The Frugal Mountain Biker: Part 6 – Brake Service & Upgrade

Bbbbrraaaaapppp! Screeeeeeeaaaachchchch! Squeaaaaaal! Those brakes sometimes just drive you nuts. So what do I do to fix this problem? Good brake service is very important.

I first check that all the rotor bolts are properly torqued. Done. Check that all of the caliper mounting bolts are tight. Done. Re-center the pads so there is no brake rub. Done. Check to make sure the discs are not warped. Done. make sure that both of the wheel quick releases (front and back) are properly installed, centered correctly, and not bound up askew on some dirt. Done. Quick test ride. The brake levers don’t feel spongy so they do not need to be bled. There are no visible wet spots that would indicate any hydraulic leaks. Still the same noisy problem. I then wipe down the rotors with rubbing alcohol to get rid of any possible oily contamination and even possibly finger print oils. Another test ride, and I still have the same squeaky problem.

OK, time to take it all apart. Remove the calipers, pads, and rotors. I lightly sand the disks with some sandpaper wrapped around a wood block using a criss-cross pattern. The pads are then inspected. They look a bit shiny and with plenty of meat still on them. I lightly sand the pads flat on a table to get rid of the shiny glazing.

Carefully re-assemble the disks without touching the new surface, and re-torque with the proper pattern sequence. Re-assemble the pads, pad springs, and calipers. Re-center the pads again and re-torque the calipers.

…One more test ride. This time I need to bed-in the pads so I then do a series of hard stops. All of that seems to have made it a bit better but not completely perfect. After all of this work, I then go for a quick trail ride. Some hard stops, warm up the brakes and, OMG! …the same thing starts up again! Screeeeach, chatterrrrrrrr, brrrraaaaaaap, squeeeeeaaaal.

OK, now what? Go online and get more info on these brakes. Tektro Auriga Comp front and rear. No mismatched components. Hmmmm, a lot of reports of squeaky brakes. Many reports that these are mediocre brakes. Interesting… These use the same pads as Shimano Deore M515-M525. Many reports that the stock pads are junk too! Come to think of it, the pads that I removed and re-installed are 2 years old. I don’t have a ton of miles on these pads. But still, for 2 year old pads they don’t seem to be worn down much, and they sure were glazed up.

OK, time to get more info online on brake pads. The stock Tektro pads are metal ceramic. They are well rated for high wear life. Some of the top rated pads use semi-metallic compound instead. According to the reviews EBC and Nukeproof seem to make some of the best pads, and they are not too pricey.

EBC has 3 different formulas. GREEN Organic compound for XC, GOLD Sintered Copper Alloy for DH, and RED Organic for with a shorter life for DH.

Nukeproof also has 3 different formulas. All are semi-metallic. TRAIL PADS: Good initial bite, Very short bed-in time, Low noise. ENDURO PADS: Strong initial bite, Fade resistant, Low noise. DH PADS: High heat resistance, Superior performance in wet and dry conditions, Strong and consistent braking over wide range of speeds.

I only do trails and XC. I like the fact that the Nukeproof TRAIL PADS bed-in quickly and they offer low noise. SOLD!

The new pads arrived in the mail and I could not wait to install them. Off with the calipers, remove the pads, re-install the pads in the calipers, re-center the pads, and tighten them up. Bed-in the pads with a series of hard stops, and quick test ride out on the street. I immediately noticed crazy quiet stops and good aggressive grip from the new pads. I then go on a quick trail ride. YAY!!! Problem solved!! …And these new pads offer more stopping power as a bonus. I am sure that they will not last as long as the stock pads, but they sure are a huge improvement.

These pads are the best frugal upgrade ever for brakes. Stay tuned for the next write-up in this series of “The Frugal Mountain Biker”.

About Author