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Newb needs brake help

I do lots of home and car repair but never done anything on bikes besides basic cleaning. Found a couple of stolen and abandoned bikes no one has claimed and would like to fix them up to give to kids in need.

This bike had super worn and uneven pads so I replaced them. The rear brake feels loose/little resistance when you pull the handle, although it closes. It doesn't open evenly. As you look at in the pic, the L side stays closed and the R opens a little. Of course the pads I replaced were way super worn on the L and less so on the R.

The L side was pretty much riding against the rim when we found it. I adjusted the bolt so it sits more evenly but after squeezing the brakes, it goes back to closer to the rim on the L than the R.

what do I do next? I've looked at youtube vids but they all seem to show you how to install all new or perfect things.

Thanks for the help!
Got the front brakes done well. Got the back brakes to the point they spring back open although the L side opens a little more easily. Once I press the back brake and it stops nicely, the pad on the R stays very close to the rim and the L side opens nicely.

Any ideas on how to make it stay centered? If I tighten the top bolt any more than I have it done now the brakes don't release well.
The two nuts (not bolts) on the brake caliper are for adjusting the pivot of the brake - they are not tightened but rather adjusted, with the top one being a locknut to hold the adjustment in place. The poor springing back may also be due to needing to lube the cable inside the housing.

Google "center sidepull brakes" to find info on both centering and adjustment. Look for Sheldonbrown.com and parktool.com in the results - both are excellent, or you can check the videos on this site.
(09-04-2014, 01:07 AM)AKHiker Wrote:  Any ideas on how to make it stay centered?

You have to rotate the whole caliper. Loosen the nut that holds the whole assembly on, the one inside the frame triangle, move the caliper, and retighten. It can be tricky because the bolt tends to twist as you retighten the nut.

As long as both pads pull away from the rim, it doesn't need to be perfectly centered. It won't affect braking at all. But it will prevent rubbing starting again if the wheel goes out of true or the brakes shift a little.
As I said, the online references will help, but one old trick is to use a flat punch or flat blade screwdriver and a hammer to lightly tap the top of the spring on the side that is coming out too far. That will rotate the entire caliper, and as long as the mounting bolt is tightened the adjustment should hold. The other thing to watch out for is that the cable housing has a curve as it reaches the caliper. Otherwise it will pull the caliper to one side when you apply the brakes - or even before.

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