Does your soccer ball lose air after just 10 or so minutes of game time? Do you find yourself pumping it up every time you play? Or does it fail to hold any air at all?
Having a broken ball, particularly an expensive official match ball such as an Adidas Jabulani, Teamgeist, Europass, Speedcell, Brazuca, Beau Jeu or Telstar can be incredibly frustrating. In this tutorial, we’ll show you how to fix a soccer ball – no matter the reason it’s losing air.
Finding the leak
First you must determine why your ball isn’t holding air. In some instances this is obvious, for example you may notice that your valve is letting out air. If it isn’t so obvious, follow the steps below.
- Fill up a sink or a tub that’s big enough to hold your ball with water.
- Inflate your soccer ball.
- Submerge your ball completely.
- Rotate the ball, looking for air bubbles. Notice where the bubbles are coming from, this indicates where the leak is located.
- Completely dry the ball once the leak is found. This is particularly important if you are going to glue a puncture in the ball.
Now you know exactly where the leak is coming from. Either the valve is letting air out, the actual bladder is punctured, or the ball has a hole in one of the panels itself.
- If air is seeping slowly through a gap in between panels (as shown above) the bladder must be resealed.
- If the valve is broken it must be replaced.
- If air is leaking through a puncture in the ball this puncture must be mended with glue.
Remember you can try more than one of these fixes to achieve the best results!
Fixing your soccer ball’s bladder
Most minor leaks without a clear puncture hole (ie, air escaping between numerous panels) occur because the internal rubber bladder of your ball has a small hole.
To fix this, the inside of the ball must be resealed using a sealant that you’ll insert through the valve. The best sealants are:
- Bike tire sealant (we’ve found Stan’s Notubes to be quite effective).
- Contact cement (you might need a syringe to insert it as it can be quite thick).
- Egg white (yes, this can actually work!).
We’ll be using bike tire sealant in this demonstration as it works well and is easy to insert.
Note: you’ll probably also want some tissues or a cloth as you’re about to see.
Now you’re ready to repair your soccer ball!
- Let some air out of the ball (this will help to avoid the sealant blowing back out of the valve as happened in the video).
- Attach your spare pump needle to your sealant bottle, using tape if necessary. Alternatively, pour some sealant into your syringe if you’re using one (more on this below).
- Push the pump or syringe needle into the valve and insert roughly an ounce (30 grams) of the sealant into the ball.
- Remove the needle and inflate your ball to the point where it can be rolled.
- Roll the ball so that the sealant coats the entirety of the bladder – make sure you get an even distribution. Take note of the drying time or usage instructions on the packaging.
- Leave the ball for 12-24 hours to dry. Try and keep it inflated during this time to ensure the bladder retains the correct shape as the sealant dries.
- Repeat as necessary if the first try hasn’t fixed the issue completely. 2-3 coatings may be necessary in some cases.
Since we first published this article, people who tried this method have said that having a syringe on hand makes the process of inserting the sealant much easier.
The syringes cyclists use to inject products like Stan’s Notubes into punctured bike tires can help you avoid wasting the liquid, as they have a long needle designed specifically for use with rubber valves.
Hopefully this method helped to fix your ball’s leak! If not, you might like to try and to plug the specific area where air is coming out of your ball.
Replacing your soccer ball’s valve
At times the actual valve inside the ball will break due to general wear and tear, particularly on official match balls. Fortunately, replacing an old valve is relatively easy.
- pumpuptheball was kind enough to send us their combo kit to try, which includes 10 valves, a needle, and a valve removal tool. We used their product on an Adidas Speedcell (see the videos below) and it worked very well indeed.
- If your ball pump doesn’t look like our one, there are other ways to get the new valve into the ball. For example, you can use a thin Phillips-head screwdriver to force the valve through the hole.
Removing the old valve
Using your valve removal tool, you’ll need to pull the old valve out of the ball.
There’s a certain technique to using the hook – check out the video below to see how it’s done.
- Force the hook end of the tool through the valve opening – you should hear a pop as it pushes its way into the bladder.
- Tilt the hook to about a 45° angle and begin to pull. You’ll likely need to use a lot of force to get the valve out.
- Check to make sure that you’ve removed the whole valve.
Inserting the new valve
There are a few ways to get the new valve into the ball.
What I like to do is put the valve in the hole, and then force it down with a ball pump. This way, the ball stays well-inflated which makes it easier to push with enough force.
With pumpuptheball’s valves, you won’t need to use lubricant as their product has a slightly oily surface. If you’re using different valves, try Vaseline to make the process easier.
- Take one of your replacement valves and position it over the valve hole.
- Grab your ball pump and push the needle through the valve, forcing it down into the ball.
- Keep pushing the pump down while keeping the ball well-inflated.
- Ensure the valve is all the way into the ball and resting nicely in its notch.
For most balls glue isn’t necessary. However, if you notice that the old valve was glued in as you pull it out, it may be a good idea to apply some polyurethane glue to the new valve as you reinsert it.
Repairing a puncture on your soccer ball
We’ve all been there: playing the beautiful game, having a great time, without a care in the world, and then… a dog decides to eat your ball. Or perhaps an old nail on a goal post snags it. End result: air begins to leak out.
When a soccer ball has a specific hole that has pierced the bladder as well as the outer casing, the sealant method may not work as the hole will be too big to fix. In this case the outer casing must be repaired.
Note: this method is best for official match balls, not replicas, as they have thermally bonded layers which are designed to be airtight. A stitched ball is not designed this way and so it’s best to use the sealant method to fix the bladder itself.
To fix a hole in your ball, you will need:
- Polyurethane glue (Gorilla glue shown below is great for this).
- Kitchen paper.
- Isopropyl alcohol.
- A thin metal needle, like a knitting needle without a sharp end.
Now you can begin the process.
- Deflate the ball slightly so the surface be easily pushed in.
- Locate the puncture. Using the kitchen paper, rub the area with isopropyl alcohol to ensure that the glue adheres nicely.
- Apply some glue to the end of your needle, using it to rub the adhesive into the hole or between the panels. Try to avoid having the needle vertical in relation to the ball to avoid further damage to the bladder.
- Push the sides of the ball in so that air flows out through the glue. As the pressure subsides glue will flow into the hole. Repeat this process 2-3 times, adding more glue in between.
- Clean off excess glue and inflate the ball a bit. Leave the glue to dry for 10-20 minutes.
- Now you must begin layering the glue around the hole more generally to ensure it remains strong in the long term. Rub glue around the hole with your finger, but be careful not to apply too much adhesive. Leave the ball for 30 minutes, then add another layer and leave the ball for 12 hours. Next, add a final layer and leave the glue to dry for 24 hours. Keep the ball inflated during this process so that the seal is molded to the shape of the ball.
This method requires some experimentation. If the ball still doesn’t hold air, try again but with more glue layers or a different type of glue. Make sure that the glue has fully dried before testing it again with the water method.
Hopefully you managed to fix your soccer ball! If you still need help, contact us or leave a comment below and we’ll get right back to you.
Thinking of buying a new ball instead? Check out the best soccer balls for sale at the moment.
About the author
Tom is an accomplished writer, with years of experience producing buyer’s guides and tutorials for athletes online.
And it goes without saying – he’s sports-mad.