Step-by-Step: How to Adjust V-Brakes

Does your bike have V-brakes, and they’re not functioning well and lacking performance? It is understandable that your first thought would be to get it repaired at a bike shop. But why waste money on something that is so easy that you can do it yourself?

Here’s how to adjust V-Brakes:

  1. Thoroughly inspect the v-brakes of your bike and determine where the issue lies
  2. Realign your brakes by loosening the pads and lining up the brakes
  3. Adjust the return springs to ensure that both pads touch the rim at the same time
  4. Tune the brake lever to your preference and check if the brakes are fine 

In this guide, I will guide you on how you can adjust the V-brakes of your bike and everything related to it.

What are V-Brakes?

V-brakes are one of the commonest types of brakes out there, and they mainly function via a cable that runs on one side of the brake and then across the top and pulls the two halves together in the process.

This braking system affords high braking power to the bike and is suited well for mountain biking. 

The great thing about v-brakes is that they have a simple mechanism that works well with almost every other type of bike.

Moreover, v-brakes are quite affordable, easy to maintain, and simple to install. Unlike other brake types, such as disc brakes, v-brakes do not strain the hubs or spokes, and many of its braking components are easily available in the market. 

How Can You Adjust V-Brakes?

Faulty v-brakes can be troubling. They may get loose, misaligned, or too tight, making riding your bike difficult for you.

There are some very easy fixes that you can apply to your v-brakes to adjust them. Here is a step-by-step guide for you to follow and adjust your v-brakes.

#1 Do a Thorough Initial Inspection

 Before you directly jump to adjusting your bike’s v-brakes, you should first perform a thorough inspection to determine the cause of the problem.

You should look for corrosion, a bent or broken cradle, or any problems with the brake pad. However, the two main parts that you should thoroughly inspect are the cable and rim conditions.

» You can also read my post: Mechanical Brakes Vs. Hydraulic Disc Brakes

1) Cable Condition

When it comes to inspecting the brake cables, you should inspect two parts i.e. brake cables and the brake housing.

You should be able to find the brake cable attached to the brake lever, and it should move when you press the lever. The braking cable runs through the braking house and it is usually covered by a pad. 

You should inspect the cable for any signs of corrosive damage, frays, or kinks. Any of these problems would cause the brakes to function improperly. 

You should also inspect the brake housing for any cracks or splits. Any cracks in the braking house would indicate that the cable is not moving through it properly and is being excessively stretched or loosened. 

Your final part of the inspection should be to check if the cable is passing through the brake house without any resistance. 

2) Rim Condition

To inspect the rim, you should first observe if it is round and in good shape. If it is bent, you will have to replace it immediately. 

Next, you should now turn your cycle upset down and rotate the wheel. In a properly functioning bike, the brake pads should not come in contact with the wheel. Otherwise, you will always be riding against resistance. 

Another sign to look for is if the rim has worn down. Nowadays, the rims have an indicator built in as a dot. Once the rim goes past that point, it indicates that it has worn down and needs to be replaced. 

#2 Realign Your Brakes

If you have gone to the root of the problem and found that your brakes are misaligned. Misaligned brakes can be caused by any worn components or sudden disturbances in the brakes that cause them to fall out of place. 

Misaligned brakes can cause problems while riding because you won’t be able to apply brakes to both of your wheels together, which may lead to a delayed brake. But the good news is that you can fix it quite easily. 

The first step is to loosen the pads and move the brake lever on one side with one hand and move the pad with the other hand until you find it to be lined correctly as the other brake.

Now with the lever pulled, slightly tighten the brake pad (don’t tighten it all the way). Then, release the brake lever and use your other hand to tighten the brake pad fully. 

After you are done with this, pull the brake levers from both sides and check if the pads are correctly aligned with each other. 

#3 Adjust the Return Springs

Another problem could be with the brake pad or the rim itself, which may be causing the brake pad to get in contact with the wheel at the same time. If these pads do not touch the wheel at the same time, they will eventually wear out and get damaged. 

You can correct this problem by adjusting the return springs. The return springs retract the brake arms away from the rim.

You can adjust these springs by adjusting the screws with an Allen key. If you rotate the screw counterclockwise, that will loosen, the screw will slacken the spring, and the pad won’t pull away from the rim as far. 

One thing that you should be careful about is that there are spring tensioner screws on both brake arms that would need to be adjusted incrementally to find the right balance.

Any changes that you make on one side will automatically have an effect on the other side i.e. whatever side you are tightening will get the brake pads to be closer to the rim. 

» Read my blog post about: How To Remove Stuck Bicycle Pedals

#4 Tune the Brake Lever to Your Preference

Now that the cable and screws are tightened, there is only one thing for you to do. You can fine-tune the brake lever according to your preference. You will not require any tools for this procedure, but you can use pliers for added grips.

You can tune the brake lever by adjusting the barrel adjusters. Each barrel adjuster has an additional threaded ring on the outside of the barrel. This lock ring prevents the barrel adjusters from moving due to vibrations in your rides. 

You can adjust the barrel adjusters according to your braking preference and then tighten the lock ring in towards the brake levers.

You can use pliers to tighten the lock ring. However, you should not overtighten it because then you risk damaging the threading of the lock rings. 

Yes, you are finally done, and your v-brakes are all set to go. You should take your bike out for a ride and check if you are still facing any problems with the v-brakes of your bike. 

How Do I Adjust the Springs on My V-Brakes?

You can adjust the v-brake arms by adjusting the return springs. The return springs mainly function in retracting the pad from the rim. If you tighten the screw that controls the return springs, the pad will get closer to the rim, and if you loosen the screw, then the pads will get farther away from the rim. 

Adjusting the v-brake arms entirely depends on the sort of problem you are facing. If it is about the brake pads being in contact with the wheels and the rim, you would obviously loosen it.

When you are adjusting the screws, ensure that you are doing it simultaneously and incrementing it slowly. 

How Do You Adjust Linear Pull V-Brakes?

V-brakes are the most common type of linear-pull brakes. You can adjust the linear-pull v-brakes through any of the methods mentioned above. Usually, you find your v-brakes to be misaligned and you will have to adjust them manually. To adjust the linear-pull v-brakes, you will have to loosen the brake pad, squeeze the lever and then realign the brake pads. 

Next, you should tighten the brake pad again while simultaneously releasing the squeezed lever.  

Once you are done adjusting the brake pads and are confident that they are aligned right, you should inspect them thoroughly.

To do that, simply squeeze the brake levers and see if the brake pads are coming in contact with the wheel symmetrically. 

How Do You Fix Sticky V-Brakes?

You can use WD-40 to lubricate the braking cables and the brake housing. You should also check the brake housing and see if the cable is moving through it without any resistance. If not, you should try applying some lubricant over there as well.

If your bike’s v-brakes are sticking, it could indicate a damaged spring or that the brakes need oiling.

If the brakes are moving and retracting back firmly, that means that the damage doesn’t lie with the springs. In such conditions, the one solution is to lubricate the v-brakes. 

Besides these, some other problems that sticky v-brakes can indicate are brake lever problems or with the braking cable itself. 

Additional Problems You Can Face and Their Solutions

When adjusting v-brakes, there are many other problems that you can face that may hinder the process for you.

We will discuss below all the additional problems you can face while adjusting your brakes and their solutions. Without further ado, let’s get right into it!

#1 Aged Brake Pads

When you consistently ride your bike, the brake pads start aging and eventually break down. This is simply due to constant exposure to heat and friction, due to which the pad’s fibers melt and degenerate. 

The first symptom that you will notice that indicates aged brake pads would be squealing or squeaking noises every time you brake. This is a good time to change your brake pads.

Like every component of your bike, the brake pads also have a certain limit to their functionality. Thus, you should replace your brake pads every few months if you are an avid biker. 

If you continue to ride with worn-out brakes, your brakes will get damaged and you will be more prone to bike accidents.  

» Read my blog post: Flat Bar vs. Drop Bar in Cycling

#2 Hard Glazed Pad Surface

If you use a mountain bike, you will be quite used to ascents and descents of different rough terrains. Such heavy activities can often lead the brake pads to become hard and glazed.

Glazing also results due to overheating or excess friction due to overexertion of a speed-ridden bike. 

Glazing is just the hardening of the material that forms a glassy smooth pad surface.

This hard-glazed pad surface can cause interruptions in your braking system and should be taken care of appropriately.

Thankfully, you don’t have to do much in order to correct this problem. You just need to take a flat file and brush the brake pad several times with it. This would knock off the glaze and quiet the brakes.

#3 Contaminated Rim Surface

You travel through all sorts of places on your bike, and it only makes sense that the rim surface gets contaminated with dust, dirty water, and other contaminants.

Moreover, due to prolonged exposure to water and air, the rim eventually gets rusty and starts squeaking. 

Obviously, the only thing you can do to encounter this problem is to clean the rim surface.

You should start by first rubbing it down with sandpaper or steel wool, both of which will increase the longevity of your rim surface, increase the braking power and minimize any squeaking noises. 

#4 Excessive Flex In Brake Arms

If the brakes of your bike have aged, they can also have excessive flex in the brake arms. Excessive flex in brake arms results due to excessive squeezing of the lever. This excessive flex can interfere with your braking system and cause irreversible damage.

You can correct this excessive flex by adjusting it at the brake pivot. You can move the barrel adjusters around and try to fix this problem. 

How to Improve the Performance Of Your V-brakes?

Now that we have discussed all the problems related to v-brakes, it is about time to discuss how you can improve the performance of your v-brakes.

Here are some steps to ensure that your v-brakes are functioning well.

#1 Adjust Your V-brakes

If you want your v-brakes to be improved, you should ensure that they are well-adjusted. You should inspect the cable systems and the braking pads and check if they are well-tuned and adjusted.

Additionally, you should also be careful to look out for any signs of damage to any braking component of your bike.

#2 Lubricate the Braking System

Your braking system would only function well if it is well-lubricated and doesn’t get stuck anywhere. You should apply WD-40 to the braking cable and brake housing so that they can move smoothly and your braking system can function well.

#3 Make Upgrades 

As stated above, every braking component starts aging after a while and thus needs to be replaced. If you continue to use faulty braking equipment, then your brakes would eventually get damaged.

Thus, to ensure optimal braking system performance, upgrade your braking system components after a while. 


Now you don’t have to go to a bike repair shop to get your v-brakes adjusted. You can do it at home all by yourself. All you need is some basic equipment and the right application of knowledge that you just learned. 

Your braking system is an integral part of your bike, and any misadjustments with it can affect your biking activities and performance.

Remember that you should not have to compromise on either of those, and thus, if your v-brakes are not adjusted properly, you should immediately correct that.

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