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
DVD Vol. 2 DVD Volume 2
This video is available on DVD


  • 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.


Related Links

Discuss this topic in the Brake Forums

10/31 Squeaky sound coming from brakes

Hi, there, first time poster here!

I am a little desperate in my naive attempts to fix what is going on with my bike for years and it looks like I'm totally hitting the wall. Hope that someone might chime in and hint me on some way to fix the issue...

So, I bought a KENT SHOGUN T1000 HYBRID - MENS Model # 22798 bike (http://www.kent.bike/22798/shogun-t1000-hybrid-mens) around 3 years ago from my LBS. It has been making quite weird sounds when braking from the very beginning, but the LBS o... Read more >>

10/20 Tektro brake leak

I recently bought a used gt a avalanche with auriga comp brakes. I managed to bleed the none working back brake, but it is squealing badly. Maybe the pads got contaminated or just need replacing. It struggles to brake as well... But that's not the problem. My front lever got dislodged and the washer that sits behind the reach pin ball is now located outside the 'catch washer', if I could call it that. Mineral oil also started leaking from the cylinder/piston. Is there a way I can fix this leak? And how do I remove the catch washer to get the push rod back so the lever doesn't swing around?... Read more >>

08/03 Shimano Disc Brakes Inefective

For a while my rear brake has been ineffective. I originally thought it was contaminated either the pads or the discs.

Basically the lever has the be pulled all the way back to the bars to make anything work. But at the start of a ride they squeal a lot. Usually by the end of a long downhill if I have had the brake on all the way down it will start working effectively but then when I start my next ride its back to being ineffective and squeals.

I have replaced pads, rotors and bled the system twice. I have even cleaned both the pads and discs with brake cleaner and sa... Read more >>

07/26 Weird noise on Coaster Breaks Cruiser Bike

When I pedal, there's no noise, when I brake there's no noise, but when I stop pedaling, there's this noise:

I opened up the back hub and sprayed it with WD-40 and it already had a bunch of grease on it too.... Read more >>

07/22 Brake cable loose from barrel adjuster

Is there a simple way to fix this, or will I have to get new parts?

[Image: couKXsP.jpg]...

07/11 Fixing Stetched Brake Cable

when I was biking today, I stopped for a break, when I started up again, I didn't realize that my lock was caught on my back break cable. The brake is now really loose and won't engage. The cable still appeared to be attached in the same place, but is really loose. I tried tightening it by pulling more of the cable through, but this pulls through a few inches of cable and, when I turn the wheel, the rest of the brake cable becomes too taught and causes the brakes to engage. Any ideas?... Read more >>

07/07 Throaty Whine or Low Pitch Whistle

I need advice on a maintenance issue.

Ok, I am not a novice rider, but not a hard core rider either.  Normally I have had someone nearby that could or would help with minor maintenance over the years, so I know nothing.

The bike is essentially new.  Due to military obligations it was ridden a couple of times after purchase and then packed, stored, shipped, stored again and then packed and shipped again (purchased in '11).  I am now in Saudi Arabia and want to ride it around the compound to and from work/store.  

I had the tubes replaced since the ones... Read more >>

06/29 Help with brake pads

Just bought a 2nd hand bike and was told it needed new brake pads but am unsure what ones I need
[Image: 1435565775747_223489554.jpg]

[Image: 1435565916576867229932.jpg]...

04/29 Side pull caliper brakes malfunctioning?

I am attempting to replace the brakes on my bicycle, and I have a set of side-pull caliper brakes. When I took them apart, they worked just fine. But putting them back together, I cannot get them to function properly...the arms are both pulling up, and pulling the entire brake assembly to one side, instead of squeezing together as they should. What in the world is going on? I put it back together exactly the same way as I took it apart...it doesn't make sense!... Read more >>

04/27 Shifters, v-brake, disc brakes.. confused..

OK.. I been trying to fix up a bike we got but we have to replace the brakes, and shifters and front and back derailers.

Question is.. The front brake is disc back is v-brake. Can I use basic brake levers for both? Its will be a mechanical disc brake on front.

[Image: 20150426_194818.jpg]...

04/19 Kid's bike brakes

Hello gurus,

My daughter has trouble activating hand brakes on her bike. She has small hands and she can hardly reach the handles, and the handles are too hard to pull. I saw the post on the adjustment but I was wondering if instead it would be possible to replace these terrible brakes with something better? I went to a store today and they told me that nothing better would fit the bike because it is a "price point bike". Well, I know it is a cheap bike but I have hard time believing that nothing can be done.

Th...

03/27 Crosstop /Interrupter Lever Adjustment

Hi Guys,

I am having trouble adjusting some cross top / interrupter brakes on my cross bike. The brakes are Avid BB 7's. The trouble I am having is when the cross top lever is tensioned how I like it the main lever is soft. When I tighten the main lever to how I like it the cross top is way to tight. Is this due to different pull ratios of the lever styles or am I missing something? Ideally I would have both levers at even tension. Any suggestions appreciated!

Thanks...

03/23 What adapter will i need?

so I ordered a set of m615 brakes, I think, and i'm gonna go 180m on the front. I think I need an adapter but don't know which. anybody help out there? pictures are nice. thanks.... Read more >>

03/16 Shimano hangar and straddle wire brake assembly instruction video?

Today I replaced a shimano hangar and straddle wire brake assembly cable and sheath and was successful. What I would like to see now is a video on adjusting these type of brakes, my favorite brakes btw, to see if I missed any short cuts. I googled for a video but couldn't find one. Anyone have URL for a video on this repair?... Read more >>

03/15 Tektro gemi rear brake noise help

H i wonder if someone could help me find out what this noise from my back brake is
a bubble type water liquid sound only under hard breaking its quite annoying front brake is fine
here is the same sound on youtube  from someone else  but no answer to the  problem my brakes are
Tektro Gemi i no they are  entry level  should not make this sound   any help thanks
youtube brake noise  clip  link

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4F8Ugg-i4-s...

New Thread
How to Adjust V-Brakes
Repair Guide / Help Forums

Free Email Updates: