How To Fix Squeaky Bike Brakes: Causes and Solutions

Photo of author
Written by
Last Updated:

When you are riding, there isn’t anything much more annoying than squeaky bike brakes.

Announcing your arrival with a loud screech is embarrassing and antisocial. So in this post, we will go into how to fix squeaky bike brakes.

If your brakes are particularly noisy, it can actually put you off using them. They attract attention for all the wrong reasons, and if you are a mountain biker, alert other riders to your poor braking technique.

But the noise is a good sign that there is something wrong with your brakes. So, not only do your brakes make a horrendous noise, but they may not be performing as they should.

The good news is that squeaky bike brakes are fixable and avoidable. Therefore, we will give you all the information so you can slow down and stop in safety and silence.

In this article, we are going to take a look at:

  • The 3 main causes of squeaky bike brakes.
  • The different types of bike brakes.
  • How to fix squeaky bike brakes – Rim Brakes
  • How to fix squeaky bike brakes – Disc Brakes

Are you ready to make your bike whisper quiet?

Off we go!

How To Fix Squeaky Bike Brakes: Causes And Solutions

3 Main Causes Of Squeaky Bike Brakes

#1: Contamination

There are several reasons you may have squeaky bike brakes. One of the most common causes is contamination.

Contamination can come from oil or grease on your brake pad, brake disk or wheel rim.

Contamination often happens when you accidentally spray your brakes with WD40, chain lube, or bike spray.

#2: Grit in the break pad

However, your brakes may squeak from simply having a piece of grit stuck to the brake pad. This is the one you hope it is, as it is the easiest one to fix.

#3: Poorly set up brakes

Another cause of squeaky bike brakes is when the braking surfaces don’t line up with each other. Poorly set up brakes vibrate, which results in the high pitched squeal we all hate.

Sometimes, if you don’t bed in a set of new brake pads properly, they may squeak when you need to stop.

How To Fix Squeaky Bike Brakes: Causes And Solutions

The 3 Different Types Of Bike Brakes

Different bikes use a couple of different types of brakes. Before you can learn how to fix squeaky bike brakes, you need to understand how the different types work.

You can quickly tell what type of brakes you have fitted to your bike at a glance. This is because they look very different.

#1: Rim Brakes

The main difference between rim and disc brakes is where they apply the braking force. With rim brakes, as the name suggests, the braking force is applied to the outer edge of the wheels via callipers.

#2: Disk Brakes

When you look at disc brakes, you will notice that a different type of calliper is mounted near the wheel’s axle. The calliper applies pressure to a metal disc fitted to the wheel.

Most mountain bikes use disc brakes as they are unlikely to get covered in mud. Also, they are much more powerful than rim brakes, especially if they are hydraulic.

#3: Hydraulic Press Brakes

Hydraulic brakes press the brake pads onto the disc, using brake fluid when you pull on the levers. This is the same principle used by cars and motorbikes.

How To Fix Squeaky Bike Brakes: Causes And Solutions

How To Fix Squeaky Bike Brakes In 3 Steps – Rim Brakes

If your bike is fitted with rim brakes, there are a few things you can do to stop them from squeaking. Follow these steps, and you will soon find the cause and solution.

1) Clean The Rims And Brake Pads

Vibration causes squeaky bike brakes.

The pads vibrating against the rims create a high-pitched noise. Therefore, we need to stop this vibration.

The first thing to do is to give the braking system a little bit of care. Giving the brake pads and wheel rims a thorough clean will remove any residue.

The residue build-up on either surface can cause the pads to glaze over, which is one of the leading causes of vibration.

Scrub your wheel rims with soapy water, and then remove your brake pads to inspect them. If your brake pads are shiny, it means they are glazed over.

To remove the glaze from the pads, rub them with some light emery paper or a fine file. Doing this will remove the top surface, exposing more effective braking material.

How To Fix Squeaky Bike Brakes: Causes And Solutions

2) Toe Your Brake Pads In

If your bike brakes are still squeaking after cleaning the pads and rims, this next step is the most important one.

Toeing your brake pads is the process of adjusting the pads so the front of them hits the rim fractionally before the rest of the pad.

Even though this is super important, it is straightforward to do.

To toe in your brake pads, fold up a piece of paper and place it between the rear of the pad and the rim. Apply the brake to grip the paper, then loosen the pad clamp holder bolt.

Loosening up the pad will cause it to reset with the front of it slightly toed in. Tighten it back up to have the pad perfectly set up for your next ride.

3) Check The Calliper Or Pivot Bolts

Once you get to this point, finding the cause of your squeaky bike brakes becomes more tricky, but not impossible.

So the next thing to do is check the calliper or pivot bolts to see if there is any movement causing the vibration.

The calliper bolt is on the back of your fork or behind the seat stay. All you need to do is check that the bolts are tight enough with an Allen key.

If your bike has cantilever rim brakes, check that the pivot bolts are tight.

How To Fix Squeaky Bike Brakes: Causes And Solutions

How To Fix Squeaky Bike Brakes In 3 Steps – Disc Brakes

You can get road bikes with disc brakes, but they are more common on mountain bikes.

However, they can squeak just as much, if not more than rim brakes. Here are some things to check out to see where the problem lies.

1) Check The Condition Of The Brake Pads And Discs

The first thing to do is to remove the pads to have a look at them. You may be lucky and find that there is a piece of grit sitting on the pad. Getting rid of this may solve your noisy problem.

If your brake pads are too worn, the metal spring that holds them in place may rub on your brake disc. It may come as no surprise to you that this can cause loud squeaky bike brakes.

Contamination is also a common problem with disc brakes. You can buy specific disc brake cleaners to keep your pads and discs clean and contaminant-free. Most of the time, this will do the trick, but if not, there are a few other options.

If you realise your brakes are contaminated out on a ride, you may be able to clean contamination off with clean water. Alternatively, you can try to put some mud on the pads to grind the top layer off as you ride.

However, most contamination comes from overspray when your lube up your drivetrain at home. If you find that you have contaminated your brake pads with chain lube or bike spray, you may be able to burn off the oily residue with a blow torch.

How To Fix Squeaky Bike Brakes: Causes And Solutions

However, if your pads are too worn or contaminated, you will need to replace them with new ones.

Another reason your disc brakes may squeak is that they have become too hot during a ride. The excess heat causes the pads to glaze over.

So, just like the pads on rim brakes, you can use a file or emery paper to take off the shiny layer to make them effective again.

Again, if this doesn’t do the trick, you will need to buy new brake pads.

2) Check The Calliper Bolts

If cleaning the pads and discs doesn’t silence your squeaky bike brakes, check the calliper bolts. The calliper bolts are the bolts that hold the calliper brakes in place.

If these are loose, they will vibrate when you pull on the brake levers.

3) Inspect The Disc

Once you have tightened the calliper bolts, spin the wheel to see if the disc is running true and not catching the pads.

If your disc isn’t running straight, you may be able to bend it back into place. Most people use an adjustable spanner for leverage.

However, if your disc is too bent, you will need to replace it with a new one.

While you are inspecting the disc, you should check if it is centred in the calliper.

How To Fix Squeaky Bike Brakes: Causes And Solutions

How To Bed In Your Brake Pads

Prevention is better than cure, so it is a good idea to bed in new brake pads before going on a ride.

If you don’t bed the pads in, take on a steep descent, and brake heavily, you may glaze your pads.

To bed in your brakes, pedal up to a decent speed while on the flat, and apply the brakes firmly. Put your weight over the back wheel to help bring yourself to a stop more quickly.

Doing this four or five times before setting off will bed your new brake pads in nicely. After doing so, you will have optimum stopping performance and quiet brakes

Now You Know How To Fix Squeaky Bike Brakes

Most of the time, cleaning your brakes or changing the pads will stop squeaky bike brakes. But, it is good to know all the tricks to prevent embarrassment and compromised stopping power.

Now that your brakes are rearing to go why not check out this article on The 9 Top MTB Destinations In The U.S.

Photo of author
One of BikeTips' regular writers, Tom is a mountain biking expert living in the French Alps. When he isn't writing, he can be found charging downhill on two wheels or a snowboard! Tom's other passion is fitness, which goes a long way to help him make the most of the Alpine lifestyle.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.