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When I was buying my bike, the technician in the shop told me not to press the brakes when the wheels are off (detached), otherwise the brakes will get damaged (I don't know how).

I need to detach the wheels for a few days and I want to clean the bicycle in the meantime. I will be moving it a lot, rotating it upside down, etc. How do I make sure the brakes don't get damaged during this process?

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One would think there would be a tool/fixture for this -- something that snaps/straps into the brake caliper to keep the pistons from moving all the way in. (But I don't know of anything.) –  Daniel R Hicks Nov 22 '11 at 16:11
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5 Answers

up vote 14 down vote accepted

Since bikes are usually shipped to the dealer with the wheels disassembled from the frame, the disc calipers often each have a plastic separator pressed into them that serve to prevent lock-up during shipping. The Hayes company even puts their brand logo on theirs. Since these are removed during assembly, you might be able to ask a repair person at your local shop if they have any extras lying around that you can just have to keep.

EDIT: Here's a link to a how-to that gives the same advice, plus has some photos of the separator in use... http://www.singletracks.com/blog/mtb-repair/hydraulic-disc-brake-service/

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Or just use any coin as a seperator –  baldy Nov 29 '11 at 9:15
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The brakes won't get damaged. They'll just squeeze the pads together so tight that you won't be able to get the rotor back in there. See related question.

I don't know if there are any special tools, but you should be able to rig something up with a small chunk of plywood or cardboard that's about the same thickness as the rotor, or slightly thicker. Just stick it between the pads, and secure it with tape or rubber bands.

It's stuff like this that makes me glad I don't have hydraulics.

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Just to add to the other answers: There are special tools, but they're just plastic wedges, so a flat blade screwdriver is fine.

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Park actually makes a tool designed for resetting hydraulic disc brake pads, but it's more for bike shops. You can get away with using a wide flathead screwdriver or a knife if you're careful. –  joelmdev Nov 23 '11 at 15:10
    
@jm2 Looks like your link is broken. Here's what I think you were refering to. parktool.com/product/hydraulic-piston-press-pp-1-2 –  Kibbee Sep 23 '12 at 23:56
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The damage will come from chipping/scratching/gouging the pads when you try to get them apart and back over the rotor. If you are replacing the brake pads, it's not such an issue, but in any case it is easier to put a spacer between them.

As for preventing operation of your brakes, you can wedge something between the brake lever and handlebar and duct tape it in place, or use my preferred method of just being careful and not grabbing the lever.

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I had the same problem when storing my bike. I used coins to keep the pads separated. It works pretty well: http://blog.nadnerb.co.uk/?p=46

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