EBC’s Guide to Fixing Squeaky Brakes Yourself
Squeaky brakes can ruin the most beautiful ride – but it’s important to understand that noisy brakes can also mean decreased braking performance.
Brake noise occurs for several reasons.
- Contamination can give rise to a noise when you hit the anchors – grease on the wheel rim, brake pad, rotor, or a misalignment between the braking surfaces
- New brake pads may need to bed in to squelch the squeak
- Poorly set-up brakes can cause vibrations which in turn make a screeching noise.
Luckily, there are several steps you can take to reduce the likelihood of noisy brakes. Let’s look at the different strategies you can take for both rim brakes and disc brakes.
Contamination is the leading cause of squeaky brakes so the first thing to do is check that your rims are oil free and there is no build-up of dirt – if they are dirty, scrub them thoroughly with degreaser. Then check the brake blocks themselves are clean and free of specks of dirt or grit.
You should also ensure that your brake blocks are wearing evenly and are not worn out. If they’re wearing unevenly, this could be a sign that the brakes are not set up properly.
After cleaning, check that all bolts securing the caliper to the frame and the brake blocks to the caliper are securely tightened – loose bolts can also cause brake noise.
Common Problems with Rim Brakes
Still getting a squeal after all that cleaning and tightening? Then it could be that your brakes are not properly set up. To check this, apply the brake and look at how the rim and block surfaces come together – loosen the mounting bolts and reposition the blocks to ensure an accurate connection. In addition to the above reasons, a small amount of play in the wheel bearings can also contribute to noisy brakes.
As with rim brakes, the most common cause of squeaky disc brakes is contamination. This may occur when spray lubricants have been used on a bicycle with disc brakes and some of it gets on the rotors or pads – great care is needed if you do use such products.
Ensuring your rims or rotors are kept clean by using an oil-free degreaser will help reduce the incidence of brake squeal, as will sanding down the pads. You can buy specific disc brake cleaners to keep them clean and contaminant-free and often this will do the trick. However, if the disc pads themselves become contaminated, you will have to remove them completely from the bike to sand them down.
If this doesn’t work, then the solution may be to get new pads.
How to Set-up Disc Brakes
It’s important to note that setting up disc brakes differs from setting up rim brakes. Poorly set-up disc pads can seriously hamper performance so it’s important to get it right. The best way to bed pads in is to ride along at a good speed and pull firmly on the brakes – do this several times.
If you’re having problems, it could be that the caliper is not perfectly aligned with the rotor. Disc rotors can be straightened with an adjustable wrench and the positioning of the caliper and disc rotor can be adjusted by sight.
We hope the steps described above will rid you of that pesky squeak. If all else fails, take your E-Bike into your friendly local bike shop, and ask them to stop the squeal.