How To Fix Squeaky Bike Brakes in 6 Steps [With Video Guide]

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reviewed by Ben Gibbons
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A common problem many cyclists face is squeaky bike brakes, which can be incredibly annoying – and sometimes even dangerous.

As an experienced bike mechanic with years of experience, I’m often asked why brakes squeak, and there are a number of possible causes.

Squeaky noises are more common with disc brakes than with rim brakes. As cyclists increasingly switch over to disc brakes, the problem of squeaking brakes is getting ever more common.

However, rim brakes can squeak too – so we’ll be covering both types of bike brakes in this article, so you can get your bike back in tip-top condition regardless of which brake type your bike uses.

Squeaky brakes are much easier and cheaper to fix than you might think! In this guide, we’ll be covering:

  • Why Do Bike Brakes Squeak?
  • What Tools Do You Need To Fix Squeaky Bike Brakes?
  • How To Fix Squeaky Rim Brakes in 4 Steps
  • How To Fix Squeaky Disc Brakes in 6 Steps
  • Robbie’s Video Maintenance Guide: How To Fix Squeaky Bike Brakes

Let’s jump into it!

How To Fix Squeaky Bike Brakes: Title Image

Why Do Bike Brakes Squeak?

Squeaky bike brakes are incredibly annoying, but some people are just happy to live with them.

However, we personally see squeaky bike brakes as a warning that your brakes need attention – and it’s not just the noise that will be a concern if they’re left alone.

Squeaky bike brakes typically mean you get a lot of noise and limited braking power. They can also destroy your bike components in time with contamination and incorrect wear.

From a safety point of view, we recommend getting them fixed as soon as possible.

Here are some of the most common causes of squeaking bike brakes:

#1. Contamination

The most common issue that many cyclists face when it comes to squeaky brakes is contamination.

When oil or grease gets to the pads or braking surface, it stops them from working properly. Most of the time, contamination occurs when cleaning or lubricating.

#2. Wear 

You can also find that when parts wear down, they can cause squeaking.

A good example is when the compound on the pads wears down to a point where there’s nothing left, and the brakes squeak due to being metal on metal. Your brakes will also be pretty ineffective by the time the pads are this worn.

#3. “Glazed-Over” Brake Pads

Another common problem is glazed-over brake pads.

This usually occurs when brake pads are exposed to prolonged overheating, as a result of extended heavy braking. It leaves a flat surface on the compound, which causes the bike to squeak when braking as well as damaging braking performance.

A close up of a hydraulic disc brake caliper.

#4. Disc Brake Rub

When it comes to disc brakes, a common issue is disc brake rub.

This doesn’t always cause a squeaking noise, but it certainly can do. If you can hear your disc brakes squeaking even when you’re not applying the brakes, then there’s a good chance disc brake rub is the culprit.

#5. Dirty Brake Pads or Braking Surface

Unclean brake pads, rotors, or rim brake surfaces can all cause a squeaking noise.

Besides being noisy, trapped dirt or grit in and around your brakes can also decrease braking performance and drastically increase the wear of your components.

#6. Wet Conditions

Disc brakes are very prone to squeaking in the wet, and there’s often not a whole lot you can do about it.

Using cheaper aftermarket components is something to avoid if this happens a lot.

What Tools Do You Need To Fix Squeaky Bike Brakes?

Disc brake cleaner, gloves, Allen keys, sand paper, tire lever,  a cloth, and a screwdriver all ready to fix squeaky disc brakes.

When it comes to fixing squeaky bike brakes, you are not going to need many tools. Depending on whether you are using rim or disc brakes, it does differ, so you might not need it all. Here’s what you will want available:

  • Allen Keys or Small Screwdriver
  • Clean Cloth
  • Sandpaper (optional)
  • Gloves (optional)
  • Spare Brake Pads (optional)
  • Bike Stand (optional)
  • Tire Lever (hydraulic disc brakes only)
  • Disc Brake Cleaner (disc brakes only)

When you have problems with squeaky brakes, the best thing you can do is separate the components, check and replace any parts as needed, clean them, and then get the brakes put back together and bedded in. This is what we will be doing in this guide!

How To Fix Squeaky Rim Brakes in 4 Steps

The good news is that fixing a squeak on rim brakes is relatively easy compared to disc brakes.

Step #1. Get Prepared 

A road bike with rim brakes in a stand.

First, get your bike in the stand (if you’re using one) and have all the tools you need close to hand.

I recommend finding a place to work that is safe and where you can make a little mess if required. 

Step #2. Remove The Wheel

A road bike wheel being removed.

Next, remove the wheel.

With the wheel removed, it’s important to check it over to ensure it’s in good working order and not causing the squeak.

Start by checking the rim brake surface to ensure that it’s not too worn out.

Take something with a flat edge, such as a ruler or a bank card, and hold it perpendicular to the braking surface. If you can see more than 1 mm of light between the two surfaces, the rims are worn and need replacing.

Then, check that the wheel is straight and true, no spokes are loose, and there are no cracks in the rim. After all the checks, put the wheel aside in a safe place.

Step #3. Inspect And Replace The Brake Pads (If Required)

A close-up of road bike rim brake pads.

Now, it’s time to inspect the brake pads – and replace them if necessary.

If the pads have worn past the wear lines, they will need replacing. If they are old and look very worn, they will also need replacing. If they are glazed over – you guessed it, they will need replacing!

If you plan to keep the brake pads you have, I recommend cleaning them gently with a dry cloth and ensuring there is no grit or dirt embedded in them.

Do not use WD40 or any other lubricant. These will ruin your brake pads!

If you find the rim brake squeal is very persistent, you could also try “chamfering” the pads. This means sanding a small 45-degree angle into the leading edge of the brake pad, which can reduce vibrations and in turn brake squeal.

However, we wouldn’t recommend this as standard, for the simple fact that reduced brake pad surface means less powerful braking, even if only slightly. You also risk making the vibrations (and noise) worse if the chamfering is done inconsistently.

Step #4. Clean And Reinsert The Wheel

Cleaning a rim brake wheel.

The next step is to clean the braking surface on the rim.

I like to use disc brake cleaner (if you have it) or a general degreaser. Apply a small amount to the cloth and then wipe down each side of the rim’s braking surface.

Finally, reinsert the wheel and tighten the thru-axle or quick release. If you replaced the pads, it’s important to adjust the brakes to ensure the pads are positioned correctly on the rim.

Side Note: Adding Toe-in

An additional element of adjusting your rim brake pads to avoid squeaking noises is to add “toe-in”.

By this, we mean angling the brake pad in such a way that the front of the pad is fractionally closer to the rim than the rear of the pad. The result of this is that when the brake lever is pulled, the front of the pad makes contact marginally earlier than the rear.

This can improve braking performance and eliminate persistent rim brake squeal that hasn’t been stopped by the other steps in this guide.

Adding toe-in is less complex than it sounds. Simply loosen the bolt holding the pad in place, and put a thin rubber band around the rear of the brake pad.

Then, position the brake pad as normal, level and aligned with the braking surface, then tighten the bolt back up, remove the rubber band, and repeat the process with the opposite brake pad.

You can now take the bike out for a test – and with any luck, your squeaky bike problems will be solved!

How To Fix Squeaky Disc Brakes in 6 Steps

While squeaking disc brakes are more common than squeaky rim brakes, they’re also a little more complex to work on.

However, it’s well worth persevering with! Once you’re familiar with the job, it becomes very easy, and will save you regular trips to your local bike store.

Step #1. Preparation

A disc brake on a rear wheel.

We recommend finding a safe place where you can work and make a little bit of a mess. Using a bike stand will be very handy, making it much easier on your back.

Step #2. Remove the Wheel and Brake Pads

Disc brake pads being removed from a caliper.

First, remove the wheel by undoing the quick-release or thru axle and pulling the wheel out, ensuring that the brake levers are not pulled until the wheels return to stop the brakes from self-adjusting.

After that, go to the brake caliper, remove the pad safety clip, unscrew the pin holding the pads, and put these aside somewhere safe.

Step #3. Inspect the Components of the Disc Brake

Inspecting a disc brake rotor.

The next thing we need to do is inspect the disc brakes. To start, check the cables to ensure that they are in good condition and that if you use hydraulic lines, they are not leaking onto the brake components.

Next, check the disc rotor to make sure it’s straight, and ensure that it has not got a greasy surface or a brown residue on it from any oil, grease, or dirt. Try and avoid touching this with your hands, especially if they are dirty.

An empty caliper with no brake pads in.

Then, move onto the pads. First, check that there’s enough compound left on them, and if there is, it should feel nice and gritty when running your fingers across it. If it doesn’t, don’t worry too much; we can try to bring them back to life in the next step.

If there’s not enough compound left on the brake pads, they will need to be replaced.

Finally, go to the caliper and check to ensure it’s not damaged or leaking anywhere. Focus on the pistons on the inside to check for leaks. If anything is broken, it’s a good idea to replace it now.

Step #4. Cleaning The Disc Brake Components

Using sand paper to rough up bike brake pads.

Start by spraying the discs using the disc brake cleaner; if you don’t have that, a degreaser can do a similar job.

After spraying, take a clean cloth and gently clean the disc. You will more than likely see a good amount of dirt release itself.

Next, take the brake pads you set aside early and spray them with the disc brake cleaner.

If the brake pads look shiny or glazed over, you can use sandpaper to try to bring them back to life. With the disc brake cleaning solution still on the pads, gently sand down the compound. The key here is to get any dirt or contaminants off the surface and rough it up. 

It’s not a bad idea if your brake pads are heavily worn to change them out completely. If they have a lot of compound, then really focus on giving them a good clean, and rough finish. The better job you can do here, the better and quicker your brakes will work and bed in later.

If you find the rim brake squeal is very persistent, you could also try “chamfering” the pads. This means sanding a small 45-degree angle into the leading edge of the brake pad, which can reduce vibrations and in turn brake squeal.

However, we wouldn’t recommend this as standard, for the simple fact that reduced brake pad surface means less powerful braking, even if only slightly.

You also risk making the vibrations (and noise) worse if the chamfering is done inconsistently, and given the small size of disc brake pads, chamfering is fiddly and difficult to execute cleanly, so you risk doing more harm than good.

I also think it’s a good idea to take the clean cloth to spray it down a little, then clean up all around the caliper and across the brake lines to give them a very nice finish before we put it all back together again. 

If you’re using hydraulic brakes, don’t forget to reset the pistons by inserting the tire lever and gently separating them, allowing them to self-adjust after the brakes are reassembled later.

Step #5. Reassemble the Disc Brake

Inserting a front wheel into a disc brake bike and tightening the thru axle.

Now it’s time to return everything back to where it was before. Start by reinstalling the pads into the caliper, with the pin going through the center and the safety clip back on. 

Remember to put the right pad on the right and the left pad on the left. 

Then, pop the wheels back in, ensuring they are seated properly and the fastening is done up nice and tight.

While in the stand, it’s good to pull the brake lever a few times to ensure they work properly, or if you use hydraulics, a few squeezes to ensure they set themselves in the correct place. 

You may need to adjust the calipers on your disc brakes. If so, we suggest checking out How To Adjust Disc Brakes: Hydraulic and Mechanical [With Video Guide] here!

Step #6. Bed The Brakes In

The final step is to bed the brakes in.

I recommend going somewhere safe where you can ride your bike and use the brakes to slow down without posing any danger to yourself or anyone else. To start with, the brakes might not be very effective, but you will quickly feel them improve. 

The squeaking should stop fairly quickly, and then after a ride or two, once some dirt has got to them, they will also start to feel much more responsive.

That’s you all done! We highly recommend going through this process even if your brakes don’t squeak, just as general maintenance every so often.

Robbie’s Video Maintenance Guide: How To Fix Squeaky Bike Brakes

Check out the BikeTips YouTube Channel here for walk-through bike maintenance guides and more!

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Robbie has traveled the globe as an endurance athlete and bikepacker, breaking world records and competing in international ultra-cycling events such as the BikingMan series and the Transcontinental Race. He's also worked as an ambassador for some of the industry's leading names, including Shimano and Ritchey. If Robbie's not on a bike, he's either fixing them or out walking with his dog!

2 thoughts on “How To Fix Squeaky Bike Brakes in 6 Steps [With Video Guide]”

    • Hi Tony, thanks for the response!

      Chamfering bike brake pads isn’t something I’d personally recommend as standard, simply because less pad surface contact means less braking power (even if only slightly). Unlike car or motorcycle brake pads, it’s not particularly common practice among bike mechanics to chamfer bike brake pads – so perhaps there’s just an element of dogma that makes us reluctant to recommend it. I also think there’s a risk of making the problem worse or unintentionally damaging the pads if chamfering is done poorly, especially given how small and fiddly disc brake pads are.

      However, I think it’s a valid point to raise, and I’ve added a couple of notes in the article to reflect that. I’d personally still run through the rest of the process as standard to see if that fixes the problem without resorting to chamfering, but if nothing else works then I think it’s a logical next step to try to see if you can eliminate brake squeal.




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