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Why Is My Bike Pump Not Working? Step By Step Solutions

A close up photo of a bike tire with hands pumping an air pump with a pressure gauge on it.

It can be very frustrating if your bike pump is not working, especially if you are stuck next to the side of a road somewhere with a flat bike tire or urgently need your bike to commute to work or school. Before rushing off to buy a new pump, you first need to test various aspects of the bike pump to identify the problem since you might be able to fix most of the issues yourself.

The most common reasons for a bike pump not working relate to the:

  • nozzle
  • air hose
  • main seal
  • pressure gauge

These parts can break and need replacing, especially if it is a lower-quality bike pump. But in most cases, simple maintenance will fix the problem.

To troubleshoot why your bike pump is not working, you should start by identifying the problem you are experiencing. Only then can you assess and determine where the fault lies. Once you know what is causing the bike pump not to work, follow these steps to solve the issue.

The Bike Pump Is Not Attaching Properly

A typical problem many people encounter when trying to put air into their bicycle tires is that the bike pump is not attaching correctly: when you put the nozzle on the valve, it falls off as soon as you start pumping. This problem happens when the connection between the bike pump and the tire valve is not flush (level) or if the bolt system in the nozzle has been compromised.

Step 1: Examine Your Tire Valves

Bikes usually have either Schrader valves or Presta valves. Schrader valves are the ones you typically see on a car, and Presta valves are thinner with a sharp point.

If you have Schrader valves, press the pump fitting hard enough onto the valve to connect correctly. If you have Presta valves, you must unscrew and loosen the tip slightly before putting the nozzle on since it can get stuck over time.

TIP: Once you press the valve after the top loosens, you should hear and feel the air released.

When you are sure that the valve is ready, you can mount the bike pump and try connecting it again to the valve. The bike pump should now attach firmly to the tire. If not, then the valves might not be the problem.

Step 2: Check That The Nozzle Locks Into Place

If you have checked your valves and all is fine, then the issue might be with the bike pump nozzle.

To test your nozzle, start with the lever “unlocked,” i.e., point the lever down towards the ground. Place the nozzle onto the tire valve and secure it. Turn the lever up so that it is parallel to the floor. You should feel it lock into place.

Step 3: Replace The Bolt

If the nozzle is still not attaching correctly to the valve, the bolt inside the nozzle might be faulty. The small bolt turns and locks the parts into place once the lever is engaged. If it isn’t locking, you may need to replace the nozzle.

A man with his bike resting against a tree who is testing the pressure of his tire with a small tire gauge.
If the pump is not attaching properly, it may be a problem with the connection

If The Bike Pump Is Not Pushing Air Into The Tire

If you are pumping away, but little or no air seems to enter your tire, it can be due to the nozzle or hose.

Step 1: Make Sure You Are Using The Correct Nozzle Hole

Secure your bike pump’s nozzle onto the bike’s tire valve and lock it in place. Now, pump the handle.

If you hear a hissing sound and notice that the tire is not inflating, then it is not pumping air into the tire.

Remove the nozzle and check the end tip: there are usually two holes at the end of the nozzle. You might be using the wrong hole and allowing air to escape.

NOTE: This misstep can happen when you use the larger hole for Schrader valves on smaller Presta valves.

Using the other hole, put the nozzle back on the tire’s valve and try pumping air into the tire again.

Step 2: Inspect The Nozzle Core

If you use the correct nozzle hole, but the bike pump is still not pumping air into your tire, examine the nozzle further.

Remove the nozzle and pull the core out with your fingers. Spin it around and put the nozzle core back inside, backward. Now place the nozzle back on the tire valve and pump the handle to see if it inflates the tire.

Step 3: Check Your Hose For Any Damage

If you notice that some air is being pushed into your tire, yet you hear a hissing noise, the air is still escaping from somewhere.

Hold your thumb over the nozzle while pumping air to create pressure. Listen carefully and try to identify the location of the hissing sound. Typically, the sound will come from where the hose and the nozzle connect. Inspect the area to see if the hose is damaged, often in the spot where the hose bends.

If you see a crack or a hole in the hose, cut the hose about 1 inch back from the damaged area using a knife. Then cut the remaining smaller hose section off by the fitting and re-insert the hose where you cut it off.

When you pump the handle, it should inflate your tire with no audible hissing sound.

Step 4: Replace The Pump

If your bike pump is still not working after you have tried steps 1-3, the problem might be the internal valves of the pump, which are not serviceable. You will have to discard the pump entirely and purchase a new one.

If The Bike Pump Won’t Push Down

A bike pump that does not want to budge when you push down on it can stem from several issues, most of which are easily fixable.

Step 1: Lubricate Your Bike Pump’s Main Seal

If your bike pump gives resistance when pushed down on it or cannot pump up or down, it usually means the main seal at the end of the plunger is dry.

It is important to lubricate the main seal at least once a year – even more if the bike is stored in a dry and dusty environment.

You can use bike grease or WD-40 Specialist Silicone spray (Amazon link), to lubricate the primary seal. However, if your pump’s plunger uses a leather gasket instead of a rubber one, you will need a specific product, like Silca’s NFS Leather Conditioner.

If you opt for grease, remove the top cap and pull the plunger out of the pump tube. Apply some grease to the plunger and put it back in place.

If you use liquid silicone, spray some on the pump shaft and apply an up-and-down pumping action to distribute the lubrication evenly.

Step 2: Clean The Piston

If you are still unable to push down on the pump or it is showing some resistance, it might be the piston causing the pump to get stuck.

Remove the top cap of the pump and pull the piston and piston rod out of the barrel. Often, you will see a grease build-up on the piston, which you will have to clean.

Remove the piston O-ring and remove all the grease from the O-ring and the piston. Once cleaned, replace the O-ring and re-insert the piston, allowing the pump to push air immediately.

A bike pressure gauge.

Gauge Is Showing Faulty Pressure

Sometimes you are pumping air into your bike’s tires, but the reading on the gauge is off, making it less accurate. This problem is widespread with older bike pumps since pressure gauges tend to deteriorate over time.

Step 1: Check For A Leak

To eliminate the possibility of a leak, check whether air is escaping between your bike pump hose and your tire valve. If it is, the gauge is not faulty, but your nozzle or hose might be.

  • listen for any hissing sounds
  • make sure you are using the correct nozzle hole
  • inspect your hose to see if there are any cracks or holes

If your pump leaks, the gauge will not show a proper reading since it needs built-up pressure within the hose to perform accurately.

Step 2: Replace Your Pressure Gauge

If you are confident that the bike pump is not losing air, your bike pump’s pressure gauge is faulty. Whether it is broken is difficult to confirm if you do not have a standard to compare it. You might have a suspicion, but you will have to get a new pump or a stand-alone pressure gauge to collate the readings.

If you have a floor pump, you can easily replace the gauge with a stand-alone pressure gauge, like this one, sold on Amazon, by simply unscrewing it off from your pump and replacing it with the new one. These stand-alone gauges are usually inexpensive, and the installation is straightforward.


No one likes getting stuck with a bike pump that is not working. Luckily, most issues are fixable and stem from the:

  • nozzle
  • air hose
  • main seal
  • pressure gauge

A few quick and easy maintenance steps will usually do the trick to get you back on the bike in no time!

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