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Brake lever returning slowly? (V-brake)

Old 10-25-13, 08:52 PM
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[SOLVED] Brake lever returning slowly? (V-brake)

My rear (right) brake lever returns very slowly to the original position when released. What can be causing it?

I just noticed it this evening as I was riding home from work. My front (left) lever works fine - meaning if I release the lever, it goes right back to the original position. However, the response is very slow on the right lever. It eventually goes back, but it takes a couple of seconds as opposed to less than a second.

Is it something I can fix? I'm a newbie but willing to try it myself if possible.

Thanks!
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Old 10-25-13, 09:10 PM
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Most likely a sticky cable. Many brake/shifting issues are cable related. Spray some WD40 in the housing where you can, and see if that cures it.

How old is the bike? Could be time for a new set of cables and housing.
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Old 10-25-13, 09:12 PM
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WD40 is an interim fix for the inevitable. Replace the cable, housing, ferrules and end crimp.
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Old 10-25-13, 09:19 PM
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While cable friction is the most likely cause, it's not the only one.

Before doing anything else, disconnect the cable at the noodle, as you would to remove the wheel, and see if the arms move freely and open crisply when you squeeze them in your hand and release.

While the noodle is off you can test cable friction by squeezing the lever to pull up the cable, then pulling it back at the noodle.

You can also slide the housing around on the wire to expose the ends and add oil or WD-40, and don't orget the noodle, since that's a common source of friction.
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Old 10-25-13, 09:19 PM
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As others have said, most likely a sticky cable. If the cable housing is split in the middle, you should be able to unhook it from the stops, slide the housing along the cable, and clean & regrease the covered parts of the cable. This can improve things without needing to take things apart or even disturb the adjustment.

If you find rust on the covered cable, replacement is needed. WD40 or grease will improve it for a little while, but replace the cable and housing ASAP.
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Old 10-25-13, 09:22 PM
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Originally Posted by FBinNY View Post

You can also slide the housing around on the wire to expose the ends and add oil or WD-40, and don't FORGET the noodle, since that's a common source of friction.
+100. The V-brake noodles on my bike seem to be puddles of rust after a year or two.
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Old 10-25-13, 09:33 PM
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Thanks a million, guys! I released the parts in the picture (called housing/noodle?), cleaned it and sprayed some WD-40 on it. That has fixed the stickiness.

The bike is a few months old, and I didn't find any rust as far as I could tell. Hopefully I won't have to replace the cable or brake itself anytime soon.

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Old 10-26-13, 11:35 AM
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For a bike a few months old, I would think you would not have to be lubing cables etc yet, but glad that it was all it was
your bike is pretty new, did your local lbs give any kind of free service for first year. Some do a free major tune up within the first year. If so, when you take it in for its service, tell them you had to wd40 the cable, maybe they will lube it with something better than wd 40. wd40 is not a real lubricant
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Old 10-26-13, 11:40 AM
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Originally Posted by niuoka View Post
.... wd40 is not a real lubricant
For this application it's fine, and the 5% or so oil in it's formula is adequate to the task.
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Old 10-26-13, 10:14 PM
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Originally Posted by niuoka View Post
For a bike a few months old, I would think you would not have to be lubing cables etc yet, but glad that it was all it was
your bike is pretty new, did your local lbs give any kind of free service for first year. Some do a free major tune up within the first year. If so, when you take it in for its service, tell them you had to wd40 the cable, maybe they will lube it with something better than wd 40. wd40 is not a real lubricant
Actually, there's more to it. It worked well until midway through the afternoon, but the lever got sticky again towards the end of the ride. I took it to the LBS as I happened to be nearby. It was almost the closing time, so the guy wasn't able to do much more than quickly checking the rear brake housing and cable to make sure both *seemed* to be lubed. He asked me to come back tomorrow morning, and that they may need to replace the cable. He agreed that something like this was unusual for a two-month old bike. I'll see what they find out tomorrow.
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Old 10-27-13, 05:27 AM
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If that portion was not lubricated then the rest is likely not either. Do as FB said and lubricate other portions of the cable that are inside housing. Once you release the brakes you will find that the housing can be removed from the stops via slots in the housing stops, allowing you to lubricate quite a bit of the cable without pulling the cable or changing adjustments. Similar can be done with the shift cables
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Old 10-27-13, 08:30 AM
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Originally Posted by FBinNY View Post
Before doing anything else, disconnect the cable at the noodle, as you would to remove the wheel, and see if the arms move freely and open crisply when you squeeze them in your hand and release.

While the noodle is off you can test cable friction by squeezing the lever to pull up the cable, then pulling it back at the noodle.

You can also slide the housing around on the wire to expose the ends and add oil or WD-40, and don't orget the noodle, since that's a common source of friction.
Originally Posted by cny-bikeman View Post
If that portion was not lubricated then the rest is likely not either. Do as FB said and lubricate other portions of the cable that are inside housing. Once you release the brakes you will find that the housing can be removed from the stops via slots in the housing stops, allowing you to lubricate quite a bit of the cable without pulling the cable or changing adjustments. Similar can be done with the shift cables
If you guys can educate me on this... what are "noodles"? Are they the black coil-like rubber parts found between the brake arms?

[EDIT] Okay, I figured out what the noodles were. I first tested the brake arms themselves. They looked okay - snappy when I squeezed them by hand. I then released the arms, moved the noodles around to expose as much of the cable as possible, and applied WD-40.

Unfortunately, the stickiness is still there. It almost feels as though it's the brake lever itself. Can it be? Now the brake lever will only go halfway back out, but if I push it manually, it will go all the way out, pushing the arms out to its original position as well. Can I safely apply WD-40 to the moving parts of the brake lever?
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Old 10-27-13, 01:55 PM
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Originally Posted by daihard View Post
Can I safely apply WD-40 to the moving parts of the brake lever?
Yes. However, I would release the cable at the brake and move the lever back and forth. There should be no resistance. If there is, try loosening the lever pivot bolt a tiny bit, enough to allow free movement.
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Old 10-27-13, 02:19 PM
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Originally Posted by Jeff Wills View Post
Yes. However, I would release the cable at the brake and move the lever back and forth. There should be no resistance. If there is, try loosening the lever pivot bolt a tiny bit, enough to allow free movement.
You nailed it! I released the cable again and tested the lever itself by moving it back and forth. As before, there was resistance. I loosened the bolt just a bit and put the cable back together. That has fixed the problem. Thank you!

Now why was the bolt too tight, I don't know. The lever wasn't like that before. Is it something that can gradually happen?
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Old 10-27-13, 02:23 PM
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Originally Posted by Jeff Wills View Post
Yes. However, I would release the cable at the brake and move the lever back and forth. There should be no resistance. If there is, try loosening the lever pivot bolt a tiny bit, enough to allow free movement.
I had a baffling problem like this once on a road bike. Really had me scratching my head. I even took the caliper apart at one point. When I ran out of things to try, I discovered the lever pivot pin was sticking. A little spray lube (tri-flow) fixed the problem.
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Old 10-27-13, 08:56 PM
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Originally Posted by daihard View Post
You nailed it! I released the cable again and tested the lever itself by moving it back and forth. As before, there was resistance. I loosened the bolt just a bit and put the cable back together. That has fixed the problem. Thank you!

Now why was the bolt too tight, I don't know. The lever wasn't like that before. Is it something that can gradually happen?
Well, it probably doesn't have enough lube, or the lube has gotten thicker with the cooler weather recently. As long as it moves freely, I'd leave it be.
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Old 10-27-13, 09:01 PM
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Originally Posted by Jeff Wills View Post
Well, it probably doesn't have enough lube, or the lube has gotten thicker with the cooler weather recently. As long as it moves freely, I'd leave it be.
Thanks, Jeff. I will leave it as is for now. If (or when) it starts to be sticky again, I will lube it first to see if that solves the problem.
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Old 10-28-13, 05:12 AM
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This did not have to be so drawn out, and certainly this type of problem is not "baffling." With many mechanical problems the best approach is to use observation and isolation, along with a bit of logic. Just guessing at or trying different possibilities is inefficient and can confound diagnosis by creating new problems.

The lever returns by the brake caliper pulling on the cable via the springs. Therefore if there's a problem with the lever returning it has to be something impeding the lever, cable or caliper. One can't assume it's only one of them, as seen above. Posts 4 and 5 had the correct first step. Once the tension is released one moves the caliper, cable and lever separately to find the problem(s). Further, it's sensible to lubricate all in any case while everything is easily accessed.
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Please respect others by taking the time to post clearly so we can answer quickly. All lowercase and multiple typos makes for a hard read. Thanks!

Last edited by cny-bikeman; 10-28-13 at 07:11 AM.
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