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Troubleshooting: V- and cantilever brakes

Symptom  Solution  Page Page
Brakes squeak Brake blocks set flat to the rim or with the back of the block touching first “Toe-in” brakes so that the fronts of the brake blocks touch the rims first Page Link
Rims dirty or contaminated Clean rims with bike wash and nylon scouring pad Page Link
Brakes don’t stop the bike or don’t stop the bike quickly enough Brake blocks are set too far from the rim Set brake blocks closer Page Link
Surfaces of brake blocks are contaminated or have picked up debris Remove wheel, pick debris out of blocks with sharp knife, roughen surface with wet-and-dry sandpaper, replace wheel Page Link
Rims are contaminated or dirty Clean rims with degreaser Page Link
Brake blocks are worn out Check wear on brake blocks – replace if necessary Page Link 1, Page Link 2, Page Link 3, Page Link 4
V-brakes – brake arms too close together, head of noodle jams on cable clamp when braking Reset brake units to vertical, reorder brake block washers appropriately Page Link 1, Page Link 2, 
Cantilever brakes – link wires make unit angles too wide or too narrow Reset straddle or link wire angle, readjust brakes appropriately Page Link 1, Page Link 2,
Brakes pull on, but they don’t spring back from the rim when you release the brake lever Dirty or frayed brake cables, kinked brake outer casing Clean and oil brake cable or replace it Page Link 1, Page Link 2, Page Link 3, Page Link 4
Brake blocks are set too low and have worn so that a lip of brake block gets trapped under the rim Remove wheel, cut off offending lip with a sharp knife, replace wheel, reset brake block position Page Link 1, Page Link 2, Page Link 3
V-brake noodle is full of grit or squashed Flush out noodle with light spray of oil or replace Page Link 1, Page Link 2
Brake blocks wear very quickly Rim surface worn Replace wheel or rim Page Link
Brake levers take excessive effort to pull, brakes don’t release smoothly Brake pivots worn, corroded or dirty Remove brake units, clean and lubricate pivots Page Link 1, Page Link 2