This Is Why Your Bike Brakes Are Squeaking—And How To Fix Them

Squeaky bike brakes are not only irritating but can also be a sign that something on your bike needs fixing or adjusting.

Even worse than an annoying sound, the cause of the problem—dirt, debris, worn brakes, or misalignment—can harm your ability to brake effectively.

For your safety, it’s important that you don’t ignore your squeaky bike brakes. This post will give you some quick tips to help you easily troubleshoot and fix the problem.

Person riding bike fast with squeaky bike brakes
The last thing you want is to get injured when your bike doesn’t brake properly. Take care of those squeaky brakes!

Why Are My Bike Brakes Squeaking?

In most cases, your bike brakes are squeaking due to vibration and a lack of grip on the rotor or rim. Loose parts or contamination can keep the brake pads from effectively gripping the rotor or rim, leading to small vibrations that create a loud squealing sound or squeaking sound.

Possible causes of squeaky brakes include:

  • Dirty brake pads
  • Worn brake pads
  • Wet brake pads
  • Misaligned brake pads
  • Loose brake calipers

New brake blocks can also squeak. Some brake pads come with a coating that limits grip on the rotor or rim. After the coating wears off, the brakes should stop squeaking. If the squeaking continues, you should consider getting a better pair of brake pads, or try the following troubleshooting steps:

How To Stop Your Bicycle Brakes From Squeaking

Fixing squeaky brakes is not difficult. Start with the most likely cause of the squeaking and work your way through each possible cause until you solve the problem.

Clean Your Brake Pads To Stop the Squeaking

Contamination is the most common cause of squeaky bicycle brakes. The rim or rotor may collect oil, dirt and debris.

Along with cleaning the brake pads, go ahead and clean the rims of the wheels. If you see a buildup of dirt on the brake pads, there’s likely dirt on the rims too, which can eventually collect on the pads.

Use a rag and rubbing alcohol to remove any dirt buildups or oily residue on the brake pads, rim or rotor. The easiest way to reach the brake pads is to remove the bike wheel. Dampen a rag with rubbing alcohol, then wipe all surfaces clean, including the brake arms.

Inspect Your Brake Pads for Signs of Wear

After you remove your brake pads for cleaning, inspect them for signs of wear. Brake pads typically have teeth or grooves to improve grip and act as wear indicators. If the teeth or grooves are heavily worn, it’s time to replace the pads.

Worn pads may squeak due to a lack of a solid and accurate connection with the braking surface. In this case, your only solution is to replace the brake pads.

Wipe Brake Pads Dry To Prevent Squeaking

Brake pads often squeak when wet. If you ride in wet conditions, the braking surface and brake pads can get wet and cause the brakes to squeal.

Wet brake pads are easy to fix. Simply wipe the pads and braking surface dry. Always use a clean towel so you don’t contaminate the brake pads with dirt or oil.

Realign the Brake Pads and Tighten Loose Parts

If the brake pads are not contaminated, worn, or wet, the squeaking is likely due to improper alignment. The brakes will not properly grip the rim or rotor, leading to excessive brake noise. You can squeeze the brake lever to determine if the brake pads are hitting the rim or rotor evenly and in the right spot.

Brake pads for rim brakes should touch the center of the rim with equal spacing above and below the brake pad. Loosen the bolts with an Allen wrench and adjust the pads. If you don’t know how to align the brakes correctly, you can always visit a bike shop and have a professional handle the alignment issue.

Hand squeezing bike brake lever to check for cause of squeaky brakes
Squeeze your brake levers to see if the brake pads are making correct contact with the rim or rotor.

What Types of Brakes Are Less Likely to Squeak?

Brake squeaking is a common problem for both disc brakes and rim brakes. Both types of brakes involve pressing a brake pad against a surface on a revolving wheel using a hand-operated lever.

On a bicycle with disc brakes, the brake pads grip a rotor at the center of the wheel. With rim brakes, the brake pads grip the rim on the outer edge of the wheel.

Disc brakes also come in two styles: mechanical and hydraulic.

Mechanical disc brakes and rim brakes use a steel cable to move pistons that force the brake pads against the braking surface.

Hydraulic disc brakes include a sealed system with fluid instead of pistons. Due to the sealed design, dirt and debris are less of a problem for hydraulic disc brakes, but you may still experience excessive brake noise due to misaligned or loose parts.

Summary

  • Brake squeak is more than just an annoying noise—it can also lead to poor braking.
  • To deal with noisy brakes, simply inspect the brake pads and the braking surface. In most cases, your bike brakes are squeaking due to dirt residues or oil. Remove and clean your brake pads and the rim (for rim brakes) or rotor bolts (for disc brakes).
  • When you re-attach the components, ensure that the brake pads are properly aligned. If you need help aligning the brake pads, consider taking your bike to a shop.
  • If brake squeaking continues after you’ve completed all the troubleshooting recommendations, it’s time to consider getting new brakes.