One of the most important parts of the bicycle is the brake system. This element serves to stop the bicycle in a controlled way, so faulty brakes can put you in danger. Bicycle brakes are complex machines, which could present several problems. With a little knowledge, you can solve the most common brake problems on your bike. By performing maintenance tasks such as lubricating the cables, replacing worn pads with tire brakes, and realigning the disc brakes, you will be able to keep your bike in good running condition.
Method 1 of 4: Replace Worn Brake Pads
Step 1. Check the brake pads for wear
The most common problem with tire brakes is pad wear. Worn pads make stopping difficult, so they need to be replaced. Check the brake pads on the front and rear tires to see if they are worn.
- Brake pads generally have pinions or grooves. If these grooves have worn out, you need to replace the brake pads.
- Some brake pads have a wear limit line printed on the side. If the pad looks worn and exceeds this line, you should replace the pads.
Step 2. Buy new brake pads
Although brake pads are made from different materials, most types will fit almost any bicycle. The type you buy will depend on how you use your bike.
- Resin pads are cheaper and brake silently. However, they wear out faster and don't perform as well in rainy weather.
- Metal brake pads are loud and don't brake as effectively, but they last longer and work well in rainy weather.
- If you've never bought brake pads before, you can ask a clerk at a bike shop to point out the right product for you.
Step 3. Remove the wheel from the bike
Start by releasing the brakes on both wheels. Most bikes have a quick release lever on the wheels for easy removal. In this case, you should pull the lever on the axle of each wheel and move the wheel until it is released.
If your bike has axle nuts instead of a quick release lever, you can use a wrench and loosen the nuts on both sides of the axle. In this way, you release the wheel and facilitate its removal
Step 4. Unscrew the old brake pads with a hex wrench
Turn the wrench counterclockwise and loosen the nuts that hold the brake pads in place. Remove them as soon as they are loose enough.
You must watch the nuts you remove. New brake pads may also come with lug nuts, but you should keep the old ones for replacement parts
Step 5. Clean the inside of the brake calipers
These items can collect dirt over time, inhibiting their performance. Take this opportunity to get rid of any buildup. Use a cloth to rub the inside of the tweezers.
Step 6. Screw in the new brake pads
Insert the bolts for the new brake pads through the slot and tighten the bolts to hold them in place. Not fully adjustments yet. They should be left loose so you can adjust them when you reinstall the wheel.
Some brake pads can be installed on either side of the wheel, while others specify which side they should be located on. Check the instructions for the pads you purchased and see if each one needs to sit on a specific side before installing
Step 7. Reinstall the bike wheel
Raise the wheel in its slot. If your bike has a quick-release lever, you simply push this lever to lock the wheel in place. If your bike has axle nuts instead of a quick-release lever, you should use a wrench and screw the nuts in place to secure the wheel.
Step 8. Adjust the brake pads to center them on the rim
The brake pads should only touch the rim when pressed down. If they touch the tire, it can explode due to friction. If the brake pads are not completely snug, you can move them up and down in the socket. With the wheel attached, raise or lower the pads until they sit directly on the rim. Then finish tightening the screws so the pads lock in place.
- Press down on the brakes after adjusting them to make sure the pads only touch the rim.
- Before driving, you should turn the wheel and apply the brakes to make sure the wheel does not spin.
Method 2 of 4: Realign the Disc Brakes
Step 1. Detect a scraping sound while driving
A common problem with disc brakes is the discs becoming misaligned and rubbing against the calipers. This movement will produce a high pitched screech when the wheels turn. If you need to repair your disc brakes, you've probably already heard this noise.
To do a quick test, you need to lift the front wheel off the ground and spin it. Then do the same with the rear wheel. If you detect a squeak in either one, then the brakes need maintenance
Step 2. Make sure the wheel is fully connected
Before making any adjustments to the brakes, you need to make sure that the problem is actually with the brakes. If the wheel is bent, it could cause the same screeching noise.
- Make sure the wheel is fully seated in the axle socket.
- If your bike has a quick-release lever for the wheels, make sure it's tight.
- If your bike has axles, make sure the nuts on each end are tight.
Step 3. Turn both caliper screws half a turn counterclockwise
Using a hex wrench, loosen both bolts that hold the brake caliper to the wheel. The clamp will move back and forth freely, allowing you to adjust its position.
This method works the same whether you have mechanical or hydraulic disc brakes
Step 4. Squeeze the brake handle fully
This element adjusts the brakes and centers them on the rotor. Keep the brake pressed while you work on the next step.
You must squeeze hard for this step. The brakes must be fully depressed or the alignment will not be correct
Step 5. Retighten both bolts while holding down the brake lever
Turn the screws clockwise to readjust them. Make sure to hold down the lever, or the brakes will be misaligned after adjusting.
You can release the brakes once you have tightened both bolts
Step 6. Spin the wheel and check if the noise has stopped
The realignment should center the discs correctly so that they are no longer rubbing. If you don't detect any more noise, then the alignment was successful. If you still notice the noise, you can adjust the brakes by hand.
Step 7. Adjust the record by hand if the noise does not stop
If you squeeze the brake while tightening the bolts and this doesn't work, you need to loosen them again. Then slide the caliper so there is the same amount of clearance on each side and retighten the bolts.
Avoid squeezing the brakes if you adjust them by hand. You can simply move the caliper back and forth by hand
Method 3 of 4: Replace Disc Brakes
Step 1. Check the material of the brake pads for wear
These pads press against the disc brakes to stop the bike and wear out over time. The pads must be at least 1mm thick. If they wear less than that, then they need to be replaced. Check the pads and see if they are worn. You can use a flashlight to see better if necessary.
- As a simple test, 3 stacked business cards measure approximately 1mm. Hold 3 cards against the brake pads. If the pads are thicker than the cards, then they are still good.
- If your brakes screech or hiss as you try to stop, they are likely contaminated with oil or other fluids. In this case, you should also replace them.
Step 2. Remove the wheels from the bike
With disc brakes, you can lift the wheel without disconnecting the brake system. Most bikes have a quick release lever on the wheels for easy removal. In this case, you should pull the lever on the axle of each wheel and move the wheel until it comes off.
If your bike has axle nuts instead of a quick-release lever, you should use a wrench and loosen the nuts on both sides of the axle. This movement releases the wheel
Step 3. Remove the retaining pin that holds the brake pads
There are several different designs for disc brakes, but most have a pin that holds the pads in place. Depending on the model of your bike, there are a few ways to remove this pin.
- In some designs, the pin is unscrewed. Turn an Allen key counterclockwise to remove it.
- In other designs, the pin is split at the end to keep it in place. In this case, you should use a needle nose pliers to tighten the ends. Then, pull out the pin with your other hand.
- Some designs do not secure the pads with a pin. In this case, you can use pliers to remove them.
Step 4. Slide off the brake pads
After removing the retaining pin, the pads should be able to move freely. Depending on the bike model, they can slide from the top or bottom of the caliper.
Use needle nose pliers to hold the pills if you can't slide them with your fingers
Step 5. Push the brake pistons
These elements push the brake pads against the discs. You can push them out to install new brake pads. There is a different process for retracting hydraulic and mechanical pistons.
- For hydraulic brakes, you should use a flat wrench or similar tool and push the pistons back. Apply even pressure until the pistons are fully retracted.
- For mechanical brakes, you should use an Allen wrench and turn the adjusting screw counterclockwise until it stops turning. This movement opens the piston system.
- In both cases, you should avoid pressing the brake lever after pushing the pistons back. In this way, you will close them and you will have to repeat the process.
Step 6. Slide the new brake pads into position
With the pistons retracted, the new pads should slide easily. The pad setting will depend on the specific design of the disc brake. Consult your owner's manual to confirm the specific installation procedure.
- If your brakes use a retaining pin, you should slide it into position and screw it in with an Allen wrench.
- Some brake pads snag in place. In this case, you should slide them into the slot and push until you hear a click.
- Some brake pads are connected with a spring that pushes them into place. In this case, you need to squeeze the pads so they slide into the groove. Then release so the spring pushes them against the pistons.
Step 7. Replace the bicycle wheel
Raise the wheel in the slot. The wheel disc should slide between the brake pads, so be sure to align the disc and the pads. If your bike has a quick release lever, you simply push this lever to lock the wheel in place. If your bike has axle nuts instead of a quick-release lever, you should use a wrench and screw the nuts in place to secure the wheel.
After installing the wheel, you should run a quick test to make sure the brakes are working. Spin the wheel and press the brake lever to check if the brakes stop the wheel. Then you should drive slowly to further test the brakes
Method 4 of 4: Lubricate the Brake System
Step 1. Release the brake cables from their sockets
Most brake systems have some type of quick-release mechanism that disconnects the cable from the calipers. Look on the wheels for a lever that will release the cable. Some bikes also have a simple system where you can lift the cable out of its socket.
- If you can't find a brake release, you should consult the owner's manual for your type of bike.
- It may also help to consult with a bike shop employee when making any repairs.
Step 2. Press the brake lever down and remove the cable from its frame
When you disconnect the cable from the clamp, it will likely slide out of its frame onto the lever. Squeeze the handle and pull the cord. It should slide out of the frame around the lever.
The cable will still be attached to the lever, but if you remove it from the frame, the internal cable will be exposed. This is the part that you are going to lubricate
Step 3. Pour a few drops of oil on the cable
Find the spot just above where the wire enters the plastic frame. Shake the bottle of oil you are using before applying some to the wire. Let the bike sit for a few seconds and let the oil drip down the cable.
- Keep the cable upright so that the oil drips down the cable.
- Use a rag and wipe the excess oil off the wire frame.
Step 4. Reconnect the brake cable to the handle and caliper
Slide the bare brake cable back into the lever and reattach the bottom of the cable to the brake caliper.
Step 5. Squeeze the brake lever several times so that the oil seeps through the frame
As you tighten, you should also watch the brake calipers and make sure they close around the rim. This procedure will let you know if the brakes are working properly.
Begin riding your bike slowly after adjusting the brakes to make sure they fully re-engage
- You should always start driving slowly after adjusting the brakes. Test them at slow speeds to make sure they work properly.
- You must use all the necessary safety equipment when riding a bicycle, especially a helmet.