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Cantilever brake adjustment

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Cantilever brake adjustment

Old 07-17-17, 07:51 PM
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Richard8655
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Cantilever brake adjustment

I know this may be obvious to many, but can't figure out a cantilever brake adjustment issue.

To center the brake and pads equally on each side of the rim, I'm using the small adjustment screws on each caliper arm. However, to get the brake perfectly centered, the screw on one side is extremely out while the other is almost tightened in to the max. I'd like more free play on each in case of future adjustments, but not possible now. What other adjustment am I missing to correct this? (These are Avid Shorty 4's)

Last edited by Richard8655; 07-21-17 at 07:49 PM.
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Old 07-17-17, 08:31 PM
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Wait a minute... is this a trick question? Hit the brakes once an e voilą! They're centered.
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Old 07-17-17, 08:47 PM
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Not a trick question. When adjusting the screws equally as I'd like, one pad remains further out while the other barely moves and is almost touching the rim. So not centered even after applying the brake.

I'm thinking the spring tension on one side is different than the other over the years, which is why I need those extreme positions. Else am missing something.

Last edited by Richard8655; 07-17-17 at 09:02 PM.
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Old 07-17-17, 09:05 PM
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Last time I did mine I read something elsewhere, perhaps on Sheldon Brown... Make sure your wheel is true and centred on the frame or between the brake pads. If it is not then you will be going nowhere with the screws. At best all they should do is take out the possible difference in spring tension. If you have to set those screws at extreme different positions then your wheel is not centred.

Ohh Missed your latest... Or your springs are suffering from old age.
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Old 07-17-17, 09:07 PM
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Yes thanks, will recheck wheel centering. I think it's ok but haven't looked in a while.

Edit: Yeah, on your last, it's a 10 year old Specialized and thinking age may be affecting these Avid Shorty's.

Last edited by Richard8655; 07-17-17 at 09:13 PM.
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Old 07-17-17, 09:21 PM
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There usually are 3 holes in the mounting blocks for the V-Brake arms (oh Cantis). Have you verified that the right & left springs are mounted in the same holes?

Also, is your wheel centered between the fork blades or seat stays? I.E. right below the bolt hole in the middle.

Perhaps also disassemble, inspect, and lube.
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Old 07-17-17, 09:30 PM
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Sometimes you just gotta bend the springs with a pair of pliers to have more (or less) tension.
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Old 07-17-17, 09:30 PM
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Originally Posted by CliffordK View Post
There usually are 3 holes in the mounting blocks for the V-Brake arms (oh Cantis). Have you verified that the right & left springs are mounted in the same holes?

Also, is your wheel centered between the fork blades or seat stays? I.E. right below the bolt hole in the middle.

Perhaps also disassemble, inspect, and lube.
Yes, was also thinking to check the location of the brake pins on each side. Should be in the center boss hole of each. Also will recheck wheel centering and do a general brake assembly inspection.

Much appreciate your advice.
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Old 07-17-17, 09:32 PM
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Originally Posted by MikeOK View Post
Sometimes you just gotta bend the springs with a pair of pliers to have more (or less) tension.
Sounds like a good possibility. Will look at that during inspection of what's going on. Thanks.
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Old 07-17-17, 09:40 PM
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Originally Posted by MikeOK View Post
Sometimes you just gotta bend the springs with a pair of pliers to have more (or less) tension.
Also make sure the pivots are well-lubricated. If one is sticky, balance is very difficult to achieve.
Steve
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Old 07-17-17, 09:44 PM
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Originally Posted by sweeks View Post
Also make sure the pivots are well-lubricated. If one is sticky, balance is very difficult to achieve.
Steve
Good one too. Haven't done that in ages and could be a contributor. Nice to get great suggestions here.
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Old 07-18-17, 01:17 PM
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Originally Posted by sweeks View Post
Also make sure the pivots are well-lubricated. If one is sticky, balance is very difficult to achieve.
.... if the brakes are the kind that pivots directly against the posts. I think I've seen a grand total of two.
Many pivot around a bushing inset in the brake arms, in which case lubing the brake bosses has no immediate effect on brake performance.
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Old 07-18-17, 01:21 PM
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If bending the springs seems daunting, there's absolutely nothing preventing you from using different anchor holes left/right.
Do the coarse adjustment via the anchor plate holes, then fine tune with the screws.
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Old 07-18-17, 02:00 PM
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Originally Posted by dabac View Post
Many pivot around a bushing inset in the brake arms, in which case lubing the brake bosses has no immediate effect on brake performance.
And, yet, everyone seems to recommend greasing the actual brake posts.

If I understand it correctly, and I think you and I agree, the actual pivoting action is between the arm and that metal collar, not the arm and the post. Why don't we lube the inside of that metal collar?
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Old 07-18-17, 02:14 PM
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Originally Posted by hokiefyd View Post
And, yet, everyone seems to recommend greasing the actual brake posts.

If I understand it correctly, and I think you and I agree, the actual pivoting action is between the arm and that metal collar, not the arm and the post. Why don't we lube the inside of that metal collar?
Well, even if the brake is the kind that pivot around the bushing, lube rarely hurt metal parts.
And may make removal easier when needed.
Getting lube in between the bushing and the arm can most certainly be beneficial.
But dependent on fit, may not be that easy.
One would like a fairly thick lube there, grease preferably.
But the most I've ever managed to work in there is fairly runny oil.
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Old 07-18-17, 02:44 PM
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Oh... Given the thread is titled V brake adjustment I missed that you are in fact dealing with cantilever brakes. My last rebuild had cantilever brakes. The original and presumably cheap Shimano OEM stuff. Having scrubbed them up, replaced the hanger wire and bought new brake pads I went bat**** trying to align the pads to the rims even before getting as far as centering things. After a few attempts and a bit of loud swearing I tossed the abortions and fitted some V brakes. I know my wheel is not perfectly true and need to work on it a bit more but it was a straight swap on the lugs and, relatively speaking, a pleasure to set up. Not doubt at the first sniff of rain the noodles will transform themselves to rust but you might consider doing a similar swap.

..
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Old 07-18-17, 03:41 PM
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Originally Posted by dabac View Post
.... if the brakes are the kind that pivots directly against the posts. I think I've seen a grand total of two.
Many pivot around a bushing inset in the brake arms, in which case lubing the brake bosses has no immediate effect on brake performance.
Technically, I said "pivots". Anything that moves can be lubricated.
Steve
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Old 07-21-17, 07:32 PM
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Sorry to bump this thread, but this was a real mystery with many fine suggestions here from all.

Yes, these are Avid Shorty 4 cantilevers, not V-brakes. Sorry for my confusion. I disassembled and verified everything is installed correctly. Pins inserted in center holes of bosses on both sides. Lubricated pivots and greased parts are moving smoothly. But still no dice. The left spring insisted on being quite a bit weaker than the right.

Took the advice of MikeOK and dabac, and slightly bent the weaker spring with pliers. That did the trick. I don't know why after 10 years one side's spring would weaken so much more over the other, but am happy to have centered cantilevers with normal centered positions of the fine adjustment screws. Thanks to all, especially the guys below.

Originally Posted by MikeOK View Post
Sometimes you just gotta bend the springs with a pair of pliers to have more (or less) tension.
Originally Posted by dabac View Post
If bending the springs seems daunting, there's absolutely nothing preventing you from using different anchor holes left/right.
Do the coarse adjustment via the anchor plate holes, then fine tune with the screws.
The move to a different boss hole would have been the next alternative if this didn't work.

Interesting that Sheldon Brown doesn't mention one side weak spring as a possibility in his discussion on adjusting and addressing problems with cantilever bakes. Maybe it's an unusual situation, I don't know.

Last edited by Richard8655; 07-21-17 at 08:44 PM.
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Old 07-22-17, 12:07 PM
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It looks like others have covered most of the bases here.

In my experience the best thing is to not try to do just the easy thing but to do a complete dismantle, lube, and re assemble after first checking that the wheel bearings have no play, the wheel is true and you have good brake pads installed properly and not worn .

It seems that every time I start with a simple adjustment I wind up doing the full service in the end. In the long run It is less frustrating than constantly thinking you are done only to find something else wrong and having to do everything over again.

This is especially true with the donation bikes we work on at the Bike Exchange as often no one has serviced them for years and then did it wrong.

One of my greatest joys there is to take apart an old bike which I expect has been neglected only to find that it has had good maintenance.
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Old 07-22-17, 09:02 PM
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Originally Posted by capnjonny View Post
It looks like others have covered most of the bases here.

In my experience the best thing is to not try to do just the easy thing but to do a complete dismantle, lube, and re assemble after first checking that the wheel bearings have no play, the wheel is true and you have good brake pads installed properly and not worn .

It seems that every time I start with a simple adjustment I wind up doing the full service in the end. In the long run It is less frustrating than constantly thinking you are done only to find something else wrong and having to do everything over again.

This is especially true with the donation bikes we work on at the Bike Exchange as often no one has serviced them for years and then did it wrong.

One of my greatest joys there is to take apart an old bike which I expect has been neglected only to find that it has had good maintenance.
I know what you're saying and that a complete disassembly is best to find underlying problems.

In this case, I pretty much took the brake in question apart. With the calipers disassembled and holding them in my hand, it was easy to see the left side spring had significant less tension than the right. It had nothing to do with wheel bearings or wheel being true. In addition, I had just installed new pads.

So I'm still convinced the best solution was bending the spring slightly (which I did), move to a different boss hole, or buy a new brake assembly. The best and most cost effective option I think was the first and what was recommended.

But again, I see your point of view without knowing my circumstances.

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Old 07-24-17, 07:31 AM
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Originally Posted by Richard8655 View Post
Good one too. Haven't done that in ages and could be a contributor. Nice to get great suggestions here.
Check the cables too. I've found that most sticky brakes are more cable related than for any other reason.

Additionally, if you are using Shimano's stupid link cable, this can cause a lot of brake stiction. Replacing the Shimano cable with a straddle wire and cable hanger makes things work more smoothly.
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Old 07-26-17, 02:00 PM
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Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
Check the cables too. I've found that most sticky brakes are more cable related than for any other reason.

Additionally, if you are using Shimano's stupid link cable, this can cause a lot of brake stiction. Replacing the Shimano cable with a straddle wire and cable hanger makes things work more smoothly.
Great idea and possibility, thanks much. Will check into the brake cables. The only cables that are original on this 10 year old cross bike, and may need replacement.
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Old 07-26-17, 02:14 PM
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Originally Posted by Richard8655 View Post
Yes, was also thinking to check the location of the brake pins on each side. Should be in the center boss hole of each. Also will recheck wheel centering and do a general brake assembly inspection.

Much appreciate your advice.
The pins don't both necessarily have to be in the center hole. The goal is to have both cantilevers acting with the same spring tension. To get my canti's so they have the same spring tension, one has to have its pin in the center hole and the other has to have its pin in the lowest hole.
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Old 07-26-17, 02:57 PM
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Originally Posted by Jean_TX View Post
The pins don't both necessarily have to be in the center hole. The goal is to have both cantilevers acting with the same spring tension. To get my canti's so they have the same spring tension, one has to have its pin in the center hole and the other has to have its pin in the lowest hole.
Interesting. I'm guessing those additional holes are there for adjustments such as age causing loss of spring tension over time. Glad you confirmed it works for you and will also add that to my solution possibilities.
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