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?

  • 1
    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.) Nov 22, 2011 at 16:11

6 Answers 6


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/

  • Or just use any coin as a seperator
    – baldy
    Nov 29, 2011 at 9:15
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    In our bike recycling group we're starting to see disk brakes, so I asked at my LBS about spacers. The guy there showed me that each manufacturer has it's own scheme, with different thicknesses and arrangements for holding them in place. So I went out and bought some plastic putty knives, which I hold in place with masking tape. Oct 13, 2017 at 21:56

I had the same problem when storing my bike. I used coins to keep the pads separated.

It works pretty well

From linked site


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.


Hi i have a bag of plastic builders packers in different thicknesses. I wedge in the size that fits best as the amount of wear on the pad will vary. Really useful when taking wheels off and transporting in back of car as i always tend to knock the levers. The bag cost around 2.50 from the local hardware shop.

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    Yeah, thinking about it the best hardware store bit may be "toilet wedges", which are small plastic wedges you put under the edge of a toilet to keep it from rocking. Haven't tried them, but they're about the right size and shape. Oct 13, 2017 at 22:00

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

  • 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, 2011 at 15:10
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    @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, 2012 at 23:56

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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