How to Fix Bike Gear Shifters

Are your bike’s gear shifters sticking, worn out or not changing gears properly? Learning basic shifter maintenance and repairs will save you money at the bike shop and keep your shifting performance crisp. Follow this DIY guide to troubleshoot issues with broken shifters on mountain, road and hybrid bikes.

Cleaning Dirty Shifters

Over time shifters collect dirt and debris affecting function:

  • Use a rag with isopropyl alcohol to clean levers and derailleur bodies.
  • Scrub sticky residue carefully with a small brush.
  • Compress air canisters remove particles from tight spots.
  • Re-lube shifter internals after cleaning.
  • Avoid submerging shifters entirely in water when cleaning.

Keeping shifters clean is key for smooth mechanical operation.

Adjusting Cable Tension

Improper cable tension leads to poor shifting:

  • Check cable tension at the derailleur while shifting through gears.
  • Adjust barrel adjuster to remove excessive cable slack.
  • Re-secure cable at derailleur clamp if tension adjustment maxes out.
  • Replace used gear cables that have become stretched over time.
  • Recheck derailleur alignment after any tension adjustments.

Proper cable tension between shifter and derailleur is critical.

Replacing Shifter Cables

Replace gear cables and housing periodically:

  • Old cables fray and rust, binding internally over time.
  • Sluggish shifting usually indicates a need for fresh cables.
  • Carefully thread new shifter cable through frame stops and housing.
  • Secure cable firmly at the derailleur clamp bolt.
  • Test shifting performance and make any tension adjustments.

Fresh slick cables and housing restore precise shifting.

Fixing Stuck Shifters

Diagnosing stuck shifter issues:

  • Flush dirt out with isopropyl alcohol and relube.
  • Check for bent shifter components obstructing movement.
  • Remove, clean and re-grease shifter pawls if sticking.
  • Replace broken shifter springs that no longer return crisply.
  • Ensure cable moves freely without fraying or kinks.

Cleaning and lubricating fixes most sticky shifters.

Repairing Crash Damage

If shifters get damaged in a fall:

  • Try bending bent shift levers back to their proper position.
  • Superglue cracks in plastic shifter bodies.
  • Replace dented shifter covers restricting internal parts.
  • Ensure handlebar clamps are tightened to spec.
  • Replace severely damaged shifters for safety.

Light damage may be fixable but replace units with internal damage.

Replacing Broken Parts

Common worn shifter parts needing replacement:

  • Broken shifter springs
  • Stripped or warped pawls
  • Cracked or missing shifter covers/buttons
  • Seized ratchets and clutch mechanisms
  • Frayed/stretched cables and housing

Keep spare shifter parts on hand for repairs.

Installing New Shifters

When swapping in new compatible shifters:

  • Ensure correct drivetrain speed capacity.
  • Use fresh new cables and housing for optimal shifting.
  • Fit shifter covers over handlebars carefully avoiding pinches.
  • Position shifter location for comfortable ergonomic access.
  • Retighten clamps to torque spec when aligned properly.

Taking time to properly install new shifters prevents problems.

Shimano Shifter Repairs

Service Shimano shifters by:

  • Flushing gritty residue with isopropyl alcohol.
  • Lubricating pawls and ratchets if sticky.
  • Replacing broken shifter springs.
  • Adjusting cable tension for crisp shifting.
  • Replacing damaged plastic covering and buttons.

Shimano shifters work best when regularly cleaned and re-lubed.

SRAM Shifter Repairs

Extend SRAM shifter life by:

  • Using compressed air to clear dirt in mech.
  • Applying light oil to re-lube sticky internals.
  • Replacing broken parts like gummed up pawls.
  • Adjusting cable tension to remove shifter slack.
  • Replacing kinked/worn shifter cables.

SRAM shifters benefit from ongoing cable, tension and lube maintenance.

Campagnolo Shifter Repairs

Keep Campy shifters shifting precisely by:

  • Flushing with isopropyl alcohol and relubing pawls.
  • Fine tuning cable tension at barrel adjuster.
  • Replacing broken carbon shift levers.
  • Swapping worn shifter cables and housing.
  • Adjusting cable anchor bolt position.

Campagnolo shifters shift best with regular cleaning and lubrication.

Sticky and inaccurate shifting is annoying. But armed with this guide, you can get your bike’s shifters working smoothly again in no time. Share your own shifter maintenance tips below!

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