How to Troubleshoot a Bicycle Pump

How to Troubleshoot a Bicycle Pump
Your bicycle pump is designed to quickly inflate tires. It probably never occurred to you that the pump itself could be broken. However, if you find yourself pumping and pumping with no results, there may be a problem with the pump. Luckily, there are only a few parts in the standard floor pump, so determine which part is causing the problem and you can decide whether to fix or replace the pump.


Difficulty: Moderate

Step 1
Check to make sure you're using a compatible pump. One common problem is that there are two types of tire valves: Schrader and Presta. Many pumps are designed to work with only one of those valves, and those that are designed to work with both require that you set them to either Schrader or Presta. If you're not using the correct pump or setting, you won't be able to fill the tire. On a Presta valve, which is tall, skinny and metal, you'll also need to open the nut on top.
Step 2
Be sure that the air chuck is closed. Pumps vary in whether and how they close, but you'll want to have the chuck closed prior to pumping. More often than not, this is accomplished by pulling the lever on the back of it up so that it sticks out perpendicular to the chuck. If you feel little resistance and air is hissing out of the pump when you pump, the chuck might need to be closed; try reattaching and closing it.
Step 3
Clean the air chuck. Check the air chuck (the part that attaches to the tire valve) and be sure that any dirt, mud, dust or other debris has been removed. You should be able to remove the chuck on floor pumps by unscrewing it. Use a small brush or paper towel to clean it up. Also clean off the plunger if it is dirty.
Step 4
Test the hose for leaks. Place your thumb over the air chuck of the pump and try pumping it. If air leaks out of the hose, you'll need to patch or replace the hose or fittings that connect it to the pump body. If no air is emitted from the hose or head, there is something wrong inside that is preventing the air from exiting the pump.
Step 5
Check the plunger leather. If you're able to take the body of the pump apart, check inside to see if the leather is the problem. This piece is the part of the pump that pushes down the cylinder and forces air out of the tube. If it's cracked, broken or doesn't seal properly against the cylinder, you'll want to replace it. You may also need to lubricate the leather so that it is able to move effectively.

Tips & Warnings

In some cases, it may be much quicker and easier to replace the pump rather than attempting to diagnose and fix it. This is especially true if it is an inexpensive model.
Test out your travel pump prior to a long ride to ensure that it is working.

Article Written By Joe Fletcher

Joe Fletcher has been a writer since 2002, starting his career in politics and legislation. He has written travel and outdoor recreation articles for a variety of print and online publications, including "Rocky Mountain Magazine" and "Bomb Snow." He received a Bachelor of Arts in political science from Rutgers College.

Keep Me Informed

Weekly newsletters, announcements and offers from to your inbox.

Sign me up!

We HATE spam and promise to keep your email addresses safe and secure.