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Thursday, August 10, 2023

Troubleshooting Bicycle Caliper Brakes

Here is a list of common issues that can occur with caliper brakes on a bicycle, along with troubleshooting steps and fixes:
  1. Brake pads worn out:

    • Symptoms: Reduced braking performance, screeching or squealing noise, excessive brake lever travel.
    • Troubleshooting:
      • Visually inspect the brake pads for wear. If the pad material is worn down to the wear indicators or below, they need to be replaced.
    • Fix:
      • Remove the old brake pads.
      • Install new brake pads that are compatible with your caliper brakes.
      • Ensure the brake pads are properly aligned with the braking surface.
      • Adjust the position of the brake pads if necessary.
      • Test the braking performance and make further adjustments if needed.
  2. Misalignment of brake pads:

    • Symptoms: Uneven braking, scraping noise, reduced braking efficiency.
    • Troubleshooting:
      • Observe the position of the brake pads relative to the rim or braking surface. Look for signs of one pad contacting the rim before the other.
    • Fix:
      • Loosen the brake pad mounting bolt or nut.
      • Align the brake pads symmetrically on either side of the rim, ensuring they make even contact when the brake is applied.
      • Tighten the mounting bolt or nut while holding the brake pads in place.
      • Check for proper alignment and make further adjustments if necessary.
      • Test the braking performance.
  3. Brake cable tension issues:

    • Symptoms: Spongy or loose brake lever feel, excessive brake lever travel, inadequate stopping power.
    • Troubleshooting:
      • Squeeze the brake lever and observe the amount of lever travel and the responsiveness of the brake caliper.
    • Fix:
      • Locate the barrel adjuster on the brake caliper or brake lever.
      • Turn the barrel adjuster clockwise to increase cable tension or counterclockwise to decrease tension.
      • Make small adjustments and test the brake lever feel and stopping power after each adjustment.
      • Ensure the brake pads are making even contact with the rim or braking surface.
      • If cable tension adjustments do not improve brake performance, inspect the brake cable for fraying or damage. Replace the cable if necessary.
  4. Sticky or dirty brake caliper:

    • Symptoms: Brakes not releasing fully, uneven braking, poor modulation.
    • Troubleshooting:
      • Inspect the brake caliper for dirt, debris, or signs of corrosion.
    • Fix:
      • Clean the brake caliper using a mild solvent or degreaser and a clean cloth.
      • Ensure that all moving parts of the caliper, such as pivots and springs, are clean and lubricated.
      • Check for proper alignment of the caliper arms and brake pads.
      • Test the brake operation, ensuring smooth engagement and disengagement.
      • If cleaning and lubrication do not resolve the issue, consider replacing the caliper if it is severely worn or damaged.
  5. Worn or damaged brake cables:

    • Symptoms: Excessive brake lever travel, decreased braking power, fraying or broken cables.
    • Troubleshooting:
      • Inspect the brake cables for signs of fraying, rust, or damage.
    • Fix:
      • If the cables are frayed or damaged, they should be replaced with new ones.
      • Loosen the cable anchor bolt on the brake caliper to release tension.
      • Remove the old cable from the brake lever and caliper.
      • Install the new cable, ensuring proper routing and tension.
      • Secure the cable with the anchor bolt on the caliper.
      • Adjust the cable tension using the barrel adjuster.
      • Test the braking performance and make further adjustments if necessary.

Remember, if you encounter any difficulties or are unsure about performing brake repairs or adjustments, it is recommended to seek assistance from a professional bicycle mechanic for proper diagnosis and repair to ensure your brakes are functioning safely and effectively.

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