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Boston Valve Vs. Lightning Valve: A 101 Guide

The Boston Valve Vs. The Lightning Valve

When it comes to inflatable boats and other inflatable products, like towables, there are several common valve types. One of the most popular is the Boston valve. A newer option is the Lightning valve.

Both of these are great valves and will hold air well for you when you are out on the water. Here’s what you need to know about both of them.

Boston Valve

Lightning Valve

Three parts

One part

Top two parts are fully removable

The whole valve remains connected to the boat

On many inflatable marine craft

Only on O’Brien and Overtons towables

The Boston Valve

Helonge 4 Pcs Boston Valve Replacement

A Boston valve is an ingenious system for inflating, holding air, and deflating all sorts of items that go on the water. You can find Boston valves in inflatable boats, kayaks, towables, and more.

A Boston valve comes in three parts. The base is the largest piece. It holds the shape of the hole in the inflatable and permits air to go in and out.

Next comes the centerpiece. It gets screwed into the base and contains the check valve, which is what keeps the air inside the boat. Finally, there is the cap. It screws on top to protect the valve and keep dirt, dust, and other debris away from it.

How Does a Boston Valve Work?

QUKRT 4 Pcs Boston Valve

The check valve inside the centerpiece of the valve opens when you put air into the boat. Then it closes shut and does not open again until you deflate the boat.

Even if air tries to get out of the Boston valve, the check valve will hold it in place. In fact, escaping air raises the pressure against the check valve, which seals it even tighter.

You will need a pump to inflate a Boston valve to successfully open the check valve. To deflate the boat, all you need to do is unscrew the middle piece of the valve. This opens the full hole in the base and permits air to escape quickly and efficiently.

Just make sure you keep track of the middle piece after you unscrew it, or you won’t be able to use your Boston valve again until you replace it!

Different manufacturers make different Boston valves. The best way to get replacement parts for yours is to look for one made by the same company that your inflatable came from. You may even need to match it with one made for that kind of inflatable.

Watch the YouTube video below to see the inflation and deflation instructions listed here at work.

How to inflate and deflate a tube with the Boston Valve

More Details About the Boston Valve

Boston valves are great all-around valves for inflatables. They are great because, even though every manufacturer makes theirs a little different, you use them all in the same way. Once you know how to work with one, you can work with any Boston valve you encounter.

Boston valves are inexpensive, too. When you need to replace one, it’s usually easy to find an affordable option and they don’t raise the cost of the inflatable you’re buying.

If you’re considering a boat or other inflatable with a Boston valve, rest assured that you’re getting a great valve. Leaky air should not be a problem when you’re relying on a Boston valve.

Solstice by Swimline Replacement Boston Valve
  • Standard Boston Valve replacement set
  • Includes 4 Boston valve replacement inserts

Last update on 2024-06-13 at 23:17 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

The Lightning Valve

The Lightning valve is a newer valve designed as an improvement of the Boston valve. It was designed by and is primarily used by O’Brien on their line of inflatable towables. Overton’s also uses it on their Gladiator line of towables.

O'Brien Super Screamer 2 Person Towable Boating Tube
  • Platform Style Tube offers a ride that’s similar to a classic “doughnut,” but with better handling and a more exhilarating feel
  • Fully Covered Construction improves comfort and durability, by putting a layer of 420D Nylon between you and the bladder

Last update on 2024-06-13 at 23:17 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

The Benefits of the Lightning Valve

On the Boston valve, the cup and the valve are two separate pieces. With the new Lightning valve, these are a single piece. This makes it easier to use the valve and easier to keep track of the pieces when you are inflating and deflating your towables.

The Lightning valve also has a larger diameter than the Boston valve. This makes both inflation and deflation faster. You may get out on the water up to 56% faster.

Note that you will need a different adapter for your pump when using a Lightning valve, as the one for the Boston valve will be too small. You may need to purchase a new pump with the proper set of valves in order to use it with a Lightning valve.

O'Brien 12V Inflator/Deflator Pump
  • Handy, economical pump
  • Nozzles produce up to 0.5 psi (0.035 bars)

Last update on 2024-06-13 at 23:17 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Another added benefit of the Lightning valve is that you do not have to unscrew the whole valve to let the air out. Instead, just unscrew the cap on the Lightning valve and push down the button on the valve flap.

This opens the valve and allows the air to leave quickly. You don’t have to keep track of the valve or of anything else because it is all attached to the tube itself.

Details About Lightning Valves

The Lightning valve works similarly to the Boston valve. The pressure of air against the check valve increases the seal between the valve flap and the cup. You’ll never have to worry about innertube deflation again!

The Lightning valve is offered across O’Brien’s line of products and on Overton’s high-quality towables. It may cost a little bit more to get a tube with a Lightning valve, but the price difference should not be significant.

The Lightning valve is great for anyone who enjoys being out on the water and who doesn’t like messing with valve pieces. It’s perfect for anyone who can get one. In fact, I would imagine that we would see more and more inflatables with Lightning valves over the next few years.

Learn even more about the Lightning valve here.


Both the Lightning valve and the Boston valve work great when it comes to inflating and deflating various marine products. While the Boston valve shows up on everything from tubes to inflatable boats, the Lightning valve is only available on a few towables at the time this article was written.

These valves are both great options for anyone and everyone who wants to get out on the water. They allow for quick inflation and deflation and are easy to use.

No matter what valve you end up using, enjoy your time out on the water. Whether your inflatable has a Boston valve or a Lightning valve, your inflatable should hold air and you should be able to have a great experience.