Maintenance Tips for Your Disc Brakes

autorRotor Bike Components
fecha30th August 2018

Disc brakes are fundamental on mountain bikes nowadays, and they are becoming an unstoppable force in the present and future of road bikes.

If you ride an MTB, road bike or both, we want to give you the best tips to help you with the maintenance, so your brakes will work flawlessly from the very start.

During the last two years, the battle to introduce disc brakes into professional road racing has been difficult, with team and individual cyclists in favour and others against. It is a question of time before disc brakes are embraced fully for the benefits they offer. Here at ROTOR we know this, which is why we have been offering our disc brake system for road bikes that is integrated into our transmission system called UNO for a number of years, which we have developed in conjunction with the German braking specialist Magura, to offer you the RT8. For those of you that do not use our system, the following tips can still be used with any disc brake system, Simple and easy to perform, they will help you keep your braking system working perfectly from day one.

1.Brake pad and rotor cleaning

This is rule number one. Keeping the disc brake pads and rotors clean is essential for a brake to work correctly, and offer the best stopping power available. For the brake pads, you will only need to remove them from the caliper, and give them a light sanding with fine grit sandpaper, just enough to remove the shiny glaze from the surface of the pad. After a while, pads can become crystallized and glaze over, this causes brake squeal and a notable decrease in braking power. Lightly sanding them down will return the pad to its original condition, removing any impurities and improving braking power. In the case of the brake rotors, use a designated brake cleaner for bicycles, or rubbing alcohol. Using a clean rag, clean the rotor of any pad residue, oil or impurities. Check the surface for any nicks or sharp edges, if found, lightly sand them down to remove them, offering a nice, uniform braking surface. Also check the disc rotor is straight, if not, using a designated tool (never with your bare hands as this could contaminate the braking surface) straighten it until no rubbing occurs.

2.Check the pistons and fitting hardwear.

When removing the braks pads for cleaning, it is a good idea to check and clean the pistons at the same time. With the pads removed, carefully pull the brake lever, allowing the pistons to move 2-3mm. Be careful not to pull too hard, or you risk the pistons coming out of the caliper completely, which we then need re-bleeding and most likely the expertise of a qualified mechanic. Clean the inside of the caliper, then with the correct tool (never a screwdriver, as this can damage the pistons) push the pistons back to their original position and re-fit the brake pads. Once this is done, check all bolts and fittings to make sure everything is correctly tightened, go over the disc rotor bolts, and tighten if necessary, a loose disc rotor can be dangerous under braking. Lastly, check for any leaks in the system, especially around the hose fittings at the caliper and brake lever.

3.Brake bleeding

If you notice that your brake lever is feeling spongy, braking power has decreased or the brake lever travel is more than usual whilst braking, it may be time to bleed the hydraulic system. It is important to have the correct bleed kit and that you use the correct type of hydraulic fluid recommended by the manufacturer. In ROTOR‘s case, and the RT8 model, it uses a mineral based oil, and when you purchase the brake kit, it will come with a designated bleed kit. Using the incorrect hydraulic fluid can damage the seals in the braking system and cause catastrophic failure of the brakes. Even if the braking system work perfectly, we recommend bleeding them and changing the brake fluid once a year, This will help keep the system in perfect condition and give you a constant brake feel and power.

If you do not know how to bleed a braking system, then we suggest you take your bike to your nearest qualified bicycle mechanic for the work to be carried out.

4.Brake pad and rotor life

Both the Brake pads and rotors have a wear limit, In the case of the brake pads, you can easily check the wear by a simple visual check every now and then, never wait until the pads are completely worn out to change them, as they could wear down to the metal part and cause irreversible damage to the brake rotor, which can be dangerous under heaving braking. Brake rotors usually have a minimum rotor thickness to aid you with checking the amount of wear they have, and replacing them if necessary.

5.Noises and vibrations

To avoid unwanted noises and vibrations in the braking system, it is important that all bolts and fittings are tightened to the recommended torque settings. Regularly clean the brake pads and rotors. Check the QR levers are closed properly and tightened on both wheels, and that nothing is loose which could cause vibrations. Some manufactures recommend a light coating of high-temp grease between the brake pad backing and the pistons, to avoid pad vibration under braking. This must be applied sparingly and carefully to avoid and contamination of the pads or brake rotors, which could in turn cause loss of braking power and possibly cause an accident. There is also the option of changing the brake pad compound, from organic to synthetic or vice versa this all depends on the type of terrain you will be riding, and the weather conditions.