How to Repair Bicycle Brakes

How to Repair Bicycle Brakes
Bike brakes are used to slow and stop a road or mountain bike while riding. A bike rider engages the brakes by squeezing the brake lever mounted on the handle bar. The brake lever, cable, brake assembly and pads typically make up the bike's brake system. Due to normal use it may be necessary to periodically adjust or repair your bike brakes. Most owners can successfully repair their brakes using only a few tools.


Difficulty: Moderate

Things You’ll Need:
  • Rags
  • Adjustable wrench
  • Allen wrench
  • Screwdriver
  • Pliers
  • Degreaser
  • Denatured alcohol
  • Bike brake oil
  • Soapy water
Step 1
Check the amount of space between the brake pads and the wheel rim. Locate the bolt used to mount the brake assembly to the bike frame. Loosen the bolt with an adjustable wrench, center the brakes and tighten the bolt securely. Brakes that are not centered may drag or rub while riding.
Step 2
Inspect the brake pads to determine if they are worn or have become slick from use. Replace the pads by loosening the retaining nut, remove the old pads and install new ones. Tighten the retaining nut securely. Depending on the bike model you will need to use an adjustable or Allen wrench.
Step 3
Clean dirt and other debris from the wheel rim. This may result in a loss of stopping power. Wipe the rim with a degreaser followed by soapy water. Rinse the rim thoroughly with clean water. Dry the wheel with a cloth and complete the cleaning with denatured alcohol to remove any remaining film or cleaners.
Step 4
Check the operation of the brake lever. Squeeze and then release the lever to determine if it is sticking or hesitant. Check the lever assembly and brake assembly for signs of rust and corrosion. Apply a quality bike oil to the moving parts until the handle and brakes operate smoothly.
Step 5
Adjust the brake cable if necessary. Squeeze the brake lever and adjust the cable if the lever contacts the handle bar. Use a wrench or screwdriver to loosen the cable adjustment screw located on the side of the brake assembly. Pull the exposed end of the brake cable with pliers while squeezing the brake pads toward the rim. Tighten the adjustment screw and recheck by squeezing the brake lever.

Tips & Warnings

Worn or slick pads will often make a squeaking sound when you apply the brakes. This is an indication that the pads should be replaced.
Adjust or install brake pads so that the front of the pad contacts the rim instead of the entire pad. If the entire face of the pad engages the rim it may result in chattering or squeaking.
Make sure all connection points are securely tightened to prevent possible injury while riding.

Article Written By Keith Dooley

Keith Dooley has a degree in outdoor education and sports management. He has worked as an assistant athletic director, head coach and assistant coach in various sports including football, softball and golf. Dooley has worked for various websites in the past, contributing instructional articles on a wide variety of topics.

Keep Me Informed

Weekly newsletters, announcements and offers from to your inbox.

Sign me up!

We HATE spam and promise to keep your email addresses safe and secure.