Easily Fix Your Bike Brakes (Easy Guide)

Being a new cyclist has its downside, especially when your bike has issues with its brake. Then, you start worrying about your safety.

You try to fix the bike brake issue, but you’re afraid to further cause any problem because of your inexperience.

Moreover, you don’t want to bring your mountain bike yet to a professional because you know you’ll have to spend a lot of money.

Your dilemma isn’t unique because many new biking enthusiasts face the same problem regarding bicycle brakes.

Fortunately, you can try the following straightforward steps to fix your bike brake issues. Kindly read on to learn more.

Step 1 – Check Calipers

You should check for a worn bike brake pad. Generally, it would help if you had at least 0.6 cm or ¼ inch of rubber between the tire and clamp to engage the caliper when braking.


Replace the pads to ensure they’re working effectively. Next, ensure the cables move when you squeeze the brake handles.

Check for a loose clamp or stuck cable in the housing if the wire doesn’t move when you press the brake handles.

Check if the caliper brake moves once the cable pulls it. You may squeeze the brake hand to check if the caliper moves.

You may also have another person press on the handle for you to see if the caliper closes and opens.

If the caliper doesn’t move, you should check for the broken cable inside the housing. Then, you must replace the entire cable system.

Moreover, check if each side of the caliper clamps the road bike wheel. If only one pad engages the wheel, you’ll have issues with braking.

Therefore, you should loosen the bolts holding the caliper to check if it’s working correctly. In addition, you may need an excellent light machine oil to lubricate the moving parts.

Step 2 – Change Brake Pads

Buy brake pads to replace the worn-out ones. But, first, ensure you buy a suitable model and brand for your bike.

The universal brake pad in a bike shop only works on cheap bicycles.

Remove the washers and nuts from the original brake pad and release the cushion from the caliper arm.

You may need to remove the caliper to work on the pads efficiently.

Be careful about removing the nut to ensure the caliper arms, spacers, and washers maintain their correct position.

Install the brake pads and ensure they align with the tire. Avoid mounting the pads too slowly, as you may face a dangerous situation if they slide off the rim brakes.

On the other hand, you shouldn’t mount the brake pads too high as they may rub against the tire’s sidewall.

Step 3 – Maintain the Cables

Grease the caliper pivot, and inspect the brake cables. They should be about 0.6 cm or ¼ inch from the rim if you’re not applying the brakes.

On the other hand, if you squeeze the lever, the pads should make complete contact with the wheel rim brake.

Grease the cables by spraying oil where the wire enters the cable housing. Don’t forget to choose a light oil or a special brake cable oil.

Be careful about using WD-40 and its counterparts, as they may remove the lubricant from the cable.

If the cable is challenging to operate or very stiff, you should disengage the cable from its housing.

Remove the clamp at the brake lever or caliper. Then, pull out the cable from the opposite end.

You may use WD-40 or aerosol solvent to remove debris or dirt from the cable tube.

Use machine oil or lithium grease on the cable; then, reinstall the undamaged wire.

Thread the cable through the clamp. Don’t forget to tighten the clamp once the brake pads are 0.6 cm or ¼ inch from the wheel.

If this step doesn’t solve your brake issue, you should change the cable.

Step 4 – Maintain the Brake Levers

Ensure the cable clamps are secure and grease pivot pin found on the lever handle.

Step 5 – Maintain the Calipers

Check the calipers if they’re on the center of the tire. Ensure the springs have the correct cable tension on the caliper brake arms.

Each caliper should move toward the wheel simultaneously when you press the brake handle.

You should check that each arm is well-oiled and moving freely if one caliper arm moves more than the other.

Tighten the spring, but be cautious about breaking or nicking it.

Step 6 – Check Coaster Brakes

If your bike has coaster brakes, you should move the pedals backward. If you’re a beginner, you shouldn’t service them if there’s a problem.

If you have the “Bendix” type, check the clamp if it’s loose. On the other hand, re-clamp the brake arm if it has disengaged.

What Is a Brake Cable?

A brake cable is an essential bike element that converts the force from the biker to the braking mechanism, providing you with a way to slow down when tackling rocky or rough roads.

Brake Cable

The cable, together with the cable-pull brakes, brake the bicycle. Generally, it consists of a stainless wire inside a cable housing.

The inner cable has a round-shaped or pear-shaped material connecting it to the brake lever. It converts the force you apply to stop the front wheel from turning.

On the other hand, cable housing is also significant in protecting the inner stainless wire from corrosive materials and dirt.

Moreover, the housing offers a secure and smooth coverage for the wire to fully engage with the brake.

The cable housing and wire work together to stop the bike from moving further.

Why Do the Brake Cables Fail?

The following are some reasons why your brake cable will fail:

  • Detached brake cable
  • Unsecured cable anchorage
  • Bent housing cable
  • Seizing up and rusting the housing and cable
  • Torn and worn cables

Many cables break at the area near the pulley or clamp, connecting them directly to the sheath, terminal, or brakes.

Cable breakage occurs when you don’t always use your bike. The cable lacks lubrication; therefore, braking becomes challenging.

Moreover, you should find the lever hard to operate.

Steps to Fix the Your Bike’s Brake Cable

Clean and Lubricate

Inspect and ensure the inner cable is free from dirt. The brake wire may not fully function if particles hamper the energy transition to the brake pads.

Remove the inner cable from its housing. Replace it if you find corrosion, dirt, and frayed wires.

On the other hand, if you can’t find anything wrong with the inner cable, check the cable housing.

Use a spray degreaser to clean the housing. Next, you should use a Dremel tool or file to smooth the jagged edges.

After cleaning the housing and wire, use a thin lubricant layer on the cable.

Replace the Brake Cable

If you still have issues with the brake cables after cleaning and lubricating the system, you should replace the brake cables.

Remove the bent or frayed brake cable. Use the Allen wrench to twist the line, loosen the caliper bolt, and remove the wire.

Slide the cable out from the lever near the handlebar. Measure your old thread because you need your new wire to be of the same length.

Please insert the new cable in the housing, then slide it to the brake lever. Secure the wire to the cable housing.

Final Testing

Inspect the brake system and resistance by pulling the brake lever. If it works smoothly, you know you installed the brake cable correctly.

However, if you still have issues, you should repeat the entire process and have a new cable installed.

Do final testing to check if the brake cable regains tension.

Steps to Fix Your Disc Brake Pads

Disc brakes, like V brakes, have two pads squeezing the moving part of the wheel to stop its movement when you press the brake lever.

Disc Brake

The brake rotor is the metal disc found at the wheel’s center. You may discover the brake pads misaligned with the motor.

Moreover, worn disc brake pads can cause harm when riding if you don’t notice them immediately.

Therefore, you should schedule regular maintenance to protect yourself from danger.

Turn Your Bike Upside Down.

It would be best to spin the wheel to adjust the disc rotor. Therefore, you should turn your bike upside down and allow it to rest on its saddle and handlebars.

You may also ask another person to lift the bike as you spin the wheel. Moreover, you may use a bike stand.

Check the Rotor’s Alignment.

The rotor is between the brake pads and inside the brake caliper. Therefore, if you notice uneven rotor spacing, you should adjust the caliper.

Spin the wheel and notice a bent or damaged rotor. If the wheel moves and the rotor wiggles as it rotates, you have a bent rotor.

It would help if you replaced the rotor with a new one. However, you may use a unique tool to straighten the rotor if you don’t want to buy a new one.

You know you’ve fixed the issue if you no longer notice the rotor’s lateral movement as you spin the wheel.

Loosen the Brake Bolts

It would help if you loosened the bolts at the caliper’s top and bottom to align the caliper. However, it would be best not to facilitate them all the way.

Press the Brake and Tighten the Locks

If you loosen the caliper, you should spin the tire and tightly press on the brake lever. You should notice the caliper gripping against the rotor and aligning the pads vis a vis each other.

Tighten the bolts while still pressing the brake.

Release the Lever and Test.

Once you let it go, the brake lever should be between the brake pads in the caliper. Spin the wheel to ensure the caliper doesn’t move laterally.

Incrementally adjust if you notice some misalignment. Reposition the caliper until it perfectly functions.

Thomas Kersten

Hi, I am a passionate biker, and I have been riding for more than ten years and share my biking tips and tricks with the world. I've tested more than 300 bikes.

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