If you are diving in a drysuit, you are sooner or later going to have to replace a wrist seal. They live a hard life and have a short life expectancy. Replacing them is quite easy, and there is no need to send it of to a dive shop.
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Step 1: What You'll Need
To replace wrist seals, you only need a few simple tools.
- A pair of latex wrist seals
-Two empty bottles or other cylindrical objects with the same approximate diameter as you suit sleeves.
- Acetone, Heptane or other suitable solvent
- Cotton swab/ rag or similar
- Two component contact glue (I use Beaver aquabond)
- Sand paper ( around 240 grit)
- Paper cup
- Wallpaper roller (optional)
Latex seals can be purchased in dive stores or on Ebay. Make sure you get the right size for you.
Step 2: Remove the Old Seal
The natural first step is to remove the old seal from the arm of the suit. In my case one seal ripped, but I could see the other was close and replaced them both.
Latex seals are usually attached with a two component contact glue. This glue is strong enough to hold up to normal use and abuse, but it is stil possible to pull the seals loose if you need to. This makes it the perfect glue for the job. If you find pulling the seal off to be difficult, try softening the glue a bit by heating it with a blow dryer.
If the seal was glued on with something less willing to give up its grip, you can do two different things. You can cut the old seal off so it is flush with the arm of the suit, and then simply glue the new one on top of the old. Alternatively you can sand the old seal of with a Dremel or something similar. If you do this, be careful not to damage the suit. A small slipp, and you could easily sand a hole somewhere. Sanding is easier if you insert the empty bottles into the arms of the suit.
Step 3: Prepare Suit and Seals
The first thing you should do is to put the bottles into the sleeves as pictured. This should be a tight fit. If the suit cuffs are not stretched, it is going to be hard to do a good glue job. If you Can't find an object with the right diameter, a cardboard roll and some tape will do the trick. You can also increase the bottle diameter with some cardboard and tape if needed.
Now put the latex seals on the bottles. They have one shiny side and one matte side. The shiny side is the outside. Pull the seals up to where you want them on the sleeves of the suit. Fold the seals back till the edge of the suit cuff. This is going to be your glue surface.
To make the glue adhere well to the latex and the suit, you need to sand the surfaces lightly to rough them up a bit.
Now you need to wipe of what is going to be your glueing surface with acetone, or some other solvent. Glue doesn't stick well to greasy surfaces. Now is a good time to put on gloves, both to protect you from solvents, and to protect your work from the fat on your fingers.
Make sure to do this job in a well ventilated space. Outside is perfect.
Step 4: Apply Glue
Mix the glue as per instructions on the box. I usually do this in a paper cup, as the glue melts most plastic cups.
You don't have to use contact glue, but it is highly recommended. The glue I'm using is purpose made for latex seals. It has the advantage that when the seals are eventually worn out, it is fairly easy to pull them of and put on a new pair. A suit should outlive manny pairs of wrist seals. With other kinds of glue, you also risk that the seals move before the glue sets and end up in strange positions.
Apply the glue in several coats on both surfaces. Don't be afraid to put the glue on a bit beyond the actual glue surface on the suit sleeves. this will ensure that the seals sit well. When you can touch the glue without getting any of it on your glove, it is ready for a new coat. This happens fast, and by the time you are done with the second sleeve, you can usually start on the first again. I usually apply three coats of glue. Make sure to apply a little extra over seams so there will be no gaps.
Step 5: Roll the Seal On
When the glue is dry enough to touch after the last application, it is time to roll the seals on. You should go slow and steady with this step. This is contact glue, so once the surfaces meet, there is no going back.
Roll the latex seals slowly back over the sleeves by pushing them back a little at the time. Rotate the bottle and push all around. Don't try to rush it by pushing all the way up on one side before you push on the other side. Latex is very flexible, so this will only end with folds and an impropper seal.
When the seals are rolled all the way back, apply pressure to make sure the two glue surfaces meet up perfectly. This is where the walpaper roller is very handy.
Leave it to dry. As this is contact glue, you could theoretically use it straight away. However, experience has shown that it is best to leave it for a few hours, or preferably to the next day.
Step 6: Bind Excess Glue
Most probably there is exposed glue left somewhere on the seals or sleeves. This stuff works for incredibly long after you think it is dry (yes, that is the voice of experience speaking). To bind this excess glue and prevent the arms from glueing shut or sticking together, rub on some talc, corn starch, flour or other powdery substance.
The seals are now ready for use. Carefully remove the bottles. There is a good chance you got some glue on the bottles, and that the seals stick a bit, so pull them out slowly to prevent tearing the new seals.
To maximize the lifetime of your wrist seals, there are a few things you can do:
- Always rinse them in fresh water after use and allow them to dry.
- Always use a lubricant when putting them on, usually talc, but potato starch or corn starch also works fine.
- Occasionally wash with soap. The oils from your skin will speed up the degradation of the rubber, so giving the seals a light soap wash now and then is going to prolong their life. This is especially important if you are wearing sunscreen.
- Store the suit away from sunlight. Sunlight degrades latex.
- Rub the seals with talc, potato starch or corn starch before storage.