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Alcohol Wipes for Disc Brakes

LikeAGlove's picture

By LikeAGlove - Posted on 09 April 2008

Hi there,

Have just started out with a GT avalanche 2.0 recently and been loving some of the trails around Sydney! Have had problems with my back brake recently which saw the caliper replaced. My local bike shop recommended wiping down the discs here and there with Alcohol wipes.

I have two questions:

1: Does anyone do this and is it worth it?
2: Are the wipes I found on ebay below suitable?

Total cost would be $28 including postage, seems OK to me?

craigs's picture

You can buy them at any chemist. Diabetics use them. and a lot less than $28.
I have never, in 8 years of riding a disc equipped bike, wiped down a disc with anything if that helps with the dilemma...
If the discs had fluid on them for some reason this would be a good option.

Brian's picture

I just spray brake cleaner onto a clean rag and wipe the discs. You can get it from any automotive shop like repco etc.
Also I might add, my bike suffers from an annoying squeaking front brake so it obviously doesn't fix brake squeal.

LikeAGlove's picture

I forgot to mention $28 was for 300 of them! He recommended them as they are easy to carry if your out on a ride somewhere and need to clean them for whatever reason. He also mentioned that it just improves the braking when they are clean.

Gary's picture

Just get yourself some rubbing alcohol from any chemist, its the same thing and far far cheaper, less than $5. I think its called isopropyl alcohol.

Flynny's picture

Most Isopros marketed as rubbing alcohol contain essential oils so when the alcohol evaporates away you're left with oil on your disc. Not the best thing...

Isopropyl can be sourced in more pure forms but is no longer readily available over the counter at the chemist.

If you are looking for something cheap good old coke a cola. Eats away the grease and leaves a sticky residue for extra braking power...

LikeAGlove's picture

haha coke hey? I just found a use for all the left over coke that seems to always be hanging around our place after we have a party.

might get a couple of the wipes to try them out before I buy 300 Smiling and will try the coke thing for sure..

Noel's picture

You can buy alcohol wipes individually from a Chemist, however they may have the oils like Flynny mentioned. I read on the net that the acetone my wife uses on her nails also has these oils in it. Somebody told me metho works fine, and it worked for me.

Flynny's picture

I was kind of joking with the coke. It use to be the go for cleaning rims back in the bad old days of rim brakes... Not sure how it goes on discs though I have heard of people using it. It has a PH of around 3.4 which is reasonably acidic.

Alex's picture

i had heaps of problems with brakes and leaking fluid and things contaminating them etc., and in the end it was straight isopropyl alcohol that fixed it, i know there are some alternatives, but i personally found, especially after having tried a bit of everything, that this was the best option for me, actually started with cleaning my bike with car wash detergent that left a film of greasey crap on the rotors/pads after it dried, bad d.i.y. bleeding attempts, and then a very long story i wont bore you with! but yeh, watch out for films and residues left by impure products, they will be a pain in the ass, and that alcohol ripps everything straight off and makes things nice and shiny and clean too Smiling i got mine from a local hardware store for about 10 bucks a bottle...

Bernd's picture

..with Brian, I use the $ 3-50 Brake spray from Repco and it works for me...

LikeAGlove's picture

Im still having issues with my rear brake. Went to local bike shop on weekend who suggested if felt like the brakes need to be bled. Can anyone advise how hard this is and what I will need to do it?

any help will be much appreciated.

Stuart M's picture

and I'm sure someone will be able to offer advise or atleast point you in the right direction.

If you have the right gear generally they aren't too difficult

Brian's picture

Also, what is the problem you are having? I have read the posts again and maybe I am missing something

Alex's picture

if your lever feels "spongy" when pulling your brake on, and there is little power ie, doesnt feel like its a hydro brake, or your lever pulls too far to the bars and adjusting the reach doesnt help, then you prob do need a bleed, i have posted up here before about a huge problem i had with my front brake (under hayes nightmare or something ) and in the end, i swapped the whole front brake system for a mates spare due to huge $$ being spent on it having no effect! im not saying its the same for you, but what i am saying is think about the costs of replacing your rear brakes against the cost of bleeding/pads/new parts etc..
the thing i would be looking for in hindsight would be pads contaminated by lube or something (try swapping pads for front to see if front are fine) in which case they are pretty much screwed and need a replace unless you spend alot of time trying to de-contaminate with the fore mentioned alcohol etc which can fix them..ish
check the sponge factor in the lever, if it does feel less powerful and just needs a bleed, shouldnt cost you more than 30 bucks an end to have it properly done, and believe me, although its possible to bleed yourself, saving time and mess is a better option imho to have it done properly and will be potentially similar costs initially anyway, for alot less hair pulling is a nice option!
if you bleed it and have checked/changed the pads and all seems ok but is still acting up, then is the time to contemplate cutting your losses... new levers and calipers and hoses (especially if you have a hayes system) will cost $$$ - my total cost was $250 plus the intial bleed kit at $50 plus the new piston at $45 i snapped the post off trying to bleed myself (i know i was unco and did it well wrong!) i tried BEFORE i cut my losses lol
in the end the bike shop fitted a whole new master cylinder (costing $130 alone) which fixed the problem temporarily but CAME BACK AGAIN! hense cutting my losses at around $400 albeit way too late!! and enough to get a whole set front and rear of avid codes if you shop around!
..anyway point being pads and bleeding is one thing, and should fix your prob unless you have a major prob, in which case it will prob cost you the same for a whole new set of something equally good or better...mine is worst case scenario, and was a different problem (compression of pistons dropping after squeezing lever for a lengthy time) fwiw a different bike shop was convinced was actually a bend lever piston thingo in the end, but when you have a small little problem in a fairly complex brake system (if its hydro, its complex!) then it cost huge time and $$ trying to locate it!
food for thought! hope this helps,
good luck!

LikeAGlove's picture

Sorry for the confusion the thread was initally about cleaning products for disc brakes...

Thanks Alex that post was really helpfull. My rear brake is very spongy, when I pump the lever a few times it hardens up brakes OK but not really well. The front does not feel all that great after riding last night as well so Im wondering if I simply have crappy brakes!

I don't have the bike here to check the brands etc but Im pretty sure the dics are technix or something they came stock on the GT avalance 2.0. The rear caliper was recently replaced but worked well for one ride and went back to spongy braking which has seen me have some close calls with trees! I was thinking of taking it back one more time as it's under warranty and if they cannot sort it out ill maybe start looking at a new brake setup.

Noel's picture

Where did you buy the bike? I'd like to know where the dude works who thinks we should all carry these wipes.

LikeAGlove's picture

Hey Noel it was just a suggestion for cleaning the discs on the go. I purchased the bike at Blackman's they have been pretty helpful in getting by issues resolved and he just mentioned these wipes are handy to carry while riding in case you need them.

Noel's picture

He is an aeronautical engineer and he does 700 km a week. Did he mention that when he introduced himself? I asked him if the bikes are riveted together or welded, he responded "welded", so I asked what the significance is of him telling potential clients that he is an aeronautical engineer. He was unsure, and kind of surprised I asked.

Apparently that is all part of his sales pitch. Well, I've only been riding for a bit over a year and this wipe thing is a croc of shit and sounds like they do not want to fulfill there contractual obligations to you. Sounds like he may not have supplied you with "A product that is fit for purpose". I think you should ask for that whole brake line to be replaced (with a brand spanking new one) from trigger to disc (all of it). Ask to see the old one after they do it (mark it with a dot using a permanent marker / liquid paper).

If you find yourself struggling to resolve your reasonable request (from a consumer point of view), most Choice magazines provide direction on who to take it to.

Rob's picture

LOL... that quip to an aeronautical engineer about rivets it gold. How could he not get it! Laughing out loud

Bruce's picture

Mr Blackman isn't a bad guy, I have always found him to be friendly & helpful & most of all he has some very competitive prices.
As for his recommendation for using the wipes he was probably just trying to be helpful.

LikeAGlove's picture

Guys I don't think I spoke to Mr Blackman himself just one of the service guys. Like I said they have been quite helpful and I am now at the point that I want the brakes replaced again. They already replaced the rear but its still screwed so I'm heading back again on Saturday. They have done everything I would expect with the bike under warranty, my only complaint is that my brakes don't work but hey shit happens.

Noel's picture

He was kind of rude to me so I found it appropriate to give him some back while I was in there. I only went there as a mate said "Noel, you have to go see this bloke, he is amazing, listen to his sales pitch BS". So I did, and I could see why Pete bought a Kona from a few doors down (at BikeBarn) and NOT a Giant from Blackman's.

Anyways it may not have been Mr Blackman who recommended the wipes, maybe it was the former AU champ (behind the counter) that he pointed out to me and tried to explain he works on the bikes. I said to him, "Your kidding aren't you? Look at his nails they are clean, I bet you have a bunch of monkeys out the back doing that" He didn't like me too much, I was only there to see what Pete was on about. Pete is pretty easy going so there had to be something worth seeing.

Aeronautical engineer, Rly!

Everybody has their favorites. I like my LBS Anthony and John at Cyclesport in Thornleigh. I also think the young dudes in Kuringai Cycles (Hornsby) are good too. A mate up the road can't stand my LBS, he loves Sic (St. Ives) each to their own.

Anyway, back on topic, if he gives you and crap ask him if he has internet access and if you and him can look up the ACCC and lodge the complaint against them while you are there.

LikeAGlove's picture

Thanks for the advice Eye-wink While we are on the topic can anyone recommend a new local bike shop for me in the Hills Area? I don't live near blackmans any more and want to find someone local who runs an honest shop..

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