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I have a really cheap Walmart bike with originally came with questionable brakes. After more than a year of commuting, they have worn down to next to nothing. Is there any easy fix at home to improve brake performance?

UPDATE: Brought it to a bike shop and they said its a mixture of cable stretch and worn brake pads. Getting front and back brake alignment for $14

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    Brake pads are consumables, they need replacing when they wear (along with the chain for example). There are several types; the answers to What kinds of brake designs exist, and what are their general pros and cons? might help you identify what you have. Most bikes come with fairly rubbish pads -- you can normally upgrade to better stopping power and better wear for not much money. – Chris H Nov 1 '16 at 13:36
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    Though note that for cheaper V-brakes, you could get a new better quality V-brake (e.g. Avid Single Digit 5) for maybe 5 bucks more than a new set of decent pads. – Batman Nov 1 '16 at 14:26
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    @ChrisH - Yes, they come with basic Avid pads. You're still way better off with a cheap name brand V-brake versus whatever is spec'd by Walmart. – Batman Nov 1 '16 at 15:00
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    When i pull the brake handle, next to nothing happens. On a downhill, the brakes will not prevent me from accelerating. – Aaron Hiller Nov 2 '16 at 17:52
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    I would imagine you are experiencing cable stretch in addition to having heavily worn pads, cables stretch naturally with use, generally only in the beginning, but if you have never re-tentioned them it is about that time. The lever will feel sloppy and be able to be pulled before ever actually moving the brake pads if this is the case. – Nate W Nov 2 '16 at 22:16
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The easy fix is getting new brake pads.

The hard fix will be when they are worn down to metal and start to dig into the aluminum brake track of the wheel. At which point you will be better off getting a new bike rather than paying to replace wheels and brakes on a BSO.

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For my daughters bike I took the brakes off a wreck one of my colleagues had hanging in his shed and replaced the crappy ones, cost me a beer. Only concern was if it would all fit on, which it did. So I took the whole assembly, lines levers and brakes.

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I am pretty sure that cable stretch on brakes is bogus. A brake cable can support a really heavy load, and its main enemies are flexion and rust. A cable can slip, however, if it isn't clamped tightly enough at the brake. But getting a brake adjustment for $14 is pretty decent, and if your brakes work better afterward, your money was well spent.

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    Why are you "pretty sure that cable stretch on brakes is bogus"? – David Richerby Nov 11 '16 at 19:56
  • Streching a cable would be a creeping deformation (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Creep_(deformation)), and metals don't do that in normal temperatures. Note that cables are work hardened in manufacturing. – ojs Nov 12 '16 at 17:31

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