There are a lot of good things about disc brakes, but they can also be a real pain when they aren’t set up right or aren’t kept up. The good news is that most problems with discs can be fixed quickly and easily. Tools and tricks, on the other hand, can help bring peace to bad discs.
These tips and tools were only for mountain bikers in the past, but now they’re just as important for people who ride road discs and cyclocross bikes, too.
Modern disc brakes are long-lasting and reliable, but keeping them clean is the best way to keep them in good shape. Disc brakes don’t like oil in any form. Even the natural oil on your skin can make your brakes not work as well.
Don’t spray aerosols near your brakes, don’t touch the brake rotors with your hands, and always use clean rags when you wash your bike. Keep this in mind.
Shops use a lot of different things and tools to keep your brakes working properly. These things and tools aren’t specific to your brand of brakes, but they’re still important to keep your brakes working.
Clean Rags/Paper Towel
The best thing to do here is to use an old, clean T-shirt, towel, or something else that doesn’t have lint on it. Brakes are important, so we keep a roll of paper towel nearby. This way, there’s no question about whether it’s clean or not.
Disc Brake Cleaner
They have bicycle-specific aerosol disc brake cleaners on the market. Most of them work very well, but they can be a little too strong for people who don’t need them. The idea of a brake cleaner is to get rid of the grime, grease, and oil without leaving any residue behind.
Isopropyl alcohol is an alternative that you can buy from pharmacies and supermarkets. You can also make your own. This well-known antiseptic is the best thing to clean your disc brakes with. I put mine in a cheap spray bottle with a mist setting.
No, it isn’t as good at getting rid of the grime. But because it won’t dry out the delicate piston seals, most brake manufacturers recommend it.
Pad Setting Spacer
This is important if you’re going to be on the road without your wheels in place. A pad spacer is also great for resetting the brake pads before you adjust them, or if you accidentally squeeze the lever with the wheel out of the way.
In the workshop, there is a type of tool called a piston press. Many tool brands make this kind of thing. There is a good use for them in a store, but they don’t do more than the free plastic version can do.
If you buy a bike or brakes, these plastic spacers will usually come with them. You can also ask your local shop mechanic to get one for you.
Rotor Truing Fork
It’s common for disc brake rotors to warp a little bit, even if they’re being transported by bike or if they get too hot. Rub, “ping,” or “shing” sounds that aren’t the same on every wheel revolution are signs that things aren’t lined up right.
Rotor truing forks are very simple. They are just a piece of metal with a slot in it that you slide on the rotor and use to bend the rotor very carefully. You could also use your thumbs with a clean rag to get the job done for less money.
Calliper Centring Helpers
When you squeeze the brake lever, you tighten the caliper bolts evenly. This is how most brakes work. There are some times when the tolerances are very small, and some of the pistons don’t pull evenly. If that doesn’t work, try sticking something between the pads and the rotor to help make a balanced gap and then try the normal set up method again.
Old business cards work great in this case because they are a good thickness and the paper shows when it gets dirty. A set of automotive feeler gauges is another popular choice. These gauges can help you find the right thickness. Use the Hayes tool to align the pads and rotors. The tool has felter-gauge prongs that are already set up to slide over the rotors.
There are times when these simple tools are just what you need to get the job done.
Soft Light Torch
Mechanics aren’t used to this one, but it’s not a bad thing. But if you can’t see between the brake pads to find the source of the rubbing, shine a low-brightness torch (a cheap one) through the back of the caliper. This will show you what’s wrong.
You can also use white paper on the other side of the caliper to see what’s wrong. Most of the time, this light, simple background is all you need in order to see what’s wrong.
Emery Cloth (Sandpaper)
Over time, brake pads (and rotors) can start to get stuck together, and the brakes won’t work as well. Remove the pads and lightly rub them on clean sandpaper to get them to work again. You don’t want to use a grit that is too fine. A grit of 120 or less will do the job. That way, the rest of the sheet isn’t dirty.
A blow torch can be dangerous, but it can be used to bring some life back to brake pads that have been lightly contaminated (in conjunction with sandpaper).
If you’ve put oil or grease on the pads, just give up. This is for pads that still have some bite but are squealing or don’t have 100% power. Do not burn down the house!
Another important thing to keep in mind is that too much heat could weaken the connection between the brake pad surface and the backing plate, so don’t bake it to a bright red. If you’re not sure, you should change the pads.
You should get new brake pads and make sure your rotors are clean. If this doesn’t work, you might need to get new brakes as well.