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I would like some advice about cleaning disk brakes. Recently when I've braked I've occasionally heard a noise as though air is being released, not a squeak or croak but it sounds like there is friction. Many of the roads I've been cycling on have been rough or muddy and I think that there could be grit in my disk brakes.

I've had my brakes serviced quite recently and so I don't think it's a problem of overuse or brake pads fading, they still seem to be responsive. I've read online what most of the steps are but I stil have a doubt.

Is it possible to thoroughly clean your disk brakes without opening the calipers on a disk brake and if it is necessary how do you open them? I'm guessing it could be necessary because I know that brake pads are found inside them.

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    DON'T ever take calipers apart. Unless you want to ruin them, brake pads are removable from the outside. Consult your manual and if you're not sure about the procedure and because it is a safety relevant device, you better seek the assistance of a bike mechanic.
    – Carel
    Jan 10 at 13:50
  • This is a minor terminology thing. In hydraulic disc brakes, I think the calipers are the assembly that houses the brake pads and pistons. You can't really open the caliper up. As the Park Tools vid demonstrates, everything is sealed. So, dirt should not be able to get inside the brake system (if it does, you have a big problem). So, perhaps you mean that maybe some dirt is stuck on the brake pads. As a side note, you could consider removing the pads themselves to check, but obviously be cautious about contaminating the pads.
    – Weiwen Ng
    Jan 10 at 15:39
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You can clean inside the calipers as part of a general bike wash if you take the wheels out. It’s best to put the bike in a repair stand or find some other method for suspending it above the ground. As you wash the bike wash around the calipers. You can thread a clean rag between the pads and use a ‘flossing’ action to clean between the pads. But very careful to not pull the brake levers when you are doing this as the caliper pistons and pads would be over-extended, and you will not be able to get the wheel and rotor back in the fork or frame.

When cleaning, make sure you thoroughly wash off any detergent or cleaning product that might act as a lubricant on the pad or rotor.

If you want to be a bit more thorough, you can remove the pads and push the pistons back into the caliper. This will give you more space to clean in inside the caliper with a rage or small brush. Again, do not pull the brake levers. With the pads out the pistons can over-extend and may come out of the caliper. If this happens you’ll need to have the calipers rebuilt and bled. How the pads come out is dependent on the caliper model but generally you undo a retaining bolt, then the pads slide out of the top of the caliper. Check the model of your brakes and look up the manual to find out how to remove the pads. Do not try undoing random bolts on the caliper. You also want to make sure you know how to re-install the pads properly, for obvious reasons.

In some cases the pistons can get sticky in their seals. There are special cleaning methods to address this. See this Park Repair Help video

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