You can see many cyclists swearing that disc brakes are a lot more efficient than V-brakes. I believe that disc brakes are great if they’re accurately set up.
But if disc brakes are badly maintained or set up incorrectly, they may increase the chances of a royal pain. Several disc-related problems are easy and quick to sort out.
Some tricks and tools may help you to manage issues of problematic discs (there aren’t many).
Modern disc brakes are durable and reliable components, but still, you can keep them in the best shape by maintaining them regularly.
No matter the type of disc brakes you have – you could notice that they’re very sensitive to oil. Even natural skin oil could upset the disc brakes.
For this reason, avoid using aerosol sprays near brakes and you shouldn’t use bare hands to touch rotors either.
Make sure to use clean rugs and be careful when you’re washing your bicycle.
I know, disc brakes can seem like a lot of work. However, they’re really efficient and maintenance is really worth it in the long run.
Down below, I’ll show you the basic bicycle disc brakes maintenance so you can start cleaning them straight away!
Bicycle Disc Brakes Maintenance
Paper Towel and Clean Rags
A towel, an old clean shirt, or anything else may prove useful. But keep in mind that you should use a lint-free fabric. People often use a paper towel to clean brakes. However, investing in a disc brake cleaner is definitely a great purchase in this case.
Several bicycle-specific aerosol cleaners are also available on the market. These cleaners are not very powerful, but they’re very effective which is exactly what disc brakes need. The brake cleaner will help you to cut the grease, oil, and grime without leaving residue behind.
Isopropyl alcohol becomes an alternative which is available at supermarkets or pharmacies. A famous antiseptic may be an ideal cleaner for disc brakes. It may not cut through the filth, but it can’t dry out your delicate piston seals.
For this reason, several manufactures recommend the use of isopropyl alcohol.
Bed in Pads
After buying a disc brake bicycle, this will be the first thing to do.
You have to generate heat on pads to increase their stopping power. For this reason, pull some heavy braking and skids. You can do anywhere from 10 – 20 stops for this job. This process will increase the power of brakes and levers.
Spacer for Pad Setting
If you’re a mountain biker who loves traveling to visit and ride super-cool trails – you’ll need this type of a tool.
A pad spacer may be perfect to re-set the brake pads before making adjustments. It will also be useful to adjust the lever after an unintentional squeeze with a wheel out – since this happens often during travels.
There are tools that offer specific performance like workshops, such as a piston press. They prove useful in the shop, but they may not achieve quality of a metal-only press.
Remove Contamination from Rotors
It is an ultimate cardinal sin for disc brakes and may be dangerous if you don’t stop it on time.
You should avoid using bike spray or oil on rotors. It may need extra precision when spraying or lubing a drive chain to avoid getting anything on discs.
You may find it worthy to remove the wheels before starting the bike maintenance. Feel free to use bike cleaning products and spray consistently as per your needs.
Fork for Rotor Truing
You can slightly warp a disc brake rotor, whether through excessive heat or bike transportation.
An unpredictable rub, “shing” or “ping” on each wheel rotation becomes a giveaway to make things straight.
Rotor truing forks become simple, similar to a slotted metal piece. You can slide it on the rotor for subtle bending leverage. Some cheap options may be a well-cleaned adaptable wrench or thumbs for a clean rag.
After accidentally spraying any substance on the rotors, you will have to clean them.
You will find it easy to manage, such as using a brake cleaner available in the form of cans. Spray a rotor down and use a kitchen towel or clean cloth to wipe the rotor down.
Make sure to remove any grime and dirt from the surface. You will find it easy to stop different types of brake squeal that could bug your rides.
Focus on the Performance of Pads
When managing rotors, it is essential to cast your eye on pads. Similar to rim brakes, the pads may ultimately wear down with consistent use. Like rims, it frequently happens in winter in the presence of gunk and grit on the road.
It is essential to find the right time to remove your disc brake pads. It’s recommended to change brake pads as they wear down to a particular level similar to a metal spring.
Remember, leaving it for longer may increase the risk of running a metal plate of pads on rotors. It can scar and gauge them.
Compounds of Brake Pad
Similar to rim brakes, feel free to use compounds of your brake pad.
You will find three essential compounds, such as semi-metal, organic, and sintered. Sintered pads can last longer as compared to others. These can be suitable for winter riding.
For super long ancestries, temperatures may be high, and they will not glaze over. These could be loud, particularly when wet. Organic pads are different because they are speedy to bed in and offer amazing initial bite after pulling the brake.
If you’ve ever tried a bike with organic disc brakes – you’d immediately understand the feeling I’m talking about.
However, organic discs aren’t as long-lasting as sintered pads. They may glaze over as exposed to extra heat, particularly for long descents. Moreover, semi-metal pads may have a fusion of features. That’s one of the reasons why most riders find them a bit more expensive.
Helpers for Calliper Centering
You can adjust brakes by squeezing a brake lever and equally tighten the caliper bolts.
Sometimes, tolerances may be tight, and pistons fail to pull evenly. In these cases, you can stick something between the rotor and pads to create a stable gab. Feel free to use standard setup techniques.
You can use old business cards because they offer good thickness. Paper will show when things get dirty and that’s another good clue to look out for. An automotive feeler gauge set is a famous choice among mountain bike cyclists.
If you try this out – make sure to find a suitable thickness!
Avoid Pulling Levers without the Rotors
The disc brakes are famous for their self-adjusting nature.
A piston may fire when pulling the levers without one rotor between the pistons. As a result, it will be impossible to adjust the disc between them.
You can prevent the possible problems by fitting one plastic spacer between pistons without a disc. These are available with one bleed kit and they are available for purchase online. Other than this, you can use one folded piece of cardboard.
Don’t stress, and keep in mind that it is easy to fix these regular yet different issues.
Use some tire levers to manoeuver the pistons in the caliper. You will find it the best and shield the pistons before this method to avoid any damage. If you can’t manage all this, feel free to use plastic tire levers.
Light Soft Torch
This one thing might not be common among bike mechanics. But if you struggle to notice between the brake pads for rubbing, shining a low brightness torch can highlight different issues. Feel free to use a white paper on one side of the caliper.
People commonly use a white paper on both sides of the caliper through which you are looking. The plain, light background is sufficient to spot what is wrong.
Sandpaper (Use an Emery Cloth)
Rotors and brake pads may glaze over, and the performance of brake may suffer.
With a quick fix, you can remove the pads and rub them light across clean sandpaper. Prefer grit almost 120 or even less to do the job in a smoother way.
Use Blow Torches
A blow torch may increase the danger, but it can become a viable option to bring life back into contaminated brake pads.
If you have poured grease or oil on pads, it is for pads that offer some bite. It may perhaps lack or squeal 100% power.
Extra heat is another severe precaution. It may make the bond weak between the backing plate and the brake pad surface. You must not bake it to a glowing red. If sanding and burning the pads are not working, you should get new brake pads.
It is a common problem you may have with disc brakes. Even though many riders experience it – not many know that it’s a pretty simple thing to fix. Here’s how.
You can fix this issue easily by loosening the caliper bolts of the brake. Make sure to pull the lever of the brake. The piston may fire, and the caliper must square with a rotor.
Make sure to re-tighten all the bolts in a new position. If it is not working, you can easily move a caliper by hand. The goal is to ensure that it sits well between rotor and pads.
Brake bleeding is an essential part of disc maintenance.
It is the right time to change the fluid in stoppers for spongy feelings in brake levers. For brake bleeding, different companies may have versatile methods. Make sure to consult a manual of your bike brand.
Brake levers must be attached by the lines of the caliper on both the rear and front discs.
Calipers contain opposite pistons that may sit on both sides of the rotor. A rotor must spin freely because the resulting grinding, squealing, and rubbing may make things difficult.
If you are not sure about brake bleeding, you can consult a professional. Visit a local shop near you to address possible issues.
Most of this sounds way too complicated – but you shouldn’t feel overwhelmed! If the images don’t help – I highly recommend checking out Bike Maintenance 101.
It’s a DIY training package full of 1on1 bike maintenance, step-by-step videos.
If written content with images of this bicycle disc brakes maintenance guide doesn’t help – it’s most likely that video will help!
When was the last time you had your disc brakes maintained? Does it cost a lot in your local bike shop?
If you need any help – feel free to leave a comment down below and I’ll do my best to help you out!