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Every so often the Shimano 105 7020 hydraulic disc brakes on my road bike start to make a metallic grinding noise and I can feel additional resistance when riding. The culprit has always been misaligned brake calipers on both my front and rear wheels. The fix is simple: throw the bike on the stand, loosen the caliper bolts, spin the wheel, hit the brakes, and tighten the bolts.

I'm wondering why the calipers fall out of alignment in the first place? When using the brakes while riding you're forcing them into the correct, centred position - basically the technique I described above to fix them.

I can also imagine that the calipers might move around due to other forces (bumps, etc) and hitting the brakes doesn't apply enough force to centre them. In that case it probably bends the rotor a bit. The solution in this case is to tighten the caliper bolts more but I already use full force with a screwdriver and don't want to risk doing any damage to the fork posts with a wrench.

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There could be a few possible issues here:

1: You’re not tightening the bolts enough. Take the bike to a bike shop, or even a car garage, and have them torque the bolts down properly with a torque wrench. Additionally, make sure to use threadlocker on the bolts, which is a special type of glue that prevents them from loosening due to vibrations.

2: Your bike’s caliper mounts are not faced properly, meaning that they are not flat and square. This is a more complex issue that can be resolved either by getting the bike warrantied, or having a bike shop machine the mounts down to get them flat. See Weiwen’s comment for details.

3: Your rotor isn’t true. Realigning the caliper won’t fix this. To diagnose this issue, watch the gap between the rotors and brake pads as the wheel spins. If it pulsates or the rotor briefly rubs, then the rotor is not true. Carefully use a clean adjustable wrench to bend it straight again, a little at a time.

4: Your brake piston seals are dirty, and one or both pistons is not operating as it should. This can be remedied by extending the pistons and cleaning them with alcohol.

5: As mentioned by Nathan in the comments, if your bike uses quick release hubs, your wheels may twist and reposition themselves under hard braking if your QR skewer is inadequately clamping on the fork/frame. Make sure you are properly tightening the QR skewer, that it is fully closed and not contacting part of the frame, and that you are indeed flipping it and not just using it as a wrench. If the problem persists, consider switching to an internal cam skewer.

If you have thru axles instead, make sure the axles are properly fastened. The exact procedure depends on the axle system your bike uses.

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    #2: the process is called facing the frame. It can be done to frames of any material, including carbon, and I believe manufacturers are usually fine with this (I.e. they won’t deny warranty because of it). It’s labor intensive and requires special tools, so many bike stores don’t do it. Relevant article by James Raison: lavelocita.cc/guides-page/facing-carbon-fibre-bike-frames – Weiwen Ng Dec 25 '20 at 18:54
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    +1 but it can also be axle squirm if they're QR hubs, particularly if external cam QR and extra particularly on all-carbon dropouts. – Nathan Knutson Dec 25 '20 at 20:12
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    @NathanKnutson I would assume that a bike with 105 7020 would come with thru axles, but I’ll add it to the answer! – MaplePanda Dec 25 '20 at 20:56
  • Thanks for the detailed answer! Considering I currently have no brake rub after realigning the calipers, and my QR is properly set, I think my problem is probably answered by either pt #1 or 2. I always use thread locker but will reapply and re-tighten the bolts. Pt #2 is further complicated by the fact that I'm using post-to-flat-mount adapters on my bike. It introduces a new level of things that can go wrong, although I've had this issue even before I upgraded to my current setup. – valsidalv Dec 26 '20 at 0:25
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    One thing I've seen more than once that's sadly common is this: bike with all-carbon dropouts comes with internal cam QRs, they're ridden in undertightened state or are just bad and don't clamp tight enough ever, dropout material erodes under brake/drive forces, and then getting the wheels to stay put with any skewer becomes problematic. You can look for evidence of this by holding a bare hub/wheel without a QR up in the dropouts. – Nathan Knutson Dec 26 '20 at 4:05

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