Ah, squeaky brakes, the bane of every cyclist’s existence. The only thing worse than being on an early morning ride afraid to touch your brakes for fear of waking up the entire neighbourhood, is having your squealing brakes announce to your friends every time you use them on a mellow descent. Fortunately the fixes for squeaking disc brakes are simple and quick, and will have you riding with confidence again in no time.
First though, it’s important to consider why brakes squeak. Disc brakes squeal becuase of vibrations in the caliper and rotor, which increase in speed until they reach a pitch and volume detectable by the human ear. A disc brake system that is working nominally will have very little chance of vibration, even under heavy use, so the first step in curing a squeal is to find the source of the vibration.
There are a few likely sources of vibrations in a disc brake system. The first is a loose caliper or rotor bolts. If your caliper and rotor bolts are tight, move to the brake pads themselves. If you are using incorrect brake pads in your brakes (even using off-brand pads as opposed to OEM replacements) the opportunity exists for the pads to ‘shudder’ in side the caliper, rapidly gaining and losing contact with the rotor and causing a resonance that is heard as a squeak. (Auto manufacturers make compounds that can be spread on the back of a disc brake pad to reduce this possible vibration, but these are less than ideal as it’s too easy to get the compound on the pads and contaminate them.)
The most common issue causing brake squeal is contamination or glazing of the brake pads, or rotor. Contaminants (such as oil from our fingers when you accidentally touch the pads or rotor) cause the pads to lose grip on the rotor, which can cause vibrations leading to squealing. In many cases, badly contaminated pads need to be replaced, but sometimes they can be saved. The steps for removing glazing or contamination from brake pads is as follows:
Assemble your materials. You’ll need some brake cleaner or methyl hyrdate (something to cut through grease on the rotors), clean rags or paper towel, medium-fine sandpaper, and the allen keys and T25 torx key to remove your caliber/pads and tighten your rotor.
First, begin by removing the wheel from the bike, then check the caliper bolts to ensure that they are tight.
Remove the brake pads, being careful not to touch the pad surface.
Rub the pads face-down against the sandpaper on a flat surface, until you take the top layer of the pad (with all the glazing or contaminants) off. The pad should be a metallic brown when you’re finished.
Clean the rotor with your chosen solvent, and wipe it with the paper towel, then buff lightly with sandaper and repeat.
Ensure that the rotor is torqued to the manufacturers specifications.
Reinstall everything carefully, ensuring that you don’t touch the pads or rotor.
Check the alignment of the pads and caliper to ensure that the caliper is centered on the rotor.
Go ride your bike with confidence- squeaking disc brakes are a thing of the past!
If you need brake parts, have any concerns or questions with the above process, or you’re just looking for good advice, head to your local Live to Play Sports dealer, where you can find all the information you need!