Squeal Like a Brake Pad

Kool-Stop pads up close and personal

Kool-Stop pads up close and personal

Brake squeal has dogged me for decades, ever since I switched to the salmon-colored Kool-Stop pads in the mid 1980s. This is not an indictment of Kool-Stop. I love their pads because they last forever and they offer superior braking.

However, about four months ago I threw in the towel after exhausting all options for getting rid of the front brake squeal and switched back to a set of mint-condition Campagnolo nuovo record pads.

These pads have never squealed, but they don’t brake as well as Kool-Stop, they wear out quickly, and they pick up gravel and rim metal shavings. Faced with trying to locate vintage Campagnolo replacements, (Kool- Stop makes a replacement pad that fits classic Campagnolo brake holders), I decided to give Kool-Stop pads one more try.

I took advice offered by Jobst Brandt and cleaned my rims with a watery paste of cleanser, in this case Comet. I also sanded the new Kool-Stop pads to get rid of any flashing or glazing common to new pads. (Jobst recommends Bon Ami cleaner over Comet because it cleans off gunk without scratching the rim.)

Much to my surprise, it worked! No more squeal. I still think Kool-Stop pads are prone to squealing, so I anticipate I will need to clean my rims this way on occasion. Jobst also suggests riding through a puddle and applying the brakes. The fine grit picked up in the puddle is enough to clean any gunk off the rim.

Brake squeal is most likely caused by some foreign substance on the rim causing stiction, although it can be caused by a loose brake and from the rear of the brake pad touching the rim before the front of the pad. Many pad holders can be adjusted so the front of the pad strikes the rim first.

Most riders I know don’t have problems with Kool-Stop pads. Maybe that’s because their rims aren’t a million years old. I still ride on Mavic MA2 rims with 36 holes. I think it’s going to come down to the wire for which lasts longer, me or the rims.

[Fair disclosure: I have always paid for my Kool-Stop pads.]

2 Responses to “Squeal Like a Brake Pad”

  1. Ray Hosler Says:

    Just mix some water with dirt and make a paste. Rub it on the rim and ride a short distance with brakes applied. Wash off dirt. NO MORE SQUEAL.

  2. jay Says:

    Still use the MA2s? I have them for a bike trainer.

    I notice I tend to get squealing after descend King’s or Page Mill 5-6 times. The pads usually have exhibited signs of glazing by then. It didn’t seem to be such a problem when I was young and lighter but current 205 lbs + bike is a lot of energy into the braking system. I’m in a habit of taking the pads off and putting them to the electric sander and the problem seems to take care of itself for awhile. I will try the recommendation for rim cleaning.

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