How to Change a Bike Brake Cable

Written by ehow sports & fitness editor
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The brake cables on your bike convey the tension from the brake levers to the actual brakes on the wheels. When they are damaged or severed, it becomes impossible to slow the bike down, making it unsafe to drive. You can change the brake cable on your bike with minimal difficulties and a few household tools.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

Things you need

  • Repair stand
  • Screwdriver
  • 5mm Allen key
  • Grease
  • Replacement brake cable
  • Pliers or cable cutters
  • Cable tidy

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  1. 1

    Secure the bike to the repair stand so that it does not move around while you change the cables.

  2. 2

    Loosen the bolt on the cable clamp with a screwdriver or Allen key and slide the cable out from the brake lever.

  3. 3

    Repeat the process on the other end by the brakes. Loosen the cable clamp on the brake mechanism and slide the cable out.

  4. 4

    Pull the old cable free of the bike. You may want to grease or oil it to make sure it moves smoothly. Watch where the cable moves, since that is where the new cable will go. Most bikes have an outer housing for the cable near the levers and brakes, but the cable itself is often bare along the frame for a good part of its running length. Be sure to note where it runs along the frame.

  5. 5

    Grease or oil the new cable so it will slide smoothly through the mechanism.

  6. 6

    Feed the cable through the brake lever mechanism and out into any cover or sheathing it contains. The cable should emerge out the end, through a nipple or other opening. Continue running the cable along the bike frame in the path of the old cable until it reaches the brakes. On a mountain bike, you may need to push the cable through a V-brake pipe as well.

  7. 7

    Attach the cable to the brakes with the screwdriver or Allen wrench, pulling the cable taut before tightening the clamps on the brakes.

  8. 8

    Pull the brake lever several times to stretch the cable, then retighten it by pulling it taut through the brakes again and retightening the brake clamps.

  9. 9

    Cut the cable with pliers, leaving about 1 inch of cable extending from the brake clamp.

  10. 10

    Cap or seal the end of the cable with a cable tidy, using the pliers to seal the clamp in place.

  11. 11

    Remove the bike from the repair stand.

Tips and warnings

  • Brakes vary somewhat between road bikes and mountain bikes. You may need to adjust your technique slightly when you change the cable to accommodate the particulars of the bike you are working on.

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