How to fix bike brakes doesn’t have to be complicated. There are a number of ways to correctly adjust them so you can enjoy the type of stopping power you did when your bike was brand new. If you prefer your brakes to be grippy and tight, and you want the brakes to stop quickly even if you’re pedaling at top speeds, then there are several methods you can try for bike brakes that are just too soft.

Getting Started

Before you start, take a look and make sure that there’s plenty of rubber left on the brake pads. Make sure they’re aligned correctly. If your pads are worn down, you should be able to find the right type at your local bike shop, or you can order them online.

Keep in mind that since you’ve decided to fix your brakes on your own, once you’re finished you’ll need to test them out carefully before you ride. This can be done by spinning the bike’s wheels in the air as you squeeze the levers.

Fix Your Squeaky Disc Brakes

Disc brakes provide a ton of stopping power in a variety of weather conditions. Thanks to precise modulation, decreasing your speed is also a lot easier. But at some point, most cyclists encounter squeaky brakes.

While there are several reasons why your brakes are making a lot of noise, below you’ll find some of the most common brake problems and some easy hacks you can use that will have your brakes feeling nice and tight again.

Rotor Alignment Issues

If you’ve tried realigning your brake pads, but that same annoying sound persists, it’s possible that you’re dealing with a bent brake rotor. Fortunately, this is a common issue that has an easy fix. Spin the bike’s wheel as you look through the caliper. During this step you should be able to see exactly when the pad comes into contact with the rotor, where it’s bent. If you’re having trouble seeing, take a piece of paper and slide it directly under the caliper. You can use a basic rotor tuning fork to straighten the rotor out, this is a delicate step so make sure you avoid using too much force.

Contaminated Pads

A consistent, unbearable squeaking noise can be caused by contamination. A brake pad is very porous, so it tends to soak up dirt, grease, debris, and oil, quite easily. This can have a major impact on your brake’s stopping power, plus it can cause a loud squeaking noise. Brake fluids, degreasers, and chain lube can make their way to the brake rotor, contaminating the pads and affecting their performance. If you think dirty brake pads are to blame, you can easily clean them off using rubbing alcohol and a clean microfiber rag.

Whenever new pads or a new rotor are installed on your bike they need to be properly broken in. Riding down a steep hill with brand new brakes can cause the rotor to run hot pretty quickly, causing them to glaze over. This, in turn, can reduce the brake’s ability to slow down effectively and will cause a loud squeaking sound.

Make sure you always break your pads in properly. This can be done by riding around on cultivated terrain while squeezing the brakes lightly before you take on any hills. Next, try riding down a hill and lightly tap the brakes. Avoid coming to a complete stop. This should be done around eight times until the brakes start to feel tighter. This method works by transferring some of the material on the brake pad to the rotor.

If the brake pads are already glazed, the only solution is to take the pads off and use some high grit sandpaper to scuff up the pads.

Quick Bike Brake Fixes

How to fix bike brakes can be a simple, fast job, depending on the underlying cause. Often, the brakes will only need some minor adjustments. Before you get started, grab the following tools:

Phillips screwdriver, Allen wrench, multi-tool, and a T-handle wrench.

Lever Adjustments

Quick Bike Brake Fixes

How much the brake lever moves when it’s pulled depends on the cable fixing bolt. When you let more cable to go through it can allow for more lever travel, while tightening the cable reduces it. For this job you’ll need a five-millimeter Allen wrench.

First, you’ll need to determine whether the lever should move less or more when pulled. Too much give can affect the brake’s stopping power, making them less responsive, while overtightening can make the brakes overly sensitive.

If you want the lever to move less, pull more cable through the brake cable bolt. For levers that need to move more, let out a little bit of cable at a time.

Whether you’re shortening the amount of cable or adding more cable through, make sure you never let the wrench off the bolt. finish by tightening the bolt, then test out the lever. If more adjustments are needed, simply repeat the above instructions.

Brake Pads

When the brake pads aren’t correctly adjusted, this can cause the front of the pad to slide, touching the tire. The result? A tear in the sidewall of your tire if left untreated.

For this job, you’ll need a five-millimeter Allen wrench.

In order to reposition the brake pad, loosen up the fixing nut. Move the pad into the correct position, and make sure you check that it’s on the same plane as the rim. Also, check for any serious signs of wear.

Next, place your fingers along the bottom of the pad as you tighten the nut, in order to ensure that the pad is kept in the correct position.

You can test this quick fix by pulling the brake lever and see if you notice any difference in the pull. The goal is to have the pad placed just one millimeter below the top of the rim brake’s surface.

Centering Bike Brakes

If the pad is off center, a pad may be coming into contact with the rim. This brake problem is easy to visually identify, or you can even detect this problem by listening as you pedal. There will be a loud rubbing noise that will increase when you press the brake lever, or you may even notice an increase in resistance as you pedal. If you don’t fix this issue ASAP, you’ll end up wearing out the brake pad quickly.

Find the tension screw on the brake. This is used to move the brake arms in a right or left direction. You can use a basic Phillips screwdriver for this job. Figure out if the brake needs to be moved to the left or the right and begin by adjusting a single arm.

The screw should be loosened in order to reduce spring tension. Tightening the screw will increase spring tension. Make sure you only use half turns when making this type of adjustment. Test the adjustment by pulling the brake lever. There should be an equal distance between the pads and the rim on both sides.

The brake lever should feel firm and the arms should move equally if you’ve adjusted the tension correctly.