During my cycling week I only had my multi-tool with me. Back home and intending to replace the brake pads, I realized that I have to use pliers if I want to unbend the end of the cotter pin without scratching the brake saddle and/or my fingers.

Is it feasible to replace the cotter pin with a "multi-tool-friendly" or even a tool-free retaining pin? E.g. one with a pin clip.

top view on the retaining pin and brake pads pin clip

  • I use a pocket knive (Victorinox) as my multitool, its pliers come in handy for this! — Generally, the Shimano pins are a pain IMO, I much prefer the SRAM system. Even there I don't see a good way to remove the clip without pliers, but I've often wondered whether I should simply omit the clip entirely, seeing as the screw appears to work reliably enough on its own. Commented Feb 28, 2021 at 23:44
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    @Criggie: A Leatherman is very heavy and unwieldy. Especially for something simple as this which could be solved with a cheap replacement.
    – Michael
    Commented Mar 1, 2021 at 6:47
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    @Michael these knife/plier tools are super useful for all kinds of things, I would never go on any sort of tour without mine. They're not “unwieldy” unless you have racing ambitions. Heavy – yeah, a bit, but it's well worth it, like it's well worth it to always have some extra water (which is even heavier and much more unwieldy). Commented Mar 1, 2021 at 8:56
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    @Michael Leathermans come in many sizes. For longer trips I take a Leatherman Squirt PS4. It weights 56 g. FWIW te TRP clip on the bolt is easy to undo with fingers. Commented Mar 1, 2021 at 10:14
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    Does the chain rivet extractor part of the multi-tool fit in enough to straighten the cotter pin? Commented Mar 1, 2021 at 17:29

4 Answers 4


Some models of Shimano calipers do use a pad retaining bolt so what you've pictured should be viable. I would make sure the bolt's diameter is small enough so it has a little play in when through the pad and caliper holes. The pads shouldn't move around at this point, but like with a pin, a thinner bolt will allow some play which maybe necessary for proper function. If they bind, it may prevent their return to the ready position, the spring may not open normally and rub the rotor, etc. Leave a little play like the system is designed with.

There are few designs of pins that may work well, even a safety/diaper pin of sufficient size. This design of retaining pin is made to remove by hand, or you could use an Allen key from your multi-tool through the loop of the pin to generate more pulling power. It will have to have sufficient length so that the secondary arches will fit over the raised area of the caliper that has the hole the pin goes thru. enter image description here Here's something designed to hold parts or fasteners in the event they've come loose. enter image description here Here's a link to this product and description.

I don't feel using the Shimano provided, common cotter pin is absolutely necessary and options exist that will work just as well.

  • The first type of permanent pins are quite commonly used on motorcycles for securing axle nuts. They are secure and come in many different sizes. Considering the size, one or two replacements take no space in a saddlebag.
    – Carel
    Commented Mar 1, 2021 at 15:16

It seems like you are using Shimano brakes. If that's the case, you can use the pad axle and snap ring of higher groups (slx, xt...) if you cut an m4 thread on this side of the brake saddle: enter image description here

Shimano pad axle and snap ring


Those pins can be done by hand, or at least without pliers. My Promax brakes use the same arrangement. I normally straighten the pin by hand, but pressing with a wide screwdriver blade (or tyre lever - my 3rd lever is a straight steel one) may be more comfortable. To bend the pin when fitting a new pad, it's possible to start with a small screwdriver, then either use fingers, or again a larger screwdriver or tyre lever. Even a coin could be used - it's not so much a lever as a thimble that you need. Yet another option might be a thin metal tube to fit over the half pin, used as a lever. It would only need to be a couple of cm long and could be made from a V-brake noodle.


There is a clip that I really like. It is used for throttle cables on Quadrajet carburetors. It locks in place, and you only need a small screwdriver to remove the clip. You may need to grind out the hole to fit your rod.


enter image description here

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    However, will it fit the Shimano system? Please notice that it is the one on the top picture, not at the bottom one. Commented Mar 1, 2021 at 17:31

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