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Centering side-pull brakes

Do you have trouble in centering side-pull brakes? Here’s a simple little trick that I have always used. First, tighten the brake; don’t worry too much about centering the brake pads at this stage.

With a flat punch, (An old bolt or ¼ inch socket extension works well.) and a small hammer, tap on the top of the brake spring as shown below. Tap on the right or left side, moving the pads in the direction they need to go to center.

What you are doing, is not bending the spring, a light tap with a hammer will not do any harm. By tapping on the spring you nudge the brake bolt into the center position without loosening it. 

Make sure your brake cable housing is not too long, or too short, or it will constantly push or pull you brake pads off center.

Reader Comments (8)

Simple, effective and really the best way to center blocks, especially the front brake, as you can't get a spanner on without removing the front wheel (unlike the back brake).
November 8, 2006 | Unregistered Commenter VintageSpin
Jesus god! Brilliant! I wish I'd found this page about 2 hours of brake fussin' ago!
July 7, 2008 | Unregistered Commenter Timmy Mac
Excellent! I was just getting ready to do this on an older bike I have in the garage, but was remembering the last time I was fussing with it. Thanks!
July 8, 2008 | Unregistered Commenter wb416

I used to work in a bikeshop. To centre sidepull brakes. Slacken the centre bolt until it is loose then pull on the brake lever. Tighten the centre bolt while the brake is fully applied and the brake will remain central when released. Always works for me.

April 2, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterbikedunc

Just as I was shown by Stan Butler at Allin's Cycles back in the mid-'70s in Croydon, England

June 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterGeoff Wood

This is how I've always done it (on my old bikes with single pivot side pull brakes) - I always wondered if there was a better way

July 4, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAlan Parrott

I've switched to disc brakes but I had to look for this tip for the sake of my son who has conventional brakes. I will definitely try this. Thanks!

November 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterPedals Cycling

I spent a few years spinning wrenches at a bike shop in the early '80s. Used your exact method to center brakes back then. Thanks for the trip down memory lane...

February 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDan O
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