Squeaky brakes are more problematic than you think. They aren’t just noisy and annoying. If left unfixed, it can cause huge problems for you and your bike. You may even put yourself at risk for accidents and injuries if you ignore the problem for a long time.
Whether you are new to biking or you have intermediate knowledge, below is a quick guide on how to fix squeaky bikes you might find handy.
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Understanding Bike Brakes
In general, there are two classifications of bike brakes- rim and disc. It’s important to be familiar with them so you’d know how to fix your bike brakes.
Rim brakes are much lighter than disc brakes. They are easier to repair and they cost less.
Disc brakes, on the other hand, have a greater stopping power. You’ll notice this when you’re going on long descents.
They don’t heat the rim as well. This is usually why tires blow out on long descents with rim brakes.
At the first sign of squeaky bike brakes, it’s a good idea to check the alignment of your caliper. To do this, you need to loosen the bolts and carefully wiggle the part free.
Hold down the brake lever. This will help center the caliper over the rotor. While holding the brake down, work on tightening the bolts evenly.
After you’re done, try spinning the wheel. If you are still able to hear squeaking noises, you can try repeating the process. Sometimes, it takes a couple of tries before the caliper gets properly aligned.
Disk brake pads aren’t that prone to attracting dirt. However, when used for a long time, they can wear out and release dirt and debris. They can get into the caliper and there, they can create annoying squeaky noises.
To solve this issue, you need to remove the wheel and the brake pads. For most bikes, long pliers work really well in grabbing brake pads.
Once you’ve taken out the said parts, you can start cleaning the rotors and pads. You can do it with alcohol. Alternatively, you can also use a special brake cleaning fluid.
After cleaning, you can put the pads back. You need to make sure to not touch their surface when replacing them. Place the wheel back into place and reassess if it’s still squeaking.
This is a common issue with bikes that have been used a lot of miles. Long-term use can wear out the rotors and brake pads, leaving them smooth.
To restore their roughness, you can use a piece of sandpaper. Pick one between 100 and 150 grade. Place it on a flat surface and with the pads facing down, start rubbing them against the sandpaper. Do this until you feel that their surfaces are rough again.
Now, for the rotors, you need to clean them first using a clean cloth and brake cleaner. After that, carefully sand them with your sandpaper.
Make sure to not do the step in just one direction. Do it in small circles, up and down, and side to side.
If you’ve cleaned the pads and you still hear squeaking sounds, there’s a good chance that your pads may have been in contact with greasy substances or lubricants. Their materials make them prone to absorb grease, leaving them less effective and squeaky.
For this, you can use an oil-free degreaser. If this still doesn’t work, your next best option is to replace them.
Worn out brakes
Take a good look at your brakes and see if they can still be repaired. If they look so worn out, you’ll probably need to replace them already.
Take note that new brakes may also be prone to squeaking. If you’ve changed them and you still find them noisy, wait for them to bed in.
Once they’ve settled, the squeaky sound should vanish and your brakes should function well.
Check if the brake pads are properly centered on your bike’s rim. If they aren’t, try to loosen a nut on your brake pad.
Once it’s loose enough, you should be able to move your brake pad into its proper position.
After putting it back in place, check if the left part of your brake pad is hitting the wheel first. If that’s the case, you can go ahead and tighten the nut to its proper place.
Another thing you can look into is the horizontal alignment of your brake pads. When you’re riding your bike, your brakes often bump against something.
This results in two things. Your pads will hit the rim or your brake pad’s front part hits the rim first. Any of these two can cause squeaking noises when you use your brakes.
The dirt on your brakes doesn’t just create squeaking sounds. Over time, it can also make your brakes less effective. Plus, it makes your rim prone to wearing out.
As a solution, you can remove the wheels first and check for dirt around the brake blocks. Get a piece of cloth to gently remove as much dirt as you can.
After that, get an oil-free cleaner. Apply some of it on the part using a clean cloth. Make sure to do these steps on both sides.
Other Reasons Why Your Bike Brakes Are Squeaking
You’ve just cleaned them
It’s not really wrong to use soap when cleaning your bike. However, soap or detergent tend to leave residues which can cause its parts to squeal.
Car wash soaps and detergents are often formulated with conditioners and they aren’t the best things to get on your rotors and brake pads. Apart from making squeaky sounds, they can also burn off or wear off after some time.
You have the option to let your bike be that way after cleaning. However, if the problem persists even after a ride or two, you’ll need to clean the brake pads or rotor with alcohol.
Pour it on the parts and use a clean rug to rub them down.
When cleaning your bike, it’s a good idea to use clear warm water. If you really need to use a detergent, make sure that it won’t leave residues behind. It’s also a good idea to rinse it well. You wouldn’t want to leave soap on your bike as that can wear out its part easily and quickly.
Your bike brakes are new.
If you’ve replaced your bike brakes and they’re still squeaking, a good solution is to grease the contact points.
For this, you may need to remove the brake pads from the calipers. Right after that, you can apply brake grease to every contact point including the backside of your brake pad as well as any contact points on your caliper carrier.
Remember that the brake pad friction surface, as well as the rotor surface, need to be free from any lubricants, oils, or grease.
Why Do You Need to Fix Your Squeaky Bike Brakes
A slight squeak probably won’t compel you to take a good look at your bike. However, if it starts to wake up your neighbors or annoy you while you’re traveling, you have enough reasons to get your bike checked.
When your bike brakes start to get squeaky, the pads will wear down unevenly. And as a result, you’ll be forced to replace the parts even before you have to.
Additionally, when your pads are gone, you can’t expect your brakes to work properly. This can put you at an even more dangerous solution. Plus, your bike will get a lot more expensive to fix.
It’s a good idea to fix a problem early before it creates more issues.
Additional Tips on How to Prevent Squeaky Bike Brakes
Ideally, you should be getting your bike regularly checked at your local bike repair shop. A highly skilled mechanic should be able to spot squeaky brakes and other things that may be wrong with your bike.
And as a result, you’ll be able to get it fixed even before it causes additional problems. Take note that this may require you to pay a small fee.
It’s also a good idea to keep your bicycle clean. Ensure that it’s well lubed as this can minimize wear and tear. It can also address creaks and squeaks.
If you are going out for a long ride, try to bring a tub of paste grease or with you. Alternatively, you can also take a bottle of suitable liquid lube to your trip.
With a torque wrench, assess the bolts on your bike. They should be tightened according to the specifications of the manufacturer.
In case you’ll be out for a long ride, make sure that your bike is in excellent condition. Apart from the bike brakes, you also need to check the tires, wheels, chain, crank arms and pedals, and stem and headset.
If you don’t go out that often, check your bike at least once or even twice a week.