34. How to Adjust V-Brakes

Learn how to adjust the brake pads, cable tension and centering on v-brakes (linear pull).

IMPORTANT: Nuts and bolts on your bike should always be tightened to the manufacturer's specifications.
How to Adjust V-Brakes
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  • 02:58 - Lubricate the pivot points with a few drops of Tri-Flow.

Today we’ll learn how to adjust v-brakes, which are otherwise known as linear pull brakes. For this job you’ll need a 5mm allen key, a phillips(+) screwdriver, a strip of sandpaper, and an optional cable puller.

Align Brake Levers

The first step is to set up your brake levers. Start by loosening the clamp, and then align them so that they match the angle of your arms when you’re riding. Once the angle is set, tighten the clamp. If you have smaller hands and your levers are hard to reach, you can set them closer by tightening the reach adjustment screw on most levers.

Remove & Inspect Brake Pads

Start by giving the cable some slack. Tighten the lever’s barrel adjuster in all the way. Then pull the protective rubber back and disconnect the brake cable’s quick release mechanism.

Then remove the pads. V-brake pads have two sets of positioning washers on each side of the brake arm. Be careful to watch how the washers are positioned so that you can re-install them correctly.

Inspect your pads. If they are worn past the indicator line, or have metal poking through the surface, you’ll need to replace them. If they look ok, use your sandpaper to re-surface both pads.

Adjust Brake Arm Tension

Now check your brake arm tension. The brake arms should have good spring tension, which makes them release when you let go of the brake lever. If there isn’t much tension, you may have to increase it on both sides. Undo both bolts one at a time, but don’t remove them completely.

You’ll notice a small piece of metal poking out the backside of the brake. This is the spring, and it slides into one of three holes on your frame or fork. Most brakes work fine in the middle hole. To increase your brake tension, move the spring into the top hole. To decrease the brake tension, move the spring into the bottom hole. Then tighten the mounting bolt.

Install & Align Brake Pads

Now re-install the brake pads, with the washers in the same order as they were before. Align the brake pads so the pad face is flat against the rim. V-brake pads are different from traditional pads in that they don’t require any toe-in. Both the front and rear of the pad should contact the rim at the same time. Because of this, v-brakes will sometimes squeak when applied. If you’ve re-surfaced the pads and they are still noisy, you may have to try a higher quality set of pads.

Take a look from the side to make sure the pad is in line with the rim’s brake surface, and not touching the tire or hanging off the bottom of the rim.

Align Brake Arms

With the pads installed, check the brake arm position. Both arms should be facing straight up and down when the pads are contacting the rim. If they are too wide apart, or two close together, you may have to re-arrange the pad washers.

One set of washers is usually thicker than the other. To correct brakes arms that are too far apart, make sure the smallest set of washers are closest to the pads. To correct brakes arms that are too close together, make sure the largest set of washers are closest to the pads.

Adjust Cable Tension

Now re-connect the cable and adjust the cable tension on the brake arm by pulling the cable through the pinch bolt and tightening. You’ll have to play with this adjustment until your brakes feel good. I like to have mine set so that the pads hit the rim when my lever is pulled about 1/4 of the way.

Brake Arm Centering

Make sure both pads now have equal clearance, and are not rubbing against the rim. Both pads should contact the rim at the same time. If not, you can adjust the centering by tightening or loosening the side adjustment screw with your screwdriver.

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