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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
I've got an Aire 143R from 1997. It's been a great boat but now it's old. The boat looks good; the exterior PVC appears to be in good shape. The interior bladders however are a different story. They started to leak last season, and an Aire rep told me after 20-25 years they wear out and can't be repaired. They must be replaced. A full bladder replacement runs half the cost of the boat - $2k+.

My questions are:
  • is this ever financially and practically a good idea? (If the raft were a car, I'd never chose to spend half the value of a new model on repairs)
  • how long does the PVC last? Like, if I replace the bladders how long am I good for?
  • has anyone ever undertaken this on a 20+ year old Aire boat?

Would love to hear your advice, I'm flummoxed on what decision to make. I hate to throw the boat away. And I don't to buy a new boat. But dumping that much money into it feels like throwing good money after a bad situation.

Thanks in advance for sharing your thoughts!
 

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I've got an Aire 143R from 1997. It's been a great boat but now it's old. The boat looks good; the exterior PVC appears to be in good shape. The interior bladders however are a different story. They started to leak last season, and an Aire rep told me after 20-25 years they wear out and can't be repaired. They must be replaced. A full bladder replacement runs half the cost of the boat - $2k+.

My questions are:
  • is this ever financially and practically a good idea? (If the raft were a car, I'd never chose to spend half the value of a new model on repairs)
  • how long does the PVC last? Like, if I replace the bladders how long am I good for?
  • has anyone ever undertaken this on a 20+ year old Aire boat?

Would love to hear your advice, I'm flummoxed on what decision to make. I hate to throw the boat away. And I don't to buy a new boat. But dumping that much money into it feels like throwing good money after bad.

Thanks in advance for sharing your thoughts!
I just bought a boat that is a few years newer then yours it had the bladders replaced. I can’t really see any issues with the pvc so I figure it’s a boat that will last a good long time. It seems like a ok thing to do to me. However one thing to think about is replacing the bladders did not make me pay more for the used boat so I would not think you would recoup any of the investment if you sold it.
 

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Oh. Great. Something else to look forward to. Something else for me to worry about. Something else for the Wife to "worry" ME about! And of course, you always want to put at least one spare bladder in the tubes. It never ends.
 

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Hmmm... 24 years out of a boat that likely didn't cost much over $3k new in 1997 works out to about $125/year? And that's "...bad money"? Seems like a pretty good investment to me... Only you can decide if it's worth doing the bladders, entirely a function of condition of the shell. If it's the least bit faded or brittle you might want to go new boat route. If it's still supple and not creased or checked, maybe worth putting the bladders in... If you do that yourself you can save some bucks, plus not paying for shipping to/from Boise. Since you're doing all of them, not that difficult a job as long as your zipper & cars are in decent condition.
Who carries a spare bladder? More time on the water, less worry...
 

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Should probably fix it. Aire products are great because they are repairable. There are ways to figure out what the problem is and fix it. First thing to do is inflate it up to pressure and put soapy water in all six of the valve bodies and see if they bubble. . Bubbles means clean or replace the valve. No bubbles, post back and i'll give you the second step.
 

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How much are just the bladders shipped to your house? It’s really not that hard as long as like mentioned above your zippers still functioning . Also replacing a ripper on a Aire isn’t that hard either. Just take your time getting the bladders in properly and on the right side then inflate slowly shaking the shell to get them positioned right. I had a tomcat that I replaced both main tubes on and replaced 2 zippers.
 

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I love my vintage Aire Puma. That said, have had a slow leak in the floor bladder for years. I’ve done a number of tape/glue repairs and they hold for about a season. When I looked into replacing the bladder and found put it would be $900 if they even had any, I decided to live with it since the repairs are pretty easy. For as much as Aire likes to tout how great it is to have a replacesble bladder and to carry a spare, the - IMHO - outrageous cost makes that supposed advantage meaningless. While my boat is also 25 years old and still seems solid, not sure I’d spend the money to replace all the bladders on PVC that old.
 

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$900.00 for a Puma floor bladder?!?! I replaced the floor bladder in my 156D three or four years ago and it was only around $300.00.
 

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$900.00 for a Puma floor bladder?!?! I replaced the floor bladder in my 156D three or four years ago and it was only around $300.00.
Yep. I think because it’s an original model and they only had a few left so selling for a premium. No thanks...
 

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Sorry you’ve got to spend some cash, but as the owner of 2 Aires I’m stoked to hear that folks get 20+ years out of their boats. I’d love to see pics of the PVC shell of your boat. If it was mine, I’d probably replace the bladders if the exterior was in good shape.

However, I love running things till their dead. I’d take a lot of pride in having a 20 year old boat that’s been on a lot of adventures. Hope it works out for you!
 

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Discussion Starter #12
How much are just the bladders shipped to your house? It’s really not that hard as long as like mentioned above your zippers still functioning . Also replacing a ripper on a Aire isn’t that hard either. Just take your time getting the bladders in properly and on the right side then inflate slowly shaking the shell to get them positioned right. I had a tomcat that I replaced both main tubes on and replaced 2 zippers.
@Quiggle I just went back and checked the price quote from last year. It's actually less than I remembered. Bladders are $208 ea, floor bladder is $592. (pro-deal) So $1200 plus shipping, not terrible.
 

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Take boat to car wash, get zippers as clean as possible. Using needle nose pliers and working carefully, open all, extract bladders - note how they fit together, duplicate with new bladders, re-insert in the tubes. Lube zippers with paraffin wax (should be available at grocery in canning supplies, or at drugstore) and zip back together (remember new o-ring keepers for the cars). Floor is same process. Valves are easy to deal with, just get fabric flat when putting together.

I've had bladders that oozed air and when they get to that stage - dozens of pinhole leaks - it's not worth patching. But nothing on an Aire is really difficult to replace, just takes patience and elbow grease. Beer helps...
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Take boat to car wash, get zippers as clean as possible. Using needle nose pliers and working carefully, open all, extract bladders - note how they fit together, duplicate with new bladders, re-insert in the tubes. Lube zippers with paraffin wax (should be available at grocery in canning supplies, or at drugstore) and zip back together (remember new o-ring keepers for the cars). Floor is same process. Valves are easy to deal with, just get fabric flat when putting together.

I've had bladders that oozed air and when they get to that stage - dozens of pinhole leaks - it's not worth patching. But nothing on an Aire is really difficult to replace, just takes patience and elbow grease. Beer helps...
DOZENS OF PINHOLE LEAKS! OOZING AIR. Yes, I think that describes what's happening. It's a relief to hear it described that way, actually.

Thanks so much for the beta. The paraffin wax sounds clutch.
 

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DOZENS OF PINHOLE LEAKS! OOZING AIR. Yes, I think that describes what's happening. It's a relief to hear it described that way, actually.

Thanks so much for the beta. The paraffin wax sounds clutch.
Sounds like a good excuse to get a new boat and pass this on to the kids. I think a lot of us started on boats you’d have to pump up going down the river.
That being said for $1200 I’d probably replace the bladders to get another decade out of it... or try to get a deal on a new boat and replacement bladders ¯\(ツ)
 

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$1200 and a few hours of work to replace the bladders - that's what, about 1/4th the price of new? To me that sounds a lot more feasible than dropping $$ on a new boat. Assuming the shell, handles, D rings, thwart attachments, etc are in good condition, the boat could continue on for many years to come.
The $1200 should be easy to get back were you to sell the raft down the road, and it would likely sell more quickly than the condition it's currently in.
 

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Zippers are the biggest PITA and you haveta' go SLOW. Keep the teeth aligned and use the needle nose to grip the car and slide slowly open (or closed). Toothbrush to clean ahead of the car helps, and a second set of hands to keep the fabric/zipper track spread flat so you can work easily is almost vital... you can do it alone, but it will take you at least twice as long as if you have help. Once a zipper goes bad it's REALLY frustrating to fix so try to prevent... did I mention beer?
Patience and clean tracks/teeth are key...
 

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We had the EXACT same situation with the EXACT same boat a couple of years ago. We also were able to get a pro deal on the bladders and decided to do it. Great decision as it's a great boat. One benefit is that when you get the new bladders you will also upgrade to D7 valves. Go for it!!!!! Reduce, recycle, REUSE:)
 

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I have a 1998 Aire 14'3'' C and have had to replace one bladder due to a leak. I recommend replacing side tube bladders only when they fail. There are only 4 at about $200 each. Buy a spare one to carry in case one fails. Tear aid will help you get down the river on a multiday trip if you have a leak in a bladder. Be very careful with removing the double zip racers and do not force with channel locks which will break the racer and is a pain to replace. Clean with a brush and use plenty of water and detergent. The floor bladder zipper is only a single zipper and far easier to unzip. Aire has some good videos on undoing the zippers and replacing the bladders which I recommend viewing now. I would not recommend replacing of the raft.
 

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I've got an Aire 143R from 1997. It's been a great boat but now it's old. The boat looks good; the exterior PVC appears to be in good shape. The interior bladders however are a different story. They started to leak last season, and an Aire rep told me after 20-25 years they wear out and can't be repaired. They must be replaced. A full bladder replacement runs half the cost of the boat - $2k+.

My questions are:
  • is this ever financially and practically a good idea? (If the raft were a car, I'd never chose to spend half the value of a new model on repairs)
  • how long does the PVC last? Like, if I replace the bladders how long am I good for?
  • has anyone ever undertaken this on a 20+ year old Aire boat?

Would love to hear your advice, I'm flummoxed on what decision to make. I hate to throw the boat away. And I don't to buy a new boat. But dumping that much money into it feels like throwing good money after a bad situation.

Thanks in advance for sharing your thoughts!
Yo, if you have any buddies working for outfitters or guiding services-even hunters- try having them get a price quote for you. I bet they would cut the commercials a lot better deal than they give to us. My jagarundi cat is still holding air, bought back in 94.
 
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