Bike Brake Lever Not Springing Back | Fix Stuck Brake Lever

Imagine this: you’re riding your bike, going full speed ahead, with the wind blowing through your hair. Something happens, and you have to use your brakes. 

Thankfully, the brakes work, but then you look down and discover the brake lever is stuck and won’t spring back. 

Does that scenario sound familiar?

Anyone who’s been cycling for a long time has probably experienced a stuck brake at some point. It’s usually easy to fix, but only if you know what to look for. It could be a problem with lubrication, cable hooks, brake pads, or something else entirely.

Let’s look at the most common causes of a stuck brake lever and how to fix them. 

Close up of mountain bike brake lever, Shimano XT, with nature in the background.
Close up of mountain bike brake lever, Shimano XT, placed on a car bike rake, with nature in the background.

What You Need to Check When Your Brake Lever Is Stuck

Before you make a trip a bike mechanic for your stuck brake lever, there are a few quick things you can check and try a DIY fix. Lets see.

Check the Brake Cable Inside the Brake Cable Housing

Sometimes the reason is straightforward, lack of lubrication or dirt in your bike’s brake system. Check the inside of cable housing.

Dirt or grime builds up in the cables over time, so If you see any dirt in any of the cables, clean that our first. You can use an old rag or towel and wipe the cable clean. 

Next, grab a good lubricant like this Tri-flow superior lubricant and add a small amount to the cable housing beneath your bike’s brake levers.

Don’t overdo it with the lubricant, or your brake cable can collect more grime in the future. Just wipe off the excess lubricant with a rag or towel. 

How to Fix Bike Brake cable Detached

Replace the Brake Cable If Needed

Most brake systems have an inner brake cable, a stainless steel wire, and an outer housing made from steel or plastic. 

Repeated exposure to moisture/rain can cause the steel parts to become weaker, eventually bending or breaking.

So one reason your brake lever isn’t springing back could be a detached or corroded brake cable. It’s easy to spot once you’ve removed the cable from its housing. 

Try reattaching or replacing the brake cable if needed. Once replaced, your brake lever should be working as normal.

Check the Brake Arms After Unhooking the Brake Cable

On either side of your front wheel, there’s a small metallic or plastic rod. Together, these two pieces look like the lower half of a pincer. 

Those are your bike’s brake arms. Sometimes your brake cable’s fine, but the problem is with the brake arms attached to it.

Ensure the arms are attached to the cable properly. This should fix your issue.

Check the Brake Hand Lever With the Cable Unhooked

Sometimes the most obvious solution is staring us right in the face. 

If your bike brake lever isn’t springing back, the problem could be, well, with your brake lever! It might need some tightening or the pivots could need lubrication. 

Add a small amount of bike lubricant or machine oil to each pivot pin. And wipe off excess with a rag.

Check for Appropriate Cable Tension and Adjust as Needed

Your levers don’t have a strong spring inside of them, which means when you press down, they rely on cable tension to spring back. 

Think of it like pulling on a rubber band. If you let go, it snaps back, right? But what if the rubber band wasn’t tense enough? It would just stay there, distended.

Your brake lever works with a similar mechanism! If your brake lever isn’t springing back, it could be because the cable tension needs adjustment and tightening. 

Front Brake pads on a red colored frame bike

Check the Brake Pads for Wear and Tear

No matter what bike you have, brake pads all have the same function. They create enough friction with your wheel’s rim or discs to bring you to a stop. 

One of the reasons your brake lever isn’t springing back could be worn-down brake pads that need to be replaced.

Check the Brake Pads for a “Lip on Top” That Sticks Out

Sometimes you don’t need to replace the brake pads; you need to fix them. 

If you see a lip sticking out of the top part of your brake pads, you can usually get rid of it by using sandpaper and even the pads out. 

These lips are usually caused by uneven friction and can result in a stuck brake lever. 

Check the Fluid in the Brake System

If all else fails, your last resort is to change the fluid of your brake system. The reason your brake lever isn’t springing back could be a matter of faulty hydraulics

Make sure to use the proper brake fluid according to the model of your bike. You’ll usually find the correct type in your bike’s manual. 

Brake System Maintenance Tips

It is important to take proper care of your bike’s brake system, so this kind of issues doesn’t happen again. There are a few tips to keep in mind as a proud bike owner. 

Clean the Brake Pad and Rotor

Make a habit of regularly cleaning the brake pad and rotor. This is a rule of thumb if you want your braking power to stay optimal over time. 

Listen for Noises

Keep an ear out for any weird noise or vibrations, like a knocking noise; your bike might make while pedaling. It usually indicates that something requires tightening or lubrication in your brake system or other components. 

Squeaky brakes can also indicate that your new brake pads are rubbing on the rotor

Brake Pad and Rotor Inspection and replacement

Everything has a wear limit. Make sure to regularly inspect your brake pads and rotor for signs of wear and tear. 

A glance now and then can help you avoid braking surprises while pedaling. 

Final Thoughts

Getting on your bike and pedaling at full throttle is an amazing sensation. You feel like you’re on top of the world and that nothing can stop you. It’s essential, however, to know that you can stop whenever you want. 

Having a stuck brake lever really puts the brakes on all of your cycling plans. Luckily, you can get it to spring back in no time if you know just which parts of the brake system to inspect. 

Try these quick brake lever fixes and get right back on the saddle, or in this case, the bike seat!