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A: Probably the most common problem is that your rim is buckled. Since the friction comes from contact between the brake pad and rim this creates inconsistency in braking power. If that's the case - truing the rim might help.

You might also have incorrectly aligned brake pads. Brake pads are correctly aligned when 100% of the surface of brake pads touch the rim, but there is no contact to tire, as illustrated on this page (step 4).

If you have older brakes, your brake arms might also be stuck. Cleaning the joints and applying some CRC might do the trick in that case. 

Q: I got mineral oil on my brake pads - do I need to buy new rotors and pads?


​A: Pads maybe - rotors no. You can clean the rotors with brake cleaner. You might want to spray the brake cleaner on a rag or cloth instead of spraying the rotor directly, because that thing will dissolve really quickly. 

Pads aren't that expensive, so it might be easier to just get new ones. The problem with pads is that oil (or DOT fluid) sinks into them. You can, however let them marinade in acetone for a few ours and then lightly hone the top layer of the pad off with sand paper. 


Pros

Durability

Better resistance to wet condition


Cons

Initial bite

Noise

Heat conduction does not happen through the rotor, but through the caliper


These are the heavy duty brake pads, which you need for example in downhill or if you otherwise do long braking on heavier load. Metallic brake pads are also your choice if you ride on wet and dusty conditions (MTB, Enduro, etc). Metallic substance is heavier than organic and thus the metallic pads will last a bit longer.



Q: Why do my brakes feel stiff and the lever range is shorter in cold weather?


​A: At least if your brakes are operated with mineral oil, it gets stiffer in colder circumstances. With DOT fluids, however, the effect is not as big. Also as gaskets in the brake caliper get stiffer due to cold weather and might limit the range of pistons. Thus the pistons might not fully return to home positions and the effect feels immediate when pulling the brake lever. 


Pros

Durability

Better resistance to wet condition


Cons

Initial bite

Noise

Heat conduction does not happen through the rotor, but through the caliper


These are the heavy duty brake pads, which you need for example in downhill or if you otherwise do long braking on heavier load. Metallic brake pads are also your choice if you ride on wet and dusty conditions (MTB, Enduro, etc). Metallic substance is heavier than organic and thus the metallic pads will last a bit longer.



Q: Cable operated brakes get stuck and won't retract when lever is released

Q: I changed brake pads - now the rotor won't fit between the new pads.


​A: Most probably your brake pistons are not fully retracted. Try pushing them back - both sides. Pistons come out easily when you have removed the wheel (and thus the rotor) and you happen to pull the brake lever and you don't have a bleeding block.

Second possibility is that your brakes have been adjusted with worn out pads. Meaning more brake fluid has been injected to the system to make brakes more sensitive with old pads. Now that your new pads are thicker - the rotor won't fit there anymore. If that is the case, you have let some of the brake fluid out. Best way to to this would be to attach the bleeding kit to avoid having brake fluid or mineral oil all over your brake system, but if you are careful (and don't own a bleeding kit) you can simply open the valve in the caliper and slightly and lightly pull the brake lever to push out some of the excess brake fluid. Note that if you let too much out, you will need a bleeding kit to inject more brake fluid into the system. Naturally this is for hydraulic brakes only, more about bike brake bleeding here.

Third option is that you don't have the right parts - meaning they are not compatible with each other. It's recommended to check the compatibility of your new parts with your local dealer if you are uncertain. 

Common bike brake problems


Pros

Durability

Better resistance to wet condition


Cons

Initial bite

Noise

Heat conduction does not happen through the rotor, but through the caliper


These are the heavy duty brake pads, which you need for example in downhill or if you otherwise do long braking on heavier load. Metallic brake pads are also your choice if you ride on wet and dusty conditions (MTB, Enduro, etc). Metallic substance is heavier than organic and thus the metallic pads will last a bit longer.



Q: I got mineral oil on my brake pads - do I need to buy new rotors and pads?


​A: Pads maybe - rotors no. You can clean the rotors with brake cleaner. You might want to spray the brake cleaner on a rag or cloth instead of spraying the rotor directly, because that thing will dissolve really quickly. 

Pads aren't that expensive, so it might be easier to just get new ones. The problem with pads is that oil (or DOT fluid) sinks into them. You can, however let them marinade in acetone for a few ours and then lightly hone the top layer of the pad off with sand paper. 

Q: What kind of brake pads should I use for enduro riding?


​A: Differences between brake pads are covered in one of our articles - link right here. Enduro is pretty much uphill downhill and in many cases in nasty circumstances, meaning muddy, wet and dusty. So sintered pads might be the right choice for you.

Metallic (sintered) brake pads

A: Many of brake related problems arise from worn out cables and/or cable housing. One of the symptoms usually is that brakes get stuck, when the cable doesn't slide in relation to cable housing anymore. This is very common especially when the bike has been standing still for a while. When you pull the cable out from the housing and rust comes along, this was most probably your problem.

It's recommended to change both housing and cable, they aren't that expensive. You can, however try to lube the cable by applying some WD-40 or CRC directly inside the housing. Vaseline or equivalent on the cable is of course a bit more permanent solution - just make sure you get it inside the housing too. 

Again it's also possible that your brake arms are stuck, in which case clean the joints and lube them.

If you are running on mechanical disc brakes, there is a slight chance your pistons are stuck in the brake caliper. Some recommend lubing those, but that may just collect more dirt and the pistons get stuck again after your first ride. You can anyway try to clean the pistons and push them back.

Metallic (sintered) brake pads

Q: What should I do with my life?


​A: Get a haircut and a real job. Be more like your brother. Also buy all the bikes.

Q: Why do my V-brakes feel "spongy"?