5 Maintenance Musts For Disc Brakes

Marc Lindsay
by Marc Lindsay
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5 Maintenance Musts For Disc Brakes

There aren’t many downsides to making the switch to disc brakes. Compared to rim brakes, they perform better in wet conditions, won’t overheat your wheels on long descents, and allow additional clearance for larger tire widths.

But once you make the switch you’ll also need to be aware of the differences in maintaining disc brakes, because it is a little different than the standard rim brakes you might be used to. To ease your learning curve, use this guide for maintaining disc brakes to keep them working properly out on the road.



Getting oily substances on your rotors can be quite dangerous, and it’s the number 1 thing you should pay attention to. This mistake commonly occurs when cleaning your drivetrain, as degreaser or chain oil can sometimes get on the rotor. Removing your wheels before cleaning the drivetrain is one way to prevent this from happening. Otherwise, you’ll need to use more caution than you might be used to. Disc brake covers are one option.

If you happen to get oil or another substance on your rotors, you can clean them easily with a disc brake cleaner. Simply spray them down and wipe off with a rag to make sure they’re is free of dirt or any oily residues. Disc brake cleaners also work well if you notice any squeaks or squeals during your ride.



Just as you would with rim brakes, the pads on your disc brakes can wear over time. If you ride often in the rain or during the winter, your pads are likely to wear quicker. When your pads get down to the metal spring, it’s time to buy a new pair.

If you choose to wait, the metal plate that holds the pads may reach the rotor. Leaving your pads unchanged at this level can damage the surface of the rotor, creating grooves that may affect the performance of your brakes in the future or require replacement.



When the wheels are off, pulling the brake lever can cause the pads to move in without releasing again. This is due to how disc brakes self-adjust, making it impossible to slide the rotor back between the pads once you try to put the wheel back on.

To avoid this, you can place a spacer between the pads when the wheels are off during transportation or maintenance of your bike. If you happen to make this mistake, you can use a tire level to work the pistons back into place. Just avoid metal tools that can damage or scratch your parts.



Occasionally, you may find one side of your brake pads is rubbing against the rotor when you aren’t braking. To fix this problem, find the bolts that hold your brake calipers in place. Loosen these bolts and pull the brake lever. This should realign the pads with the rotor, centering them again automatically. In this case, all you’ll need to do is re-tighten the caliper bolts and you’re good to go. If you’re still noticing some brake rub, you can adjust the loosened calipers by hand until you have enough space on each side of the rotor for the wheel to spin without any rub from the pads.

Another cause of brake rub could be the rotor being slightly bent. Spin the wheel and see if the rotor is true by looking for any wobble. Slight deviations can be fixed with a wrench. Otherwise, you may need to visit your local bike shop or even replace the rotor in severe cases.



One thing you’ll need to do that you’ve probably never done unless you have a mountain bike is bleed your brakes. This needs to be done when your brakes feel soft and not as grippy as they once did. While it isn’t too difficult a task, various brake manufacturers have a slightly different methods for bleeding brakes.

Consult your owner’s manual for the proper procedure. Online resources are also an option with step-by-step instructions. If you don’t feel comfortable taking on the task for the first time, take your bike to the shop and ask if you can stick around to see how it’s done correctly so you can do it on your own the next time.

About the Author

Marc Lindsay
Marc Lindsay

Marc is a freelance writer based in Scottsdale, Arizona. He holds a master’s degree in writing from Portland State University and is a certified physical therapy assistant. An avid cyclist and runner of over 20 years, Marc contributes to LAVA, Competitor and Phoenix Outdoor magazines. He is the former cycling editor for Active.com.


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