How To Fix a Paddleboard Pump Gauge That Doesn’t Work

The pump gauge measures the pressure in your inflatable stand-up paddleboard. The pressure is very important for the function of your board. The pump-gauge is, however, unfortunately, a mechanical gadget and being mechanical, it is prone to breaking.

So what to do if the pump gauge does not work? For a first time user, the needle on your gauge does not move until a certain pressure has been reached. In other cases, verify that all other components like pump, hose, seals and the board itself, are working correctly. If your gauge still does not work, it needs to be replaced.

Too high pressure in your inflatable paddleboard can make it explode. Too low can make it dangerous on the water. So, to make sure you and your board are safe, here comes a quick guide to the steps you can take to check your pressure gauge. If you can get out of buying a new one, you will know by the end of this post.

Paddleboards, Pressures, and Pump-Gauges

The main issue with the pump gauge is that the needle usually does not start moving from 0. But you can be pumping away, and the pump gauges needle will only begin to move around 2 PSI(~14 kPa) or even as high as 10 PSI(~70kPa). The time it takes for the needle to move often depends on what size or type of inflatable board the gauge is intended to be used for. What this means is that anywhere from 20% to 50% of the time spent pumping, the gauge needle may not move an inch.

If it is your first time pumping your board and nothing happens on the gauge. Check at what pressure it starts. It can take quite a bit of time before the needle on the gauge begins moving. Keep pumping!

First Time Pumping Checklist

  • Check all connections
  • Turn the valve on your board to let the air in only
  • Look at your board as you are pumping
  • Have patience, as it does take time (see below)

A high gauge starting pressure in combination with a leak can create a rather sneaky situation. Read our guide to inflating your paddle board for more thorough process.

A leak either in your board or in your pump or hose can be tricky to find. If you are in a noisy environment, like an oceanfront beach, it can also be tough to hear. If you have such a leak, what can happen as you pump your board is that air leaks out as fast as you pump it in.

The leak will leak air depending on how high the pressure is. So when you pump, your board inflates as usual but then reaches a pressure where you pump in as much air as leaks out. If the pressure where this happens is lower than where your pressure gauge starts, well you see the problem.

This is why we need to check all equipment before we run to the store for a new gauge. If we are lucky, it is just a seal or a hose. If we are unlucky, it is the inflatable paddleboard itself.

Equipment checklist

  • Pump
  • Hose
  • Seals
  • Inflatable paddleboard

Read on below to see how the individual items are checked.

The gauge on my iRocker pump doesn’t engage till it’s as 7 PSI

Digital Gauge Problems

The tips and tricks in this post apply mainly to analogue gauges, that is the ones with a needle. Digital Pumps can generally be considered broken once the digital gauge starts misbehaving.

Digital gauge problems

  • Hops up and down
  • Displays letters or “-”
  • Stops and holds value after some time

For digital gauges, if it behaves in any way out of the ordinary, you can check with the manufacturer what to do. Maybe it is fixable!

How to check your pump and valves for leaks

With a manual pump, you will generally be able to hear if it leaks even in the noisiest of environments. That being said, a pump as several valves that keep the air going in the right direction. Sometimes these vales may develop small back direction leaks, this should, however, not be too big a problem.

If you have set the valve on your paddleboard only to let air in the effect of small valve malfunctions in the pump will be negligible. If not, however, air will continuously leak backwards out of the board and through the pump valves.

There may also be a malfunction in the valve on your board, and this can, in combination with the faulty pump valve, create a similar problem.

Verify that the valve on your board is set correctly and functioning by using another pump. Borrow from another paddleboarder or go to the store. Pump your board to the correct pressure and then disconnect the hose from the board. If no air escapes, then the valve is set correctly and working. Follow the procedure detailed below on how to listen for leaks to make sure no air is coming out.

For electric pumps that make a lot of noise, it is sometimes hard to hear any leaks. To check, put your ear to the pump while it is running. Then turn it off. If you hear hissing or other air movement sound for more than 1 sec, chances are your pump or its fittings are leaking.

How to check your hose and seals for leaks

For the hose and the seals on the pump and around the valve. Have a friend pump while you listen along with the hose and near the seals and valve.

If you hear hissing between the pump-strokes, chances are you have found a leak. The seals can, sometimes, be replaced.

How to check your paddleboard for leaks

When checking for leaks inflate your paddleboard to low pressure, just about hard to the touch. Generally, when listening, higher pressure is better, and when using a soap mix, lower pressure. Use another pump if yours is giving you problems.

First, use your ears and listen for the hiss of air escaping. Pay particular attention to the sides of the board as well as the area around the valve. If there is a leak, you will hear a high pitched whistle. Sometimes this can be heard from a distance, but for smaller leaks, the whistle will be so high pitched that you will only hear it if it is right under your ear. Move your ear over all the area you are checking to make sure.

If you cannot find a leak when listening mix up a small container of soapy water. Any hand soap or soap for dishes will work, even shampoo. Spread the soap water across the surface of your board. To make the spreading easier, you can put the mixture in a small household spray bottle. The valve and the area around it is an excellent place to start. This will double-check your valve and the area around it is prone to leaks.

If you see bubbles form, you have a leak. Don’t panic!

Leaks on your inflatable SUP can are fixable

You will need

  • PVC fabric
  • PVC glue
  • Surface cleaner
  • 180 sandpaper
  • Roller

These materials may seem exotic, but any well-stocked SUP store or marine store should have all of it.

After you found your leak, you cut a patch to cover it. You want your patch to be round, oval or with rounded corners. Rectangular patches often fail in the corners. The patch should be big enough so that there is a minimum of 7.5cm (3″) from edges of the patch to the leak.

You then make the surface around the leak a little rough with sandpaper by outlining the patch onto your board beforehand makes this a lot easier.

When both the patch and the area to be patched have been probably roughed you clean it with a surface cleaner. If you don’t have a commercial one ethanol (alcohol) will work.

Apply the glue as instructed in the glue documentation. Some glues are only applied to the patch, others to both. Some glue requires three layers of application, some only one. It varies between the types of glue. Make sure you follow the instructions when it comes to the environment as well. Some PVC glues do not work when it is to warm or too cold.

If you have a bigger tear in your stand up paddle board, make sure that all the string material on the inside stays on the inside. If the strings are on the outside mixed within the glue, they will tear the patch once the board is pumped up. 

Wait for the glue to harden, typically for at least 24 hrs, after which you can clean away any excess adhesive with the surface cleaner.

How long does it take to Pump Up a Paddle Board 

Pumping your board depends both on the size and the pressure of your board. Generally, 4-8 minutes is all it takes when you are using a hand or a foot pump. Electric pumps usually finish within 4-5 minutes.

Now you know how to read and fix your pump gauge, and your paddle board is all pumped up to its proper PSI, Go out and enjoy the waters with your iSUP!

Happy paddling!


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Carlo Raffa

Carlo Raffa is a blogger, stand-up paddleboard enthusiast, water lover and local to Brighton city in the South of England. Paddle boarding is my escape and this is only the starting point. Being a larger guy at 260lbs I am finding it very good exercise as well, especially for building core muscles. This is something that believe it or not cycling 16 miles a day at 6 miles per hour doesn't seem to be doing. Paddle Boarding allows me to just grab my board and walk right through the busy bar filled beachfront between the two piers in Brighton and head straight out of shore. It's not long before the shouting and cheering of our buzzing beach fade into just the lapping waves and the people to just small dots of the Brighton shoreline.

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