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I realized that something as simple as LEVER reach was causing the pistons to not fully retract all

the way. After moving the lever closer to the grips, the rear pistons retracted fully and I was able to
properly align the caliper with no rubbing. I then re-adjusted the lever reach back to where I like it
and all was well. Thanks for this helpful post!

+1 from me too - I spent 2 hours googling this, watching youtube and generally scratching my head,
before seeing this post. I am utterly AMAZED that this is not mentioned in the single page
instructions that came with the elixir pads, or on their official posted videos. Once I had backed out
the adjuster screw that changes the position of the brake handle, both pistons went back in without
any struggle at all. Before that I could push one piston in, and the other would push out, and nothing
I could do would get them both out, and I forced it very hard to in desperation. So thanks for the
above posts.

Solution to sticky piston

would use some brake cleaner with the pads out. then wipe the moving one with a cotton bud with
some DOT 5.1 and then push it home. and then hold it in place, Zip ties/wormdrive hose clamps can
be used. ( take care of the caliper finish and piston).

then work the slow one out a bit and clean the sides then lube with some fluid and push home. then
work it in and out a few times.
The problem is LUBRICATION, not DIRT (not to be yelling, just want to be very clear)

You have a solid case of sticky piston. You can attempt to fix it yourself, however you must use
DOT fluid only, not any other kind of lubricant, as the seals can be damaged (as mentioned above),
you should push the piston out a tiny bit, apply a small amount of DOT fluid, push it back in (all the
way back in), and repeat - you will want something like a cone wrench to do this, and can be careful
pressing on the pistons or use an old set of pads.

If you don't have DOT fluid and aren't sure about all this, take it to a good LBS!
There's a 50/50 chance the lever body needs to be overhauled, unfortunately, sometimes one of the
seals just isn't right, etc.
Pretty sure the Elixrs use a design that pushes the fluid to the outside piston first, then to the inside.
Makes for a slightly uneven response, but not awful. Magura uses a balanced design, pushes the
fluid to both pistons at the same time, and same rate.

At any rate, the simplest way to fix the OP's problem is to just loosen the bleed screw, wrap a towel
around the lever to catch the fluid that's going to shoot out, and push the pistons back in........both of
them. Trying to push a piston in with the bleed screw closed is like pushing an elephant up a flight
of stairs. Just remember to refill whatever fluid comes out. Shouldn't be a whole lot. Then center the
caliper by eyeball, as close as possible on the rotor, squeeze the lever, and tighten the CPS bolts nice
and tight. Not super-strong-pushing-your-legs-against-the-wheel and using both hands tight, but
enough it won't move. Use a little LokTite if you want to be sure.

I like the CPS system, always have. One of the only ones that compensate automatically for an
uneven IS mount.
From the Avid Manual
trouble-shooting -
‘sticky’ or slow brake pad return feel
Before completely disassembling your
caliper, it’s worth trying to loosen the sticky
piston. Try the following: Clamp bicycle in
bicycle work stand. Spin affected wheel.
Lightly squeeze brake lever and watch brake
pads when lever is released. Determine
which side of the caliper has a slow returning
brake piston. Remove caliper from
bicycle. If you have a mounting bracket, it is
recommended to remove that too or just remove
the caliper leaving the bracket on the
fork or frame. Using a pair of needle-nosed
pliers, remove both brake pads and hspring.
Remove the spring pad clip from the
outside of the caliper. Using an 11mm box
wrench, press working piston into caliper
body. Squeeze brake lever slowly to move
sticky piston inward. Press the piston back
into the caliper again. Repeat these steps to
correct caliper piston inner o-ring position.
Both pistons should now be moving freely.
Re-install spring pad clip, h-spring, and pads
into caliper. Re-install caliper onto bicycle.
Spin wheel and check function. If there is no
improvement, continue with caliper service.
I see the same thing on my avid elixir cr's. Even after you follow the instructions in the Avid
manual, brake a few times and look again it will look exactly the same as pic above. Both pistons
move and should move almost the same but one sticks out way more.
Well my "elixir caliper piston kit" came in the mail today so I followed the "disk brake capiler
overhaul" instructions (link below), took out the old pistons changed seals and re bled them and
boom problem solved.


I had the same problem. Did the caliper piston service and it worked OK for a few rides, but the
sticking piston returned. Swapped my brakes to XT-785's and the problem is totally solved.
Take a look at my previous posts 11 and 13. It is nearly impossible to free up a sticky piston once
dirt migrates under the piston seal. You need to disassemble, clean and rebuild you caliper with new
piston seals in order to fix this problem. Purchasing new hydraulic brakes will be a temporary fix
until dirt and dust finds its way under the new seals. Lubing and packing your new seals that come
in the caliper rebuild kit with Automotive Silicon Brake Prep Grease will prolong the life of you
seals because the grease will act as a temporary dust barrier. Lubing your seals with brake fluid
seems to attract the dust and shorten the life of your caliper.

Solution to not going back all

Sounds like the rear may have a bit too much fluid in the system.
The way to take care of that is to push the extra fluid out.
It's really easy but it helps if you have 2 people.
The way I do it is to take the wheel off.
Insert a clean flat bladed screwdriver between the pads, bigger blade works better IME,
Have buddy remove bleed plug at lever and hold a rag under the hole.
While the bleed plug is out, carefully and slowly twist the screwdriver between the pads, spreading
them to the stock position,
While maintaining pressure on the pads with the screwdriver, have said buddy put the bleed plug
back in and snug it up.
The excess fluid will be pushed out of the system and there will be more clearance between the
After doing this, realign the brake caliper if needed.
This may also help the sticky piston.

Make sure you use the bleed blocks included with the kit. If you bleed them without the blocks, the
pistons will be too far out and make the issue worse. The flipside to this is that if you use the bleed
blocks and them 'shim' them on either side with pieces of aluminum from a pop/beer can or an
appropriate feeler gauge (business cards should work too) , you will effectively have a little more
clearance and better modulation. I set my Elixir CRs up this way and it worked wonders. I also
found that when bleeding, it's easy to pull too hard on the siringe at the lever. Don't be a hero - just
nice and steady pressure. I also found that originally bleeding a few drops out of the caliper helped
tremendously as they were overfilled from the factory it seemed.

So now I believe the problem is that Avid's CPS alignment system cannot work properly if one
piston's inward movement is substantially less than the other (the caliper unit will position itself
more to one side and closer to the edge of the alignment cups during the alignment procedure). I
just need to free the "stuck" caliper and realign. I will first try to lubricate with DOT fluid and work
it in and out until I get more movement like others have suggested. In the mean time, Any other
suggestions for freeing the piston would be much appreciated.
OK, I believe I have solved the rubbing problem on the rear caliper...won't know until my next ride,
but I was able to easily align the caliper. Here is what I did (can't remember who made the

1. Removed the rear caliper and pads.

2. Made a little clamp device to hold the outboard piston in place while I lubricated (DOT fluid) and
exercised the inboard piston via the lever. Then, I spread the pistons again and repeated until I got
more inward travel from inboard piston.

3. Performed the alignment procedure a couple of times and Voila!

The rear now spins freely...hope it holds up!

A big thank you to all for the recommendations.

The seals need to be lubricated. You might get away with pumping them part way out and using
brake fluid to lubricate them but the best way IME / IMO is to remove the pistons completely and
smear with red rubber grease and refit. It might be best to have new seals to hand tho as removing
and refitting pistons can damage the seals. With fairly new brakes you might get away with it.
All you need to do is – with the pads and the wheel out – spray some lube into the calliper. If you do
this with the pistons ‘out’ slightly the lube will draw back up to the seal. Leave for a couple of
minutes to soak and then gentley pull the lever to move the pistons further out. Clean off any gunk
and re-lube. Allow to soak for a minute then ease the pistons back in.

Had huge problems with my 5’s but seem to have fixed them. I think the first set of seals may have
finally gone (after spraying disc brake cleaner into the caliper and destroying the seals… ahem..
wouldn’t advise doing that:). Was having problems with them before this though.
Fixed by:
1) get a new seal kit (called a “pressure foot kit”) for £10 and not the £25 one with all the screws
from chainreaction.
2) dissasemble, you can use a track pump with the plastic “inflatables” adaptor to blow the pistons
out. Be careful I took a chunk out of my wall as it flew across the room.
3) replace the seals and wipe them with red rubber grease (I got some off ebay for about £5).
4) reassemble and bleed.
Mine have been rock solid ever since, the rubber grease should also make the pistons move more
smoothly. Was quite disappointed they packed in so quickly though. The front brake that hasn’t had
degreaser in it seems to be leaking a bit too and it’s only two years old.
I’ve replaced one of them with an avid Elixir, which is a much nicer brake and hasn’t had any
problems with bleeding so far.
i use the following technique to get my avid brakes working like a charm:
1) don't touch them until they're knackered (about 2 rides).
2) dump them in the bin.
3) replace with shimano deore/ lx/ slx.
my 'avid' brakes now work very well thanks…
(i arrived at this process after spending thousands of hours trying to force the pistons back in, so i
could fit some new brake pads to a set of juicy 5's).
anything that requires as much tlc as avid brakes is incompatible with having a life.
I binned my Elixir CRs for the same reason - spent countless hrs on them with only temporary rub
free operation. Picked up Magura Marta SLs and friggn love them, 0 problems.
1. Cleaning and lubing piston -
After removing the wheel, with the aid of an allen wrench to hold in place the normally
operating piston, the slow to extend piston was pushed out of the caliper when pumping the
brake handle. Isopropanol was sprayed on the piston and the piston was wiped clean w/ a
swab. Then that piston was lubricated with approved brake fluid. Lastly, the piston was
pushed back into the caliper. This process was repeated three times. (It's also worth noting
that I needed to de-gas the brake system in between repeating this process.) Result: The
defunct piston's movement did not improve compared to the other more responsive piston.

2. Loosening and re-seating caliper mount bolts -

As learned on this site as well as on YouTube, with the wheel on the bike, the caliper
mounting bolts were loosened, the wheel spun (which spun freely) and then the brakes
applied and held. Then the bolts were re-tightened. Result: No improvement in the rubbing
of the pad on the rotor.
3. Loosening and re-seating bracket mount bolts -
On my own accord, I contrived to loosen the caliper mounting bolts as well as the bracket
mounting bolts, the wheel was spun (again freely), the brakes applied and held while all
mounting bolts were tightened. Result: The rubbing of the brake pad on the rotor

The dysfunctional piston does not retract like I'd like it to (compared to the other) but, it appears to
be working well enough to pass with the bike in the stand. How it responds when I go screaming
down Mt Tam, only time will tell.

Final: Does anyone with experiences here know if I should be further concerned with this issue and
two, should I try to push the issue with my retailer or Avid?
Or you can just take the caliper apart and replace the seals. The o-ring kits are cheap. You could also
try just cleaning and reinstalling the existing piston o-rings. Check to be sure it hasn't deformed, and
be sure to thoroughly clean the caliper body too.

It IS a pain to rebleed once you've got it back together, as there will be a huge air pocket in the
caliper body. Just plan on spending some extra time bleeding the caliper end.
First, bleeding them is a mofo, plain & simple. You can do it absolutely to the letter and still end up
with a tiny air bubble or two that once it makes its way to the wrong place will cause weirdness. My
theory is that the rubber diaphragm that expands/contracts when the adjusters are dialed (effectively
changing the volume of the master cyl) just traps little bubbles by nature. Tapping and dialing the
adjustable barrel while bleeding seems to net the best results, but as the OP noted the true test of the
bleed comes when you stand the bike up THEN apply the brakes. If the lever changes engagement
point, you've still got too much air inside.

Second, the caliper pistons do get sticky with use. I made the mistake of letting my rear brake pads
wear too far and as the pistons came further and further out of their comfy caliper home, things got
really bad. The first thing I noticed was that the lever had become REALLY inconsistent, like
normal engagement one minute and all the way to the bar the next; sometimes I could pump
pressure back w/ a few squeezes, other times it would come back on its own. I had replaced the
pads fairly recently, or so I thought, so like an idiot I assumed it was a bleed issue and ventured on,
only to have the pads go metal-to-metal mid-ride. Apparently when this happens one piston can
extend far enough to force the rotor into the side of the caliper, then freeze in this one-piston-
extended-one-piston-compressed state. I had to unbolt the caliper to get home, then removed the
remains of pads (obviously), blasted everything as clean as possible with alchohol base 'a/c flush'
(California-fied brake cleaner) while agitating gently with a soft bristle brush (small paint brush); I
dried everything w/ a blow gun, then soaked the pistons/seals/caliper with brake fluid. Before
installing the new pads I also lubed the cone washers for the caliper mount (CPS or whatever they're
called) - it seemed that as I would torque them down they weren't staying true, even though the
brake lever was squeezed tight I could see the caliper trying to move and rotate as the mounting
bolts were tightened, and a little penetrating lube seemed to free that up.

Finally, I've learned that there's only so much you can do - if you're pretty confident you've got the
bleed done right, and you've got NEW pads installed, you gotta' just ride it. For whatever reason
they seem to just bed themselves in on their own after a couple rides. It's frustrating as hell to not
get the feel you're looking for in the work stand, but from my experience as the brakes age it's easy
to over-adjust them. If they drag just a bit, like spinning the wheel still results in some actual 'spin',
give 'em a little time and see how it goes. Also, a quick 'trail bleed' method I've found that seems to
work with all Avid/Sram adjustable brakes is to crank the adjusters in & out while pumping the
lever - this will usually firm up a soft lever feel immediately and if it stays that way, great; if it goes
spongey again immediately, you need to re-bleed.

Bottom line is you're doing everything right from what I can gather, maybe have another go at
bleeding the front if it's going wonky when wheelieing, but don't expect them to feel perfect until
you've put a little mileage on them. If you haven't already, definitely lube the pistons w/ some
DOT5 while you're bleeding them, and by all means keep close track of pad wear. Once the brake
do start working normally again, your first sign of wear will be inconsistent lever feel coming back.
Depending on how/how much you ride this may not be for many months, perhaps a year or more, so
try to remind yourself somehow. But I've learned that as the pistons extend to cover pad wear, a
perfect feeling brake will give you a 'whoa' moment out of the blue as one side sticks.

Too bad they work so well when they work, God knows I've wanted to scrap mine more than once
during my learning process, but when they're on they're just so good! The non-adjustable types are
probably much easier to live with bleed-wise, but cleaning and lubing pistons with every pad
replacement is probably good practice for all models (perhaps brands too - I remember doing the
same thing on my old Shimano XT's back in the day).
I help the good one in with pliers and pushed the other one out, cleaned and lubed with the DOT5.1
(repeated this a few times) then repeated the process with both pistons (a couple time) until it
looked like they were in sync, then, I re-bled the system and POW! As good as new. Might have to
invest in an o-ring kit in the future...nah, when it gets to that point, that will be my excuse to
upgrade to XT's.
Thanks for all the advice here. It saved me at minimum a trip to the LBS and ~70, and at most, new
brakes (that now can be put off for a while. Again, Muchas Gracias!!!
I read elsewhere that Avid brakes push fluid to the outer piston first. I don’t know if this is true but
it made me think about how I could give the inner piston a helping hand as all the drive seemed to
be going to my outer piston and the inner wasn’t working (though it did move if I restrained the
outer piston with a tyre lever). So I held the outer piston fully into the housing and pumped the
inner so that it was about 1.5 mm out from the piston housing. I then carefully slightly off set the
caliper (in by 1.5mm) so that when that when I inserted the pads they were centred on the rotor
correctly. This all worked as the inner piston travel is now matching the outer. I then spent about 30
mins fine tuning the rotor (at first it was dragging on one pad), eventually I got it to clear both pads
so the wheel span free. My Avid brakes are hugely sensitive to caliper position and tiny movement
left or right makes all the difference.