Oil On Bike Brake Pads? (Causes & Solutions)

Oil on Brake Pads

Lubricating parts of your bike’s brake system is a good maintenance practice, but on this same brake system are certain parts that shouldn’t come in contact with oil, and the brake pad is one of such parts of the brake.

When oil gets on the brake pads of your brake system, the brake pads become dirty with grease, and due to the porous nature of the pads, the oil permeates the pad and creates a film. This film reduces the vehicle’s brake power.

What Happens if You Get Oil on Your Brake Pads?

Oil on Brake Pads

If oil gets on the brake pads, the oil saturates the brake pads and creates a film, and this causes the rotor and the brake pads to have no grip on each other, thereby reducing the brake power of your bicycle.

The brake pads are usually very porous, making them prone to dirt with grease whenever oil gets on them.

The dirt is, in most cases, the cause of some annoying noises you hear from your bike when using such brake pads. 

Therefore, when you hear this noise, check the brake pad to see if it still has some braking surface left and if it does, remove the brake pads from the brake caliper.

When oil gets onto your brake pads, it can also cause rubbers in the brake to swell and or deform.

And because the brake system has a lot of rubber seals, this can eventually make the brake stick, leak, or even fail, which may lead to accidents.

The table below compares the impact of oil on rim and disc brake pads;

Disc BrakeRim Brake
They’re noisier when in contact with oil.They do not make too much noise in the presence of oil.
Retains more braking power even when oil-soaked.Easily lose braking power when in contact with oil.
Disc brakes are more likely to contact oil. Rim brakes are less like to contact oil.

Can I Clean an Oil-Soaked Brake Pad? 

Yes, you can clean an oil-soaked brake pad. In addition, there are different ways you can ensure an oil-soaked brake pad is clean and oil-free.

You can follow the procedures below to clean your oil-soaked brake pad;

  • First, remove the rotor and brake pads from the brake system and soak them in acetone for some time (but a maximum of two hours). 
  • Next, take them out and wipe them with a paper towel or absorbent cloth until they are dry. 
  • Afterward, stir the acetone and soak the rotor and the brake pads in it again. 
  • Then leave to soak in acetone for more time and repeat the wiping process with another clean cloth. 

Note: Always change the cloth or material used in wiping the pads after every soaking phase in acetone.

Another process of cleaning an oil-soaked brake pad is by using a brake degreaser or alcohol to clean the pads to remove the oil.

To do this, simply rub with a clean absorbent cloth until dry. While finishing the cleaning process, avoid touching the pads with your bare hands because fingers also leave grease.

Further, cleaning is easier if the pads have just been contaminated a short time ago and the oil has not been absorbed properly by the pads.

In this case, you can use an absorbent paper or cloth to dab the surface to absorb the oil from the brake pads. 

Next, start cleaning the pads using isopropyl alcohol or any degreasing agent such as Chante Claire and other brake cleaners or spray. 

How Do I Get Oil Off My Brake Pads?

After removing the brake pads from your bicycle, ensure your hands are clean before attempting to clean the brake pad.

You can also use gloves to improve your safety. Then follow these steps to clean your brake pads;

  1. Clean the surface layer of the brake pads using an absorbent material permeated with alcohol. 
  2. Next, soak them in acetone for a few hours. Ensure they are submerged in the acetone to get the oil off the pads properly.
  3. Then remove the rotor and pads from the acetone compound and wipe them with permeable paper, towel, or any absorbent cloth.
  4. Afterward, stir the acetone compound properly and soak the rotor and brake pads in it again. 
  5. At this point, the acetone compound should have taken on a dirty look. Take everything out and dispose of the acetone.
  6. Take them out and wipe them properly until they are dry again.
  7. Rinse the brake pads with fresh acetone and wipe until dry again. 
  8. After cleaning the pads, place them over a mild heat source to dry properly and remove any acetone still on them.
  9. Using fine grain sandpaper, rub the surface of the brake pads uniformly and wipe again with material or cloth wet with alcohol. That is to remove any other debris accumulated when using the sandpaper.

Before setting up the brake pads back into the bike, ensure that the brake pads and calipers are free of oil or grease.

After the pads have been reassembled, I’ll recommend you try dry braking several times.

However, this may still cause some squeaking at first as the pads are still adjusting.

How to Clean Oily Brake Pads Without Removing the Wheels?

Dismantling your braking system is essential for a deep clean and would require taking off your wheels.

Cleaning oily brake pads without taking the wheels off the vehicle is possible. However, without removing the wheels, it is impossible to clean an oily brake thoroughly.

There are a lot of items on the bicycle care market which make brake maintenance practices easier to carry out.

One of these items is the bicycle degreaser; you can use a bicycle degreaser to clean your brake pads without removing the wheels. 

With a bicycle degreaser, you just have to spray the product onto your brake pads, rotors, and calipers and allow it to sit for 2-4 minutes.

Afterward, you simply wipe the surface with a clean and absorbent cloth. It is best to use bicycle-specific degreasers rather than those used on cars.

That is because car degreasers and brake cleaners sometimes contain oils that prevent rusting in iron discs used in cars.  


Besides the oil on brake pads being unsightly, they are much more disadvantageous and detrimental.

Oil on brakes causes your brake to perform badly and reduces its efficiency, which could put you at risk on the road. 

However, you can completely clean off oil on your brake pads without removing your wheels.

Still, ensure to remove your bike wheel and dismantle the braking system for a thorough and more effective cleaning of your brake rotors.

Josh Matthews

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