How To Fix A Bicycle Brake Cable

If you’ve ever found yourself on a bike ride with a faulty brake cable, you know how frustrating it can be. But fear not, because in this article, you will learn exactly how to fix a bicycle brake cable. Whether it’s jammed, frayed, or completely snapped, we’ve got you covered. By following a few simple steps, you’ll be back on the road with a fully functioning brake cable in no time. Say goodbye to the frustration and hello to smooth, safe rides!

Materials Needed

To fix a bicycle brake cable, you will need the following materials:

Replacement brake cable

First and foremost, you will need a replacement brake cable. Make sure to choose the correct type and length for your bicycle model.

Wire cutters

Wire cutters are necessary for removing the old brake cable and trimming the new one to the appropriate length.

Allen wrench set

An Allen wrench set is essential for loosening and tightening various bolts and screws on your bicycle, including the cable anchor bolt.

Adjustable wrench

An adjustable wrench will be useful for loosening and tightening nuts and bolts during the cable replacement process.


Pliers can come in handy for gripping and maneuvering the cable during installation.

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Cable housing

Lastly, you will need cable housing to protect and guide the brake cable along its path. Make sure to have enough cable housing to replace any damaged sections.

Step 1: Remove the Old Cable

Before installing a new brake cable, it is crucial to remove the old one. Follow these steps to do so:

Locate the brake cable

Identify the brake cable that needs to be replaced. It will typically run from the brake lever to the brake caliper.

Loosen the cable anchor bolt

Using an appropriate wrench, loosen the cable anchor bolt on the brake caliper. This will release tension on the cable and allow for easy removal.

Pull the cable out of the brake lever

Gently pull the brake cable out of the brake lever, guiding it through any clips or holders along the way. Be cautious not to damage the cable housing.

Remove the cable from the brake caliper

Once the cable is detached from the brake lever, completely remove it from the brake caliper.

Step 2: Prepare the New Cable

Now that the old cable has been removed, it’s time to prepare the new cable for installation. Follow these steps:

Measure and cut the new cable

Measure the length needed for the new cable, taking into account the distance from the lever to the caliper. Use wire cutters to trim the cable to the appropriate length.

Attach the cable end cap

Slide a cable end cap onto the newly cut end of the cable. The end cap will prevent fraying and ensure a smooth transition into the brake lever.

Lubricate the new cable

Apply a small amount of lubricant to the new cable. This will reduce friction and ensure smooth operation.

Thread the new cable through the cable housing

Begin threading the new cable through the cable housing. Start from one end and carefully push the cable through, making sure it slides smoothly. Continue until the cable is fully threaded through the entire length of the cable housing.

Step 3: Install the New Cable

With the new cable prepared, you can now install it onto your bicycle. Follow these steps:

Attach the cable to the brake caliper

Guide the new cable through any clips or holders on the frame that secure the cable housing. Then, attach the cable to the brake caliper by inserting it into the appropriate slot or hole.

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Pull the cable through the cable housing

From the other end of the cable housing, gently pull the cable until it is taut. Make sure there is no excessive slack or tension.

Adjust the cable tension

Using an Allen wrench, adjust the cable tension at the brake caliper. Turn the adjuster barrel clockwise to increase tension or counterclockwise to decrease tension. Aim for a balance where the brake pads make even contact with the rim when the brake lever is pulled.

Tighten the cable anchor bolt

Once the desired tension is achieved, tighten the cable anchor bolt on the brake caliper using an appropriate wrench. Ensure it is securely fastened to prevent any slippage.

Step 4: Test and Fine-tune

After installing the new brake cable, it is crucial to test the brake functionality and make any necessary adjustments. Follow these steps:

Test the brake functionality

Before riding, test the brakes to ensure they engage and release smoothly. Squeeze the brake lever firmly and observe the brake pads’ response. If the braking feels weak or unresponsive, adjustments may be needed.

Fine-tune the cable tension

If necessary, fine-tune the cable tension using the adjuster barrel near the brake lever. Make small adjustments, testing the brakes after each change, until the desired braking performance is achieved.

Ensure smooth operation

Check that the cable moves freely within the cable housing without any obstruction or friction. If you notice any sticking or resistance, inspect the cable and housing for damage and replace as necessary.

Repeat the process if necessary

If you encounter any issues or difficulties with the brake cable replacement, don’t hesitate to repeat the process or seek assistance from a professional bicycle mechanic.

Common Issues and Troubleshooting

While fixing a bicycle brake cable, you may encounter some common issues. Here are a few troubleshooting tips:

Brake cable fraying

If you notice the brake cable fraying or unraveling, it is essential to replace it immediately. Frayed cables can compromise brake function and pose a safety hazard.

Cable housing damage

Inspect the cable housing for any signs of damage, such as cracks or splits. Damaged housing can negatively affect cable movement and shift performance. Replace any damaged sections of the housing.

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Sticky brake lever

A sticky or stiff brake lever may indicate a need for lubrication. Apply a small amount of lubricant to the lever pivot points and work it in by squeezing and releasing the lever multiple times. If the issue persists, consult a professional bike mechanic.

Excessive cable slack

If the brake cable has excessive slack, it may result in weak braking performance. Adjust the cable tension using the appropriate adjuster barrel to ensure optimal brake engagement.

Safety Tips

During the brake cable replacement process, it’s important to prioritize safety. Here are some safety tips to keep in mind:

Wear protective gloves

When working with cables and tools, it’s always wise to wear protective gloves to prevent any injuries or cuts.

Avoid sharp cable ends

Be cautious of sharp cable ends, as they can cause punctures or cuts. Handle the ends with care and use protective covers or caps if available.

Double-check cable attachment

Before riding, double-check that the brake cable is securely attached to both the brake lever and the caliper. A loose cable can lead to brake failure and compromise your safety.

Test brakes before riding

Always test your brakes before heading out for a ride. Squeeze the brake levers firmly to ensure they engage and release smoothly. Adequate braking performance is crucial for safe cycling.


Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about fixing a bicycle brake cable:

Can I reuse the old cable?

It is generally recommended to replace the old cable with a new one, especially if it shows signs of wear, fraying, or damage. A new cable ensures optimal braking performance and safety.

What type of lubricant should I use?

For brake cables, it is best to use a specialized bicycle cable lubricant. These lubricants are formulated to reduce friction and provide long-lasting performance. Avoid using general lubricants like oil or grease, as they may attract dirt and debris, affecting brake function.

Do I need special tools for this task?

While having the right tools makes the job easier and more efficient, you can typically perform a brake cable replacement with basic tools such as wire cutters, Allen wrenches, an adjustable wrench, and pliers. However, having tools specifically designed for bicycle maintenance can ensure smoother and more accurate repairs.

How often should I replace the brake cables?

The frequency of cable replacement depends on various factors, including usage, weather conditions, and cable quality. As a general guideline, it is recommended to inspect your brake cables regularly for signs of wear or damage. Replace them if you notice any fraying, kinks, or reduced braking performance. In general, a brake cable replacement every 1-2 years is a good practice to maintain optimal brake function.


Fixing a bicycle brake cable is a task that can be accomplished with some basic tools and a little patience. By following the outlined steps and taking safety precautions, you can ensure your brakes are in optimal working condition. Remember to regularly inspect your brake cables for wear and always test your brakes before riding. If you encounter any difficulties or uncertainties, don’t hesitate to seek professional assistance. Happy cycling!

Kelly Adams

Kelly Adams

In order to be safe on our bikes we have to keep them maintained and in good working order. Also bike accessories are a must if you want to enjoy the full experience. If something is broken or worn out replace it before you get injured. -Thank you-

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