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How to stop v-brakes squeaking in 1 effective step

In this article I’m going to explain how to stop v-brakes squeaking. Squeaking brakes is annoying to say the least. Though it doesn’t really impair their braking power it does make that road ride of yours feel inferior each time you pull those levers.

Video Tutorial

The cause of v-brakes squeaking

The squeaking noise from v-brakes come from the vibration of the brake pads on the rim. It’s the same effect as when you rub your hand across a balloon, with your hand being the rim and the balloon the brake pad.

When the brake pads are pressed flush against the rim, the rotating rim pulls the softer brake pad rubber along with it until it can move no further and shoots back. After moving back the pressure of the brake lets the rim quickly catch the rubber again reiterating the same process over and over again resulting in the high-pitched noise.

A couple of other reasons people have said to be the reason for squeaking v-brakes are:

  • Dirty rims
  • Dirty brake pads
  • Worn brake pads

I have cleaned my rims, cleaned brake pads and sanded the surface of brake pads to make them rough again. But in general none of these worked but for the classic “toe-in” method.

Stop v-brakes squeaking by toeing in the brake pads

toed in brake pad
a toed in brake pad seen from underneath

Toeing in your brake pads means the front of the pads are closer to the rim than the back. That means the front will make contact earlier when brake power is applied. And the rim is less likely to grip the entire brake pad and move it along, causing that squeaking noise.

Of course when you apply enough brake power you will indeed force the entire pad onto the rim. However this slightly asymmetric position of the brake pad with respect to the rim is the single most effective method of preventing that annoying noise.

Using a toothpick to achieve a consistent toe-in

You can of course try to achieve toe-in by hand, but the result of doing so isn’t accurate enough. A much better way of getting consistent correct toe-in results is by putting an object in between the rim and the brake pad.

toothpick 1

Some use a coin, others use a rubber band, I use a toothpick. A toothpick is the correct width (1mm.), can be easily handled because of its length, and I always have them with me because I use them for many other bicycle maintenance and repair jobs.

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