How To Fix A Basketball That Won’t Hold Air

By Alex Mercer

June 29, 2021

Every single basketball will eventually start leaking in some way, whether you want it to or not, with even the best cared for balls becoming a problem. It’s essential to know how your basketball can leak and what you may stop the air from escaping.

Your basketball may have dirt or something else stuck in the valve that needs to be cleaned out to help it seal properly. If you have a small leak, you can melt the hole shut with a hot melt, patch it with a kit, or you may have to resow the seam that has been broken and needs to be resealed.

You must understand how your basketball suddenly starts leaking air when you least expect it. Many things can cause this issue, and people have made the mistake of disposing of valuable balls that can be fixed within a few minutes.

Why Would a Basketball Keep Losing Air?

Three things can cause your basketball to leak, each one of them usually being fixable with just a bit of patience. We recommend familiarizing yourself with the potential causes of basketball leaks, as this will ensure that you know what you need to fix them.

Focusing on these three will allow you to have your favorite ball comfortably for a lot longer, with most leather balls fixable until their last puff of air. You must ensure that you know how to fix and identify the most common ways to damage a basketball.

Valve Leak

Oddly enough, a valve leak or damage is most familiar with the basketballs cared for the most, as the valve becomes damaged because it is often used.

The valve will often be damaged because the needle is wrong, dirt is stuck in the valve, or aging.

Most people often rule out valve leaks as they assume the valves will not be damaged no matter how many times they pump the basketball. However, it takes one needle accidentally dropped to ruin a valve entirely as the valves are made of plastic.

Small Holes

A leather basketball is not so likely to suffer from small holes as it uses an internal bladder system, and when pumped to the correct pressure, it will not be damaged.

However, most other basketballs can quickly develop tiny holes that must be patched or fixed.

Rubber basketballs have no internal bladder, with composite basketballs differing from manufacturer to manufacturer. These holes can be made by anything from overinflating to having the ball roll or bounce onto something small and sharp, making these the most common problems.

Seam Leaks

Rubber basketballs and composite basketballs do not have seams as they are one solid piece of material containing the air, making seam leaks unlikely. However, select composite basketballs and all leather balls seam leaks can cause damage to the bladder, causing leaks.

Seam leaks are natural for all balls made using the bladder system as the materials stretch and change over time. This means that the seams start to open, and the soft, sensitive internal rubber bladder can be damaged by the seams themselves or by sand stuck inside the ball.

How To Fix Each Type Of Leak

Now that you know the most common types of leaks for your basketball, you need to know how to fix them. However, depending on how the ball is damaged, the required work to fix the ball will be different, with the type of ball creating further confusion.

A few things cannot be fixed, with holes large enough to put your finger through, meaning that the ball needs to be replaced. Repairing the ball properly will easily and comfortably have you enjoy the ball for a lot longer than the manufacturer expected.

Fixing a valve leak

This is the most touch-and-go type of leak you can find with your basketball, whether a leather ball or a rubber ball. You need to ensure that you can do everything that may need to be done to your valve before attempting to fix them.

Generally, we recommend not trying to fix a valve that is holding no air at all; once you remove the needle, the valve lets all the air out, so you have to consider replacing it. Knowing when this will happen is important, and how to fix the ball otherwise is what will help your ball last forever.

  • Wet needle: This is the repair that you should always hope works, get some soapy water, and dip the needle into the water. Insert and remove the needle multiple times from the valve; this cleans out any dirt or debris stuck inside the valve that stops it from closing.
  • Inset Toothpick: A temporary fix that should only be done if you have no other choice is to insert a needle to plug the basketball. If the valve has been broken entirely and cannot block the air, you can insert a toothpick and break it off flush with the valve.
  • Replace Valve: This will require a unique tool and is only ever worth doing with a leather basketball. The valves can be replaced without breaking the ball’s seams or removing the bladder; with a new valve, most balls will be perfectly usable for another few games.

See Our Complete List Of Helpful Basketball Articles Here.

Fixing a Hole

Leather balls rarely, if ever, get a hole as the materials are stronger than their rubber counterparts, with only needles or thorns pressed into them easily breaking through. If your ball is overinflated, it will be more prone to developing these holes, whether they’re leather or rubber.

To fix a small hole causing the ball to lose air slowly, you must identify whether the ball has an internal bladder. Most rubber basketballs do not have bladders inside; composite balls may or may not have an internal bladder, while all leather balls have bladders.

  • Patching Kit: Basketball patching kits consist of a needle inserted into the area where the hole is and a liquid inserted. This liquid is sucked out of the hole and then hardens, sealing the hole and keeping the air inside; this only works on rubber balls.
  • Hot Knife: Using a hot knife will not work on all rubber basketballs, will not work on leather, but will quickly seal a vinyl basketball. These basketballs look similar to others, but you can easily seal most small holes on a basketball with only a hot, blunt knife.
  • Replace Bladder: We recommend doing this every few years anyway as the bladder will be damaged and deformed as the ball is used. Replacing leather or composite basketball bladder requires a few special tools that you may not want to buy, but you can send the ball away to have it done.

Repairing The Seam

We don’t recommend you attempt when you have a composite or rubber ball as the cost and time needed to do it are overwhelming. Rubber balls do not have seams to start with, just seam lines, while composite balls are not much more expensive than redoing the seam.

You will require more than just a needle and thread, which many people assume you need; you will also require the sealant. The seams on modern leather basketballs are hidden by the black lines that crisscross the entire ball; these give the balls their iconic look.

We highly recommend that you send the ball to a professional to have this done; not only will they be able to test the health of your bladder, but they can also reseal everything as well. The threading and stitching required to repair a seam are tight and need stronger thread than usual.


Your basketball can have multiple reasons that it will be leaking air out of it at a steady pace, with most people assuming it’s easy to fix. Knowing how to and when to repair your basketball will allow you to enjoy the basketball for a lot longer.

Whatever you do, please don’t try to fix a basketball that has any cut in it larger than a few inches!

About the author

Hey There! My Name is Alex and I run Get Hyped Sports. I created this platform to help people find their love for sports and gaming.

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