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Why is my front brake cable getting pushed out of my brake lever? Is a component of the lever itself broken?

Crashed into a pole the other day, busted the front brake. Brand new to both riding and repairs, so bear with me here. I purchased a new cable + housing to replace the front brake entirely in the hopes that will clear up this issue, but I still want to know what exactly is happening when I press down on my brake lever to cause the cable to push forward? (see video) Thanks for any insight.

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  • 1
    Either the cable is not tight to the caliper, or there is something causing the cable to "hang". When you squeeze the lever do the brake pads tighten against the rim? – Daniel R Hicks Nov 4 '20 at 22:02
  • At first, nothing was happening when I pushed the lever. Then I experimented with the caliper and now when I push the lever, the brake pads tighten against the rim, but too slowly, and the brake lever doesn't promptly reset to its default position. It stays half bent or slowly releases. – Gin Nov 4 '20 at 22:25
  • Is the cable clamp tight on the caliper? – Daniel R Hicks Nov 4 '20 at 22:42
  • Yes, the cable clamp is tight. The housing halfway up has a gash from where I hit the pole. I can't tell the extent of damage to the cable inside there, if any, but I'm wondering if that's causing the cable tip to extend out of the lever? – Gin Nov 4 '20 at 23:40
  • You said you'd purchased a new housing. The usual cause of your symptom is something causing "drag" on the cable. – Daniel R Hicks Nov 4 '20 at 23:42
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The lever is not broken.

The lever's job is to pull the cable away from the brake.
There are springs in the brake that should pull the cable away from the brake lever. The cable housing should allow the cable to move back and forth with as little friction as possible.

Since it was working before the crash it makes sense that something was bent, kinked or damaged restricting the cables ability to move. Your hand is able to overcome the friction when you pull the brake lever but the springs on the brake are not strong enough to pull the cable back.

It boils down to sticky cable or weak springs. Chances are it's the cable because a crash usually does not weaken springs.

From the video it looks like you have a v brake
enter image description here

Things to check: You may want to disassemble the cable from the brake to isolate the problem.

  1. Make sure the brake arms are moving freely but not sloppy. The mounting bolts should be tight without restricting movement of the brake arms.
  2. Make sure the cable can move smoothly in the cable housing and in the cable guide.
  • Any cable housing kinks, hard turns, or incorrect cable installation will restrict cable movement. You want smooth bends and low friction along the whole route.
  • Sometimes a little silicone spray inside the housing helps even when the cable housing is lined.

Sometimes you can increase brake spring tension with the balance screw.

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David D's answer excellently explains why the cable is not being retracted.

A couple of things to check for before taking the cable off the caliper:

  1. First thing to check is that there is no slack in the cable, and that movement of the brake lever almost immediately results in movement of the caliper. If there is slack the caliper cannot retract all the loose cable.

  2. If V-brakes check the return springs are properly hooked behind the caliper arms and are spreading them away from the rim properly. I know this is silly but I answered a similar question in the past where the OP's V-brake springs had in fact come loose.

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