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How to lubricate your brake cables

Difficulty level : easy
Reading time: 4 minutes

If your bike’s brake cables are still working well, it may be that maintaining and lubricating them is the last thing on your mind.

But it’s important to think proactively and prevent problems before they occur. When issues occur while braking or shifting, it’s usually because your brake cables haven’t been properly maintained.

The good news is it’s really easy to lubricate your brake cables. This article explains how often you should do so and provides a step-by-step guide to the process.


How often should you lubricate your brake cables?

Brake cables should be lubricated at least twice a year. Especially if you cycle in the rain, the oil applied to the cables can quickly be washed away. Water and oil are like fire and ice. So it’s crucial to regularly maintain and lubricate the individual components of your bicycle brakes.

We advise you to consult a Velosophy expert when looking for the right oil to use. You can also ask your local dealer to lubricate the brake cables personally during your annual maintenance and to tell you whether a yearly lubrication is sufficient in your situation.

The more you cycle, the more frequently the cables need to be lubricated. No matter how much you cycle, annual maintenance at your local dealer is always useful and recommended!

If you have to relubricate your brake cables yourself from time to time, we recommend following these guidelines:

  • The fastening and pivot points of the brake levers should be lubricated every three months.
  • The brake cables themselves should be lubricated during the initial installation.
  • If you frequently cycle in sub-zero temperatures, the cables should be lubricated more frequently, and the brake pads should also be replaced more quickly.
  • The more you cycle, the more often you will have to lubricate your brake cables.

Especially during winter and when regularly cycling in (heavy) rain, frequent and proper lubrication of your brake cables is of crucial importance to avoid accidents.

When you encounter issues or difficulties with braking or shifting, it’s time to relubricate. Especially when you run into issues braking properly during your rides, it’s essential to relubricate as soon as possible. Better safe than sorry! By paying attention to such wear-and-tear indications, you’ll ensure your brake cables are always optimally lubricated all year round, even when riding in cold conditions or pouring rain.

It’s also important to understand what kind of brake cables you need for your bike. The right cables should come installed when you buy a new bike, but it’s worth bearing in mind in case you need to replace them.

Lubricating brake cables: A step-by-step guide

To ensure optimal braking during your rides, proper lubrication of your brake cables is essential. You should, for example, use silicone oil to lubricate the brake cables. Mineral oil products should be avoided, and Teflon-coated inner cables needn’t be lubricated.

Let’s take a look at the steps involved:

  1. First, add some lubricant to the lever end of the outer brake housing. When oiling the inner brake cables, this oil will run through a pipe that contains the cables. Excess lubricant should be wiped off.

  2. Next, remove the brake cable.

  3. It’s then a matter of specifically lubricating the place where the inner brake cable exits the outer brake cable housing. With small movements back and forth, you can gradually push the lubricant into the outer brake cable housing. Excess lubricant should once again be wiped off.

There are also bicycles whose brake cables can’t be removed. In that case, follow these steps:

  1. Lubricate the exact place where the inner brake cable comes out of the outer brake cable housing.

  2. Then start pulling the brake cable up and down to allow the lubricant to penetrate deep into the outer brake cable housing so that it spreads well.
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What if lubricating the brake cables doesn’t solve the problem?

So your brakes still don’t work, even after lubricating them. What now?

If braking or shifting issues persist after lubrication, it’s time to buy and install new brake cables. Luckily, you don’t have to pay a fortune for new brake cables.

But do take into account that your new bike cables might stretch a little after the first few weeks. We advise tightening and adjusting a new set of brake cables after a few weeks of use. Follow these steps:

  1. First, slightly unscrew the barrel adjuster on the brake, anticlockwise.

  2. Next, counter backwards with the counter nut. This makes the braking force a little stronger.

  3. If that doesn’t help, you should then loosen the lock nut again and tighten the locking screw again.

  4. After this, check the installation and settings of your brake calliper in a bit more detail. Check the position of the brake pads (aka brake shoes). They should press the rim as hard as possible, and they should be centred: ideally not too close to the spokes and not too close to the tyre. The brake pads can be properly adjusted using the appropriate Allen key.

  5. If it turns out that the brake pads on both sides of the rim are already severely worn, they should be replaced. The brake calliper can also be tightened with an Allen key, creating a gap of about 3 mm between the brake pads and the rim.

Once these steps are complete, the brake is now properly tightened again.

Related videos

Do you want more information about brakes? You can also watch a video.

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