Why is my bike pump not working?

If your bike pump is giving you problems when trying to inflate a tire, these bicycle pump troubleshooting tips might help.

Why is my bicycle pump not pumping?

Bicycle Pump Not Putting Air In Bike Tire?

There's nothing worse than being out on a ride and getting a flat tire, only to find out that once you've swapped the inner tube over, your bike pump isn't working.

It's happened to me a couple of times – one being on the second day of my bike tour from England to South Africa! Stuck with a pump that didn't live up to its name barely 50 miles from my front door step didn't make be feel very prepped for a long distance cycle trip, I can tell you!

Still, you live and you learn as they say, and so I've got a few tips on what to look for in order to get your cycle pump inflating tires properly.

Hopefully, you're looking at how to get your bike pump working again from somewhere warm and comfortable rather than in the rain on the side of a road somewhere. This will just take a couple of minutes to read through, and fingers crossed, you'll find a solution to get your bike pump working again.

Related: Best bike pump for bikepacking


Reasons Your Bike Pump Might Not Be Working

There are several reasons why a bike pump might not work. These are the most common:

Pump head not locked onto the valve – Most bike pumps have a way of attaching to the tire valve using a screw-on or lever-type mechanism. If this isn't locked on properly, air won't get into the valve as you're trying to pump it up, making it seem like your bike pump isn't working. Make sure the pump is locked onto the valve stem correctly!

Using the wrong valve head: While some of the best pumps for bike touring and cycling have heads which fit all valve types, on some pumps you need to swap the adapter in the head depending on if you are using Schrader or Presta valves. If you are using the wrong one, it doesn't matter if the pump head is locked onto the valve or not, it still won't put any air on the tires.

Didn't unscrew presta valve locking nut: If you are using a Presta valve (the skinny kind) there is usually a small locking nut which needs to be unscrewed before you start pumping. This is so that when you screw the pump head on, it locks the valve open and allows air to flow through. If this isn't done, then again, no air will get into the tire as you're pumping.

Presta valve in the closed position. Explaining the difference between presta valves and schrader valves

Valve Problems: In some cases it might not be the fault of the bike pump, but a problem with the valve itself. Presta valves are notorious for getting jammed open or closed, which obviously means that air can't enter or exit the tire. The only way to fix this is to remove the valve and give it a good clean (or replace it if it's beyond repair).

Schrader valves are more robust but they can also accumulate dirt, oil or debris if you are riding without a dust cap. Make sure there's nothing getting in the way of your Schrader valve .

You didn't fix the flat properly: If you think everything is connected properly but the tire is not inflated, maybe you didn't fix the puncture in the inner tube quite as well as you thought you had! It could be worth checking out.

Related: How to fix a leaking Schrader valve

Time To Inspect The Bicycle Tire Pump

If you've checked all of the above and your cycle pump is still not working, then it's time to look at the more technical aspects of the pump.

Pump head is damaged: Some pumps have a plastic head which can get damaged if you accidentally drop the pump or bash it against something. Even a small crack might mean that the seal is broken leading to air leakage and could be why your tire is not inflating.

There's something wrong with the O-ring: The O-ring is a small rubber ring that helps create a seal between the pump and the valve. If this ring gets damaged, then it can cause air to leak out—and that's why your pump isn't working properly. To fix this, simply replace the O-ring. You can find replacement O-rings at most hardware stores or online.

The air hose is damaged: If you have an older bike pump, or a floor pump the problem isn't with the pump itself—it's with the hose. If there's a hole in the hose or if it's become disconnected from the pump, then air will leak out and you won't be able to inflate your tires properly.

Old and worn out pump: Sometimes things just get old and worn out. While it might be the main seal, or if you hear a hissing sound a small hole in a hose, it could simply be time to buy a new pump!

If you are looking for a good handheld bike pump, I recommend the Topeak Mini Dual DXG. I've had mine for 8 years now with no issues!

Difficulty inflating a bike tire FAQ

Some of the most commonly asked questions people have when they're having difficulty inflating their bike tires are:

How do I get my bike pump to work?

There are a few things you can check to make sure your bike pump is working that include making sure the pump head is secured to the valve properly, checking the right adapter is being used, and that there is nothing wring with the tire valve itself.

Why is my bike pump pushing back?

With floor pumps, it could be the check valve is not working properly. With bicycle hand pumps, perhaps the head isn't attached properly or the wrong adapter for the valve type is in place.

Why does my tire pump not work?

Assuming the right valve connecter is being used and the pump head locks on ok, the most likely reason a bike pump doesn't work correctly is because of air leakage.

How do I know if my bike pump is broken?

If you've tried all the troubleshooting tips and your bike pump still isn't working, then it might be time to replace it.

Can a bike pump break?

Yes, a bike pump can break. If the air hose is damaged, the pump head is damaged, or the O-ring is damaged, then the pump will not work correctly and will need to be replaced.

I hope this bike pump troubleshooting guide has been of some use to you! If you have any other questions feel free to leave a comment below. And remember, pumping tires is good for a cyclist's arm muscles!

Dave Briggs cyclist from Dave's Travel Pages

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