It can be annoying when you get a flat tire on the side of the road with a faulty bike pump. Knowing why your bike pump isn’t working and how to fix it is a skill many riders should know.

By following the simple tips in this article, you’ll learn how to identify, troubleshoot, and fix most issues. You’ll also learn how to prevent problems with your bike pump in the future.

Why Won’t My Bike Pump Work?

Most bike pumps fail to inflate bike tires properly because of air leakage. This could be due to improper placement of the pump head, a leaky hose, or a worn-out pump.

It might be a damaged seal, which would require repair, or you may need to clean and prime the head of the pump. If the pump’s nozzle doesn’t fit the valve stem, you’ll need to ensure it’s the right type and installed correctly.

There could be different reasons for a malfunction, but knowing which part to fix is key when repairing your bike pump.

How To Fix a Broken Bike Pump

A bike pump is one of the most important instruments for bike maintenance. It is a portable, hand-operated air pump that can fill up your bicycle’s tires in case of a puncture and/or tire replacement.

Bike pumps are usually equipped with a valve and hose which connects to the tire and then inflated with air by pumping the pump handle up and down. These may have various sizes and shapes, depending on their purpose.

Fixing a flat tire with a bike pump is one of the more common tasks you need to be prepared for if you want to maintain your bike properly and prolong its life.

1) Position the Pump Head Correctly 

If the pump head is not in the right position, air can leak through the pump head and into the air chamber. You should have a look at the pump head and make sure that it’s positioned correctly. Most cyclists overlook it, but this one simple tip can do the trick in most cases.

It’s important as well that you’re using the right valve head.

You don’t want to buy a bike pump that doesn’t fit with your bike, so check the compatibility of new pump before you purchase one. A few bike pumps in the market have very handy dual heads for this reason.

2) Tighten Unfixed Air Hose To Your Bike Pump 

The next thing you should do is check whether the air hose is loose. There will be air leakage if the air hose is not properly connected to your bike pump. 

You can try fixing the air hose by tightening the hose clamp with a screwdriver or pliers.

Ensure that the bike pump’s air chamber is filled with air. If the bike pump nozzle air chamber is empty, air will leak out through the air chamber and into the air hose.

This will make pumping inefficient. Make sure that the air chamber is filled with air by checking the pressure gauge.  

3) Replace the Damaged Seal With a New One

The seals on the head of your bike pump are there to prevent air from the pump tube escaping. If you suspect air may leak out, it is important to check.

Ensure all of the nuts on the pump head are tight, and unscrew them to look at the seal. If it’s torn or broken, change it. 

Because the seal is a rubber part, replacing it can be quite easy. If you have been using your bike pump for a long time, it might be a good idea to replace the seal occasionally as it’s quite vulnerable and can often lead to air leaking.

4) Inspect the Air Hose For Small Holes

If the hose is broken and has cuts or cracks, it won’t inflate your tire and will cause air leakage. Replacing the hose with a new one is recommended as soon as you find holes. 

This issue could easily arise when using your bike pump for the first time since it’s common to micro-damage the air hose the least you expect.

The easiest way to fix a broken hose is to cut off the hose’s end with scissors and then tie it tightly with a piece of string or rubber band. You can then put the hose back on as it was before.

You’ll need to take the air hose and put it in a bucket filled with water to identify invisible tiny holes. If you see bubbles coming out from one point, you’ve found where the leak is. Alternatively, you can also use an old hose as a replacement, but ensure it’s not damaged. 

5) Correctly Match the Nozzle Type With the Tire Valve

Placing the right pump on the tire valve is not always enough to ensure that the air pressure in the tire will be adequate. You must also choose a nozzle that fits securely on the valve’s stem. 

Make sure the nozzle is positioned appropriately. To find out if it’s in the correct place, examine it by pulling it out. In some pumps, you can find a small core inside the nozzle. This small core is reversible and can be turned around.

If you encounter a situation where the pump does not work, consider reversing this small core and then placing it back onto the valve. Then check it again; if it doesn’t work, you might be using the incorrect nozzle and unable to inflate your tires.

6) Change the Valve If It’s Broken

If you notice your bike’s valve is damaged, you can’t pump up your tire. The valve releases air from the tire when pumping it up. Tire valves are usually made of rubber, but you can also find metal valves. 

The valve is the part that allows air to come out of the tire and is located on the top of the tire. There are two types of valves: the Schrader valve and the Presta valve.

Schrader valves are the most common type of valve used in the market and are quite convenient. 

Presta valves are easier to change than the Schrader valves but are more expensive. You’ll find that Presta valves are a bit more costly because they’re more durable.

Their durability is longer than their traditional counterparts, and you can extend the valve lifespan by maintaining the valve properly and keeping it clean. To change a valve, you’ll need a valve wrench for bikes, and make sure to tighten the valve correctly.

7) Lubricate the Plunger Before Pumping

The plunger is the seal you use when pumping air up your tires. It delivers air directly to the tire. You need to lubricate the plunger in the bicycle pump to work properly. You’ll have trouble using the pump if it stays dry for long.

Similarly, if the main seal of your bike is dry, you will find some resistance when using it with the grittiness of the rubber, and you will hear a rubbing sound. It’s good practice to check your main seal once in a while. If it is dry, then lubricate it with a suitable lubricant spray.

Some lubricant sprays in the market are perfect for lubricating your main seal, the plunger of your bike pump, and other parts. I recommend you choose a water-resistant one, which works well in all conditions and can help prevent rust.

8) Check If the Pressure Gauge Is Still Working

The pressure gauge is the most important part of the bike pump. It’s also one of the most important parts of repairing a flat bike tire. It tells you how much air is in your tire and if your spare tire needs to be inflated.

But your bike pump’s pressure gauge will inevitably wear out and drop in accuracy. This is normal, especially when you’ve been using it for a long time. 

It might be worth deciding to change the pressure gauge alone without buying a new valve head or bike pump. Just make sure you purchase one that is compatible with the type of valve in your bike and that it fits with your pump.

To test the tire’s pressure, squeeze the tire with one hand while holding the valve stem with the other. The stem should be straight. If the stem is bent, the tire is underinflated.

It’s important to use the correct nozzle on the valve stem. You won’t get the right pressure if you don’t have the right nozzle. It will take a little practice to get the right pressure.

Alternatives To Bike Pumps

When it comes to getting the most out of your bike tires, it’s good to be 100% prepared and have some alternatives other than standard bike pumps.

Filling a Bike Tire With CO2

Another option to pump your tires is by using a CO2 inflator. CO2 lasts longer than air from a tire pump. The only downside is you can’t inflate your tires without a CO2 cartridge. Instead of floor pumps, you’ll need to connect a CO2 inflator to a CO2 cartridge. You’ll have to use both devices to inflate your tires.

Filling a Bike Tire With Compressed Air

Another convenient and easy way to make your tires last longer is by using compressed air in your tires. But it will take longer to do this than using a CO2 inflator. If you have an electric bike, you can set up your battery to automatically charge when pedaling. 

When choosing a good bike pump, I recommend you pick one with a high-pressure gauge that helps inflate your tires accurately. Some bike pumps have an automatic shutoff feature. This helps prevent them from overinflating your tire.

Why Is My Bike Pump Not Working? (Recap)

As mentioned at the beginning, air leakage is the most common reason a bike pump is not working. But also, certain parts of it might need some lubrication and readjustments.

In this article, you’ve also learned how to identify issues and change certain parts of your bike pump if necessary. Implement these fixes based on the problem whenever your bike pump is not working.

Ultimately, although it’s entirely possible to fix your bike pump without replacing it, sometimes it becomes impractical to change some parts and not worth all the hassle. In some situations, purchasing a new one might be best. 

Scott Meldrum

Scott founded FunOutdoors to connect his professional life with his passions. When Scott isn’t working, you’ll find him on the bike trail, riding a wave, or skiing down a mountain.

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