical object, then it won’t be a problem.
Fit the seal over the cylindrical object and let it overlap onto the material but around 0.5cm.
Now flip it back and MAKE SURE it is not slowly slipping off. This almost happened to me on the neck gasket. Once you've applied the glue then it can be a real mess if this happens.
Apply your glue to both surfaces. Have a look at the photos. I used Aquaseal for the purpose and its wonderful stuff. I’ve used it to repair a tear in a dry top and also on spray decks. It’s really super and works like a dream. Apply a little glue onto the material of the original jacket/trousers too. I didn’t put glue close to the edge of the original seal (the one you cut off) and also not at the end of the new seal. The extra glue on the material part will ensure a proper bond between the edges of the replacement seal. You can see in the photos exactly what I mean. Note that I didn’t cut the original seal off very neatly. I advise you don’t follow my example.
Apply glue to both contact surfaces. Don't apply right to the edges to avoid the glue from running out and causing a mess. It would also stick to the cylindrical object you're using inside the sleeve. Watch out.
Now flip the replacement seal into position. It is very important to have gotten everything into position before you even applied the glue, as once you’ve flipped it over that is roughly the way it’s going to stay. It will move but the glue will start seeping out everywhere and you don’t want the glue to attach the seals to the bottle you’re using. Apply a neat layer of glue all around the circumference of the seal where it has overlapped onto the material. This will ensure that it is 100% water tight.
Flip the seal over and apply a little more glue to make 100% sure that water will never seep through there.
I left everything in position for at least 6 hours. Check the seal every hour, for the first two hours. The glue may run a bit and you might want to neaten up the look of it. Try not to get the glue onto your hands. It really is nasty stuff once on. Make sure you’ve have some old newspapers underneath to avoid wrecking whatever surface you may be working on. Once done, repeat for the other wrist, simple!
Once the first arm (or leg if its a pair of trousers) is dry, do the other one and make sure to protect the surface you're working on.
A look at the gasket turned inside out. Note that almost no glue has squeezed out. This photo was take once it was fully dry. Note the ribs that I refer to at the end of this article.
Now it’s time to tackle the neck seal. The neck is harder than the wrists and that is why I recommend you get some practise on the wrists first. Cylindrical objects are harder to find in the correct size but I made a plan. I took a cooking pot, wrapped some old cloths neatly around it, and then secured them into position using some more brown tape. This helps to protect the pot and the reason why I used the cloths was because the pot was not big enough and I needed a slightly larger diameter. Maybe you’ll be luckier and have something the perfect size. Fit the pot into position from inside the jacket.
Cut the neck carefully. Use a sharp pair of scissors and have patience.
The cooking pot inside the neck. Read the text for a full explanation. Make sure it's a tight fit. See how I left a little gap in the front. Don't do that!
If the neck of the dry top is not adjustable, your life might be made very difficult. In my case, it was adjustable. Even then, it was a tight fit and I got someone to help me to get the pot into position. It is better to have someone nearby (wife/girlfriend) so that if you need an extra hand, you’ve got it. Because I hadn’t done a great job with the pot, the replacement neck seal wanted to jump off the pot and I needed someone to help me with it! The process is exactly the same as with the wrists. So just repeat the steps and you’re done.
Done. The neck seal is perfectly in place and the top is as good as new.
My dry top is now saved and will be used as my backup top! Easy as pie.
Both the neck and the wrist seals have little ribs on the ends of them. These are for guiding a pair of scissors around so that you can get a comfortable fit. They do stretch over a little bit of time so do not cut them too loose. You will be sorry. Let the neck stretch overnight (maybe a few nights) over a pot or something. Don't over stretch it!!! This will help a lot. Look after your seals, wash your dry tops after every use and let it dry out. Once dry, apply talc powder to the latex as this absorbs any oils on its surface, which damage and degrade it. There are other products on the market that help protect and prolong the life of latex seals too. Prevention is better than cure.
This is the old Palm Xtrem XP200 dry top. Great top, even after being around for a few years. Click HERE to visit their website.
My top now has some brand new seals and it’s good to go again. I hope this article will be useful to you. If there is anything you are not sure of or if I haven’t explained myself clear enough, give me a shout. Enjoy and good luck!
Click HERE to visit their website.
Photography by: Adrian Tregoning.