There is nothing more annoying to a tranquil rider than the sound of brakes squealing.
The screeching noise can be quite deafening and as a result, completely ruin the cycling experience. Also, it is rather embarrassing to hear your brakes squeal.
So, what causes bike brakes to produce squeaky noise you ask? More often than not, bike brakes begin to squeak because of a lack of cleaning effort and maintenance.
You see, brake pads can be likened to a sponge because of their porous trait. They soak up grease and oils like it’s nobody’s business.
If you fail to clean your bike effectively on the regular, brake fluids, bike polish, chain lube, degreaser, and more can overwhelm the brake rotor or wheel rim and contaminate the pads, thus causing the repelling sound.
Also, be warned that new bike brake pads are likelier to produce such noise as they may need time to bed in. Of course, brakes that have been installed improperly can also suffer the same fate.
Now that we’ve identified the problems, let’s take a look at the solutions. Allow me to present you with quick-fix steps that can help you rectify the problems brought forth by squeaky disc and rim brakes.
Table of Contents
How to Fix Squeaky Rim Brakes
As I mentioned earlier, a squeaking bike rim brake is often the result of contamination and improper installation of the brake pads. Let’s see how you can fix your rim brakes.
1. Scrub the rims
For step 1, use a degreaser to scrub your rims comprehensively.
2. Clean the brake blocks
For step 2, proceed to the brake blocks and get rid of the dirt and grit present there. During this step, it is also imperative for you to check the alignment and condition of the brake blocks.
Are they wearing out evenly? If they aren’t, it is a tell-tale sign that the brakes have not been installed correctly. Also, if they are worn out badly, it may be best to replace them.
3. Check the brakes
To check if the brakes have been set up correctly, apply the brakes and see if they meet the rotor or rim properly. If they don’t, slightly loosen the mounting bolts and reposition the brake blocks to make sure the connection stays pure and accurate.
4. Check the bolts
Now, shift your focus to the bolts that secure the caliper to the brake blocks and frame.
If you detect any loose bolts, tighten them up nice pronto. A loose bolt can also be the main culprit at causing squeaky bike brakes.
How to Fix Squeaky Disc Brakes
Disc brakes also suffer from unwanted noises largely because of the accumulation of dirt, grime, spray lubricants, and oil in the pads or rotors.
1. Clean the brake rotors and rims
Apply isopropyl alcohol or any rubbing alcohol to a clean rag and use it to clean your brake rotors and rims.
It is also a good idea to remove the brake pad and sand the outer layer with fine-grained sandpaper. However, if your brake pads appear to be completely soaked in chain lube, they will need replacing.
2. Align the caliper
If the aforementioned solution doesn’t work, perhaps there is a misalignment issue with the caliper.
Give your wheel a good old spin and see if it spins freely. If the wheel comes to an abrupt stop, you can be certain of a brake rub problem.
To fix the misalignment issue with the caliper, loosen the bolts that keep it secure. Then, hold the brake lever down to let the caliper center over the rotor.
While pulling the brake lever, ensure the bolts that secure the caliper are tightened evenly and equally. Now, see if the wheel spins properly without resistance.
Keep repeating this process until the rubbing stops.
3. Check the rotor
A bent rotor problem can also cause squeaky brakes. Thankfully, fixing this issue is not too difficult.
First, you’d have to examine the brake pad as it comes into connection with the bent rotor.
To get an unobstructed view of the brake pad, focus your eyes through the caliper as you spin your wheel. For easier viewing, consider using a white paper piece under the caliper.
Now that you’ve located the problem (bent rotor), use a truing fork or any adjustable spanner to bend the rotor back to its original position. Remember not to be too rough while doing this.
4. Bed in new brake pads or rotor
Another factor that can contribute to squeaky brakes is the installation of new disc brake pads or rotor. Remember that these new components need to be bedded in first before they start performing optimally.
To bed in your disc brake pads, hold the disc brakes gently as you peddle on the road. Make sure not to use the disc brakes abruptly or completely.
As you do this, the brake pad materials get transferred over to the rotor evenly. Keep doing this until you experience the disc brakes getting stronger.
You can also use sandpaper to sand the outer layer of the brake pads for better results.
5. Check if a larger rotor is needed
Are you aware of the fact that both elements, water and heat, can also play an atrocious role in causing brake squeal? Although the water on the bike components can dry out and is, therefore, only a temporary problem, stopping heating problems require a different approach.
When you use your brake pads consistently, they can experience heating problems, and thus sound off like a crying baby.
Heating problems can cause discoloration of the rotor—this indicates that you may require a larger rotor to suit your cycling prowess. Larger rotors are better than smaller ones at keeping the heat at bay.
Plus, since they don’t undergo as much stress, they don’t produce as much noise.
Hopefully, you’ll have your problems sorted by the time you reach this stage.
However, if the aforementioned quick-fix processes don’t work for you or you don’t feel confident enough to undertake the challenge of fixing your troublesome rim or disc brakes yourself, you can always take your bike to your nearby bike repair shop. The experts should be able to fix your brake squeaking problem in no time.