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How to Stop Rim & Brake Bike Brakes From Squeaking?

How to Stop Bike Brakes From Squeaking
Written by Joshua Fernand

The hum of tires on the tarmac can be heard as you cycle along a quiet country lane. But the tranquility is interrupted when you hit the brakes, causing a loud squealing sound.

Squealing brakes are the worst, especially when riding in quiet places and people stop and stare at you. When you’re riding a bike, any unwanted noise is immensely annoying and embarrassing.

We have a few things you can try to stop that irritating squeal.

Reasons for Bike Brake Squeaking

Brake alignment is improper

Improper installation, especially misalignment of rim brakes can cause squeaking noise. Moreover, the alignment can also be ruined over time due to wear and tear.

For disk brakes misalignment happens in the caliper and rotor.

Contamination in brakes

The oil you use on your bike can contaminate the rim brakes and disk pads which may lead to the squeaky noise as debris can build due to this oil. Greasy fingers (touch) and aerosol (too close usage) can also cause contamination.

Water

If you ride through the stream and puddle, water can enter your bike brakes and create noise while braking. There are no worries as it is a temporary problem. When water gets dried out the noise will diminish itself.

Heat

Sometimes the heat can also be the culprit especially when you ride downhills or on unpaved surfaces. You need to brake frequently in these situations which creates heat in the brakes due to friction.

If this problem happens regularly you can try a bigger brake rotor, which can dissipate the heat better and reduce the noise. Discoloration of the rotor due to overheating means you need to change your brake.

Loose parts

If your brake parts are not tight enough then they may vibrate and create noise. Loose parts also mean a lack of grip, which again means the brake pads may not grip the rim or rotor effectively and lead to a squeaking or squealing sound.

Worn brake pads

Worn brake pads may result in alignment problems and create noise while braking. You should change the pads to solve this problem.

New brake

To limit the grip on the rim or rotor some brake pads have a coating on them. This coating may cause noise in the case of new pads. This is a temporary problem because when the coating wears off the noise will diminish itself.

If the problem persists for a long time then try considering buying better brake pads.

How to Stop Bike Brakes From Squeaking: Rim Brakes

Method 1: Use rubbing alcohol

Step 1: Gather tools

  • Rubbing alcohol 91 percent
  • Clean cloth
  • Brake tool

Step 2: Put some rubbing alcohol onto a rag

Step 3: Wipe down the rim surface where the brake pad hits

Step 4: Go all the way around to scrub and get all the old dirt and oil off the rim

Step 5: Scrub both sides of the rim

Step 6: Remove the wheel from the bike

Step 7: Put some rubbing alcohol onto the rag

Step 8: Scrub down the surface of the brake pad

Step 9: Assemble the bike and go for a test drive to see if the problem is solved

Method 2: Use a sandpaper

Step 1: Gather tools

  • 660 grade sandpaper
  • Brake tool

Step 2: Detach the wheel again if the squeaking noise is still present

Step 3: Rough up the brake pad surface with a 660 grade sandpaper

Step 4: Make sure there’s no shiny part left on the brake pad surface

Step 5: Test the brake on another test ride to see if it worked

Method 3: Adjust the brake pads using a penny

Step 1: Gather tools

  • Penny
  • Brake tool

Step 2: Stick a penny between the back edge of the brake pad and the rim

Step 3: Unscrew the brake pad to loosen it

Step 4: Squeeze the brake pad against the rim to adjust it

Step 5: Check if the penny holds the back edge of the brake pad

Step 6: Do the other brake pad the exact same way

Step 7: Go for a test ride to see if they are still squealing

Method 4: Install new brake pads

Step 1: Gather tools

  • Penny
  • Brake tool

Step 2: Use a penny as a shim in the back of the brake pad

Step 3: Squeeze the brake a bit

Step 4: Tighten down the brake

Step 5: Make sure the front edge of the brake pad toes in

Step 6: Do the same for both brake pads

Step 7: Go for another test ride to test the brakes

How to Stop Bike Brakes From Squeaking: Disc Brakes

Method 1: Check the rotors

Step 1: Gather tools

  • Shifter

Step 2: Give the wheel a spin to check if the rotor is straight

Step 3: Have a look at the rotor when it goes through the caliper

Step 4: Try to strain the rotor if it’s bent (Option 1)

Step 5: Replace the rotor if it’s too bent (Option 2)

Method 2: Clean the brake rotors

Step 1: Gather tools

  • Disck brake cleaner
  • Clean cloth
  • Mud

Step 2: Use a disc brake cleaner or solvent to keep the disc clean (Option 1)

Step 3: Put on mud on the brakes and then brake hard to clean it off (Option 2)

Method 3: Clean off contaminations from brake pads

Step 1: Gather tools

  • Brake tool
  • Mud

Step 2: Put mud on the brakes and then brake hard to clean it off (Option 1)

Step 3: Use a blowtorch to boil off the oil from the pads

Method 4: Center the calipers

Step 1: Gather tools

  • Brake tool

Step 2: Check if there’s an equal amount of space on both sides of the pads

Step 3: Loosen both bolts

Step 4: Squeeze the brake lever

Step 5: Retighten the bolts

Tips to stop brake squeaking

1. Make sure the axle is correctly installed

The wheels should be mounted correctly. The axle and hub should not have any free play. You can check the spokes to see if you have the correct tension.

2. Don’t touch the brake pads too much with your hands

Don’t touch the brake pads too much with your hands as you can transfer oils and dirt. Use an old clean t-shirt or rag that you are sure is clean. Ensure the cloth or fabric you use is lint-free. Paper towels work well as you use a clean one each time so you can be sure they are fresh.

FAQs:

Q. What types of brakes are less likely to squeak?

Biodegradable disc brake pads, or organic disc brake pads, contain natural fibers and resin. There is less squeaking with resin disc brake pads and they bed in quicker.

About the author

Joshua Fernand

I’m a 38-year-old father of two and an avid adventurer with a history of road bike racing in the mountains. I’m also a member of the Mountain Top Cycling Club, Colorado. I took part in several cross country rides across the states with my cruiser bike.

Tell you what, each tour was over a thousand miles long and it wouldn’t have been possible if I hadn’t studied bike mechanics. Most of the fixes required during my travel had to be fixed by myself. Cruiser became my favorite category since then.

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