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The brakes pads of my front brake are off center, so far that when the brake is disengaged the right pad rubs slightly against the wheel even though there is plenty of clearance between the wheel and the left pad.

From what I can tell, my bike has single-pivot caliper brakes. They look like this:

Single-pivot caliper brakes

(Taken from Sheldon Brown's Site )

How do I re-center my brakes so that there is enough clearance for both pads?

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up vote 2 down vote accepted

The bolt that runs through the brake has a couple of flats on it just in front of where it meets the front fork. You can put a spanner (of the thin variety) onto these and align the brake.

That is the proper way to do it, but this is not always practical. The other approach is to tighten the allen key bolt at the back of the fork and then undo it by a small amount, the small amount required to lift the left-hand-pad (as seen from the front) off the rim.

Before doing any of the above it is worth considering the wheel - is it in the fork properly? The best way to ensure the wheel is correctly in place is to put the bike on the ground with your weight on the handlebars. Now push the quick-release skewer tight.

If you do not have quick release on your front wheel then you can tighten up the nuts on each side bit by bit, again with weight on handlebars so that it does not end up being to one side.

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Along with what Mathew said, it is sometimes helpful to use a wrench on both the front and back bolts simultaneously to rotate the entire brake in the fork to the proper location. You risk loosening the brake arms this way, but if you are careful this usually works.

This is assuming you don't have access to the spanner wrench.

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The type of spanner (wrench) to use is what's called a "cone wrench". It's a very thin open-end wrench that's normally used for holding the movable "cone" in wheel-bearing sets while the lock-nut is tightened. They come in various sizes, you'll have to check to get (0r borrow) the right one.

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