A back support in a sit-in kayak is almost always adjustable for comfort. Some sort of strap and adjustment fitting are used to tilt the seat back forward or backward to recline.

Many kayaks are outfitted with a common generic seat ratchet that is vulnerable to corrosion, especially if used in salt water. The ratchet in question has a steel base, clear plastic lever, with a black toggle in the middle. They are often marked “Everest” and/or "Made in Italy". The small metal parts inside the ratchet are particularly vulnerable to corrosion; the steel base is not as vulnerable but will readily rust. See link to this ratchet below:

This model of ratchet is mounted on the sides of the cockpit, or sometimes on the rear side of the back support. The overwhelming majority of seat ratchets are found on sit-in-side kayaks. A ratchet is extraordinarily rare on a sit-on-top, the Perception Napali is the only one I can recall. Major North American kayak brands that produced sit-in-side touring, white water and recreational kayaks with this ratchet are Perception, Dagger, Wave Sport and Necky. There may be others.

Seat ratchets that are mounted on the side of the kayak, with screws and nuts, are fairly easy to replace. While corrosion will likely make removal difficult, the proper use penetrating oil and hand tools should get the job done. Very stubborn screws and nuts may necessitate the use of a grinder, Dremil, drill or other cutting device. Be very careful not to damage the kayak cockpit, hull, or metal mounting bracket if applicable.

Back bands and back supports that have the ratchets (most often in pairs) fastened to the rear of the seat back will be more difficult to repair. These kinds of seat backs are often a heavy panel of plastic, padded with close cell foam, and a neoprene cover that may completely, or only partly wrap the back support.

You should inspect your Back band or back support carefully. If there is any sign of damage or decay to the neoprene cover you should replace the entire back support. (Neoprene is the fabric wetsuits are made out of.) If you need a new back band use the link below to the TopKayaker Outfitting Dept., read the introductory paragraph, then select the hypertext link that leads to your kayak and/or brand of kayak.

Or the generic Sonic Back Band:

Perception (and some Dagger) kayaks were outfitted with a Ratchet Adjustable type of back support. The original seat back is no longer available as a replacement part. I will discuss a repair the Perception Back Support circa very early 21st century. The info may or may not be applicable to other brands or models. The Perception Back Support with Ratchets is very much like a back band, but the seat back base fits into a slot molded in the seat bottom structure, so it is not a true back band, but can readily be replaced with a back band kit such as the Phase 3 XP Back Band Kit at the link below:

You will want to completely remove the back support from your Perception kayak. This is usually accomplished by removing two screws, one each side to release the plastic ratchet straps (or the seat may be almost falling out of the kayak on its own). There is likely a 3/16" dia. bungee and hook that holds the seat back down and seated into the groove. (See TopKayaker Shop Kayak Parts category, Rope Bungee and Clip Dept.). You will notice that the plastic panel (the tab that fits into the slot) sticks out the neoprene cover. The Neoprene cover will likely have the Perception logo on it. It may bear the markings; immersion research, confluence. On the back side are your rusty ratchets, they will be riveted to the plastic and exposed through “eye holes” in the neoprene cover. Remove the black plastic seat ratchet straps from the back support, set them aside for re-use.

Next step is to drill or grind the rivet heads to remove the old ratchets. Then old ratchets will come off fairly easy, maybe with the use of a punch. Gently pull the neoprene cover off the seat back structure. You can leave it partly on, but you need to expose the front face of the seat back, so you can get at the foam rubber padding. Carefully locate the rivet ends and extricate them with a sharp knife (cut away a small circle of foam) and push them through with a small punch.

Using the shortest possible screws and matching lock nuts (stainless steel of course), fasten the new ratchets onto the seat back panel. The screws MUST be SHORT! Too short is better than too long. Get pan or truss head machine screws, about ˝”, 10-32 thread would be best. The head of the screw must face backwards and will come in contact with the plastic ratchet strap when re-assembled. The nuts will be on the side that is in contact with your back. This is why the screws must be short. Tighten the nuts so they sink as deeply under the top surface of the foam as possible. Now you have replaced the ratchets.

I strongly suggest that you add an extra layer of padding to the seat back to cover over your nuts and “incisions”. Glue or stick a somewhat thin layer of close cell foam, 1/4" should do, smaller than the original pad on the back support, no closer than 1 inch from the edge, on top of the old foam. See links below:

Stretch the neoprene cover back over and around the seat back, leaving the ratchets exposed from their “eye holes” and the seat back tab exposed from the base. Replace the black plastic ratchet straps and secure the repaired seat back to the kayak with the screws. Re-connect the bungee hook.

You can expect some number of years good service until they rust again. Non-rusting ratchets are not available. Rinse with fresh water each use, treat with corrosion inhibiting oil at least seasonally.

More info on Back Bands and Ratchets:

This operation will be a difficult procedure on a Necky brand back band as seen above. The neoprene is very well sewn to the structure and will make access and reassembly difficult. It may be best to replace it entirely with a modern improved version, in large or small. See links below:

Perception Zone Outfitting is a different type of seat ratchet, one less prone to rust, but NOT interchangeable with the seat ratchet we have discussed above. See Zone Ratchet at the link below:

Copyright 2014 GeoOdyssey Publications

Call or email me as needed.
Tom at top kayaker dot net
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I will get some more photos uploaded shortly.

Edited by Tom (04/11/14 07:25 PM)