How to Troubleshoot a Bicycle Pump

Close up of a bicycle pump

Bicycle pumps take a real beating. You force them, push on them, knock them around and take them everywhere with you on your bike, collecting all kinds of dirt and crud. It's a wonder they work at all. Several reoccurring problems with bike pumps are usually simple to fix, and other problems that will require you to get a new pump. Floor pumps work almost exactly the same. The same procedure for troubleshooting applies to both kinds.

Place the nozzle at the end of the air hose on the bike's tire valve. A lever at the side of the air hose nozzle locks the nozzle onto the valve. If the nozzle won't fit on the valve, open or close the lever and try again. When the nozzle fits, push the lever in the opposite direction to lock it.

Pump the handle. If you hear a hissing sound and the tire will not inflate, remove the nozzle. Check the end of the nozzle. If there are two holes in the end of the nozzle, you were using the wrong one. Put the nozzle back on the tire using the other hole.

Remove the nozzle if air will still not go into the tire. Inside the nozzle there's a small core. On some pumps this core is reversible. Pull the core out with your fingers, spin it around and put it in backwards. Place the nozzle back on the tire valve and pump the handle.

Remove the nozzle from the tire if the tire begins to inflate, but you can still hear a hissing noise. Hold your thumb over the nozzle and pump the handle to create pressure in the air line. Listen carefully and identify where the hissing sound is coming from. The most likely spot is where the hose connects onto the nozzle or where it connects onto the pump. There will be a small crack where the hose bends.

Cut the hose with a utility knife, 1 inch back from the crack or hole in the air line. Cut the remaining small section of hose off of the fitting and reinsert the hose where you cut it off. Pump the handle.

Skip Steps 4 and 5 if your pump has no air hose.

Discard your pump and get a new one if it will not pump up the tire. It has internal valves that are not working. These are not serviceable.


Bicycle air pumps are very affordable. Don't take chances with them. If yours is giving you trouble, replace it.


If your tires have Presta valves, make sure that the small bead at the end of the valve is turned counterclockwise to the open position before placing the nozzle on.