How To Adjust Shimano Disc Brakes? – In Easy 5 Steps

Are you tired of your Shimano disc brakes squeaking, rubbing, or just not performing as well as they should? Don’t worry; you’re not alone. Disc brakes can be tricky to adjust properly, but with a little patience and some basic tools, you can get them running smoothly again.

In this article, I’ll walk you through the step-by-step process of adjusting your Shimano disc brakes. Whether you’re a seasoned cyclist or just getting started, understanding how to adjust your brakes properly is crucial for your safety and bike longevity. So, get your tools ready, and let’s dive into the world of Shimano disc brake adjustment.

5 Steps To Adjust Shimano Disc Brakes

Things You’ll Need

Allen wrenchUsed to loosen and tighten brake caliper bolts and other brake components.
Philips head screwdriverMay be needed to adjust certain brake mechanisms or screws.
Bike stand (optional)It provides stability and convenience for working on your bike.


  1. Check wheel alignment: Ensure your wheel is properly seated in the dropouts and tightened securely. Also, inspect the rotor to ensure it is true (not bent or warped).
  2. Identify the type of brakes: Determine whether you have hydraulic or mechanical disc brakes. This will help you understand the specific adjustment methods.
  3. Adjust hydraulic disc brakes:
    • Loosen the two bolts that secure the caliper to the frame or fork slightly.
    • While keeping the lever squeezed, tighten the bolts. This centers the caliper on the rotor.
    • Release the lever and spin the wheel to check if the rubbing has stopped.
    • If rubbing persists, loosen the bolts again and visually align the gap between the rotor and caliper. Retighten the bolts.
    • Spin the wheel to verify the adjustment.
  4. Adjust mechanical disc brakes:
    • Loosen the two bolts holding the caliper in place.
    • Visually align the gap between the rotor and the caliper.
    • Retighten the bolts.
    • Alternatively, if your caliper has a dial or Allen bolt, locate it and follow these steps:
      • If there is a small set screw, loosen it first.
      • Turn the bolt to the right to move the caliper closer to the rotor or to the left to move it further away.
  5. Double-check and test:
    • After making any adjustments, ensure that all bolts are securely tightened.
    • Squeeze the brake lever to check if the brakes engage properly and feel responsive.
    • Test the brakes for a short ride to ensure they work effectively.

Remember, exercise caution when working with disc brakes, as rotors can be sharp. If you are unsure or uncomfortable performing these adjustments, you should seek assistance from a professional bike mechanic for proper brake maintenance.

How to Remove Brake Pad Removal and Replacement?

Removing and replacing brake pads is important to maintaining optimal stopping power on your bicycle. The wear rate of the brake pads varies depending on the make and model, but most manufacturers list specifications for minimum pad thickness.

Knowing when to replace these crucial safety components is key to ensuring your bike performs at its best. For Shimano® pads specifically, it’s recommended to replace them when the pad material (not including the holder) is less than 0.9mm thick.

Before removing any existing discs, inspecting them first is a good idea. If you notice they have worn unevenly, this could be a sign that your caliper isn’t properly aligned with the rotor.

After replacing them with new pads, you’ll want to give them time for a “burn-in” period – allowing them time to wear down just enough before they reach maximum performance capabilities.

With proper maintenance of these parts and diligent inspection of your brakes, you can keep riding safely with confidence knowing your brakes are up-to-par.

Things To Keep In Mind While Adjusting Brakes

When adjusting your brakes, remember several important things to ensure your safety and optimal brake performance. Here are some key points to consider:

  1. Safety first: Always prioritize your safety when working on your brakes. Ensure the bike is stable and secure, and wear appropriate protective gear, such as gloves and safety glasses.
  2. Check the wheel and rotor: Before making any adjustments, ensure the wheel is properly seated in the dropouts and tightened securely. Also, inspect the rotor for any damage, warping, or contamination that may affect brake performance.
  3. Understand your brake type: Familiarize yourself with the type of brakes you have—whether hydraulic or mechanical—and understand the specific adjustment mechanisms and procedures for your brake system. Refer to the manufacturer’s instructions or consult a professional if needed.
  4. Adjust the caliper position: If the brakes are rubbing, you can adjust it to center it over the rotor. Loosen the caliper mounting bolts slightly, squeeze the brake lever to activate the pistons, and then tighten the bolts while maintaining even spacing between the pads and rotor.
  5. Fine-tune the alignment: After the initial adjustment, visually inspect the gap between the brake pads and rotor on both sides. Make small adjustments to align the pads evenly, ensuring they don’t rub against the rotor. Use the appropriate adjustment screws or bolts provided by your brake system.
  6. Test and double-check: Once you’ve made the adjustments, spin the wheel and squeeze the brake lever to confirm that the brakes engage and release smoothly. Double-check that all bolts and screws are tightened securely to prevent any issues while riding.
  7. Regular maintenance: Brake adjustments may be necessary over time due to pad wear or cable tension changes. It’s essential to maintain regular brake maintenance and inspect and adjust your brakes to ensure optimal performance.

Remember, if you’re uncertain about adjusting your brakes or encounter difficulties during the process, it’s recommended to seek assistance from a professional bike mechanic. They can provide expert guidance and properly adjust your brakes for safe riding.

How Do You Adjust Shimano Caliper Brakes?

To adjust Shimano caliper brakes, follow these steps:

  1. Position the brake pads: Check the alignment of the brake pads with the rim. The pads should make even contact with the rim’s braking surface. If one pad is closer or farther from the rim than the other, adjust them accordingly.
  2. Loosen the brake pad fixing bolt: Locate the brake pad fixing bolt on the back of the caliper. Use an Allen wrench to loosen the bolt enough to allow the brake pad to move.
  3. Align the brake pads: With the fixing bolt loose, squeeze the brake lever to engage the brake. While holding the brake lever, align the brake pads symmetrically against the rim’s braking surface. Ensure both pads make even contact with the rim.
  4. Maintain pad alignment: While holding the brake lever, securely tighten the brake pad fixing bolt. This will lock the brake pads in their aligned position.
  5. Check pad clearance: Spin the wheel and verify that the brake pads do not rub against the rim when the brake is released. There should be a small gap between the pads and the rim.
  6. Fine-tune pad clearance: If the pads still rub against the rim or if there is excessive clearance, you can make further adjustments. Locate the barrel adjuster on the brake lever or the brake caliper itself. Turn the barrel adjuster clockwise to decrease pad clearance or counterclockwise to increase it. Make small adjustments and test the brake after each turn of the barrel adjuster until the desired clearance is achieved.
  7. Test the brake: Squeeze the brake lever a few times to ensure the pads engage the rim properly and that the braking performance feels consistent and reliable.

Remember to perform these adjustments carefully and always check that all bolts and screws are securely tightened. If you’re uncertain or encounter any issues, it’s recommended to consult a professional bike mechanic for assistance.

Additional Tips for Maintaining Shimano Disc Brakes

Ensuring that your Shimano disc brakes are clean and free from issues is crucial for optimal performance and safety. In addition to the basic adjustment steps outlined earlier, consider the following tips to keep your brakes in top condition.

Clean Rotor and Pads:

One of the key aspects of maintaining effective disc brakes is keeping both the rotor and brake pads clean. Contaminants on these surfaces can compromise braking performance and lead to noisy or inefficient braking. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to clean the rotor and pads:

1. Gather Materials:

Before you begin, gather the necessary materials:

  • Isopropyl alcohol
  • Clean, lint-free cloth or paper towels

2. Remove the Wheel:

Take off the wheel to access the rotor and brake pads easily.

3. Clean the Rotor:

Use a clean cloth or paper towel soaked in isopropyl alcohol to wipe the rotor thoroughly. Rotate the wheel to ensure you clean the entire surface. This helps eliminate any oil, dirt, or brake residue that might have accumulated.

4. Clean the Brake Pads:

While the wheel is off, inspect the brake pads for contamination or glazing. If needed, lightly sand the brake pads with fine-grit sandpaper to remove any glazing. Wipe them with isopropyl alcohol to ensure they are clean.

5. Reassemble:

Put the wheel back in place, ensuring it is securely fastened.

6. Bed-in the Brakes:

After cleaning, it’s essential to bed in the brakes. This involves a series of controlled stops to transfer a thin layer of brake pad material to the rotor, enhancing braking performance.

Check for Leaks:

Inspecting the brake system for oil leaks is vital for maintaining the integrity of the braking system. Hydraulic disc brakes, like those from Shimano, rely on brake fluid to transfer force from the lever to the caliper. Here’s how you can check for leaks:

1. Visual Inspection:

Look for any visible signs of oil around the brake caliper, lever, and hose connections. If you notice any oil residue, it indicates a potential leak.

2. Check Brake Fluid Level:

Most Shimano hydraulic brake systems have a reservoir at the brake lever. Check the fluid level, and if it’s lower than the recommended level, it may indicate a leak.

3. Addressing Leaks:

If you discover any leaks, it’s crucial to address them promptly. Leaks can lead to a loss of braking power and compromise safety. Tighten loose connections, replace damaged hoses, and ensure that all components are properly sealed.

4. Bleeding the Brakes:

If you’ve leaked or opened the brake system for any reason, bleeding the brakes may be necessary. Bleeding removes air from the brake lines, ensuring consistent and reliable brake performance. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for your specific Shimano brake model to bleed the brakes effectively.

Regularly cleaning the rotor and pads and checking for leaks are essential maintenance tasks to keep your Shimano disc brakes performing optimally. By following these additional tips, you not only ensure safety but also extend the lifespan of your braking system. Remember to refer to your specific Shimano brake model’s user manual for detailed instructions and specifications. Regular maintenance will contribute to a smoother and more reliable riding experience.

Frequently Asked Questions [FAQs]

1: How Do I Know If My Shimano Caliper Brakes Need Adjustment?

You may need to adjust your Shimano caliper brakes if you notice the brake pads rubbing against the rim when the brake is released or if you experience inconsistent or weak braking performance.

2: Can I Adjust The Brake Pad Clearance Without Loosening The Fixing Bolt?

No, in order to adjust the brake pad clearance, you need to loosen the brake pad fixing bolt to allow the pads to move. Tightening the bolt secures the pads in the desired position.

3: What Should I Do If The Brake Pads Are Not Aligned Properly?

If the brake pads are not aligned symmetrically against the rim, you can loosen the fixing bolt, align the pads with even contact on the rim, and then tighten the bolt securely to maintain the alignment.

4: How Can I Fine-Tune The Pad Clearance On My Shimano Caliper Brakes?

You can fine-tune the pad clearance using the barrel adjuster on the brake lever or the caliper itself. Turning the barrel adjuster clockwise decreases pad clearance while turning it counterclockwise increases it. Make small adjustments and test the brake after each turn until the desired clearance is achieved.

5: Is It Necessary To Test The Brakes After Adjusting Them?

Yes, it is essential to test the brakes after making any adjustments. Squeeze the brake lever a few times to ensure the pads engage the rim properly and that the braking performance feels consistent and reliable. Testing the brakes helps ensure your safety while riding.


Adjusting Shimano Disc Brakes is a relatively easy process and can be done even without professional assistance. Always remember to make adjustments carefully and check that all bolts and screws are securely tightened. Testing the brakes after making any changes helps ensure your safety while riding. Adjusting Shimano disc brakes is a straightforward process that significantly enhances your bike’s braking efficiency and overall safety. By following the easy 5-step guide outlined earlier, you can ensure that your brake pads are properly aligned, your lever reach is comfortable, and your caliper clearance is optimized. These adjustments contribute to responsive braking and prevent unnecessary wear on your brake components. Additionally, incorporating extra steps like cleaning the rotor and pads with isopropyl alcohol and inspecting for oil leaks adds another layer of maintenance, guaranteeing peak performance. Regular attention to your Shimano disc brakes not only improves your riding experience but also extends the lifespan of your braking system.

John D. Archer

John D. Archer is a mechanical engineer and writer based on the area of automotive accessories at, A resident expert and professional, John is passionate about all things automotive and loves to share his knowledge. He has good experience in all kind of automotive accessories. He has worked as a chief mechanical engineer in some reputed automotive garage firm.