It is important to learn when to replace brake calipers for your safety and other road users. Brake calipers are part of the disc brake system.
Disc brakes are common on the front wheels of the vehicle. But they are present on all the wheels of the modern vehicles.
Because they are more effective than drum brakes in the stoppage process. Additionally, they are better at expelling friction heat than the drum brakes.
So what are the caliper brakes? They are the clamp that appears around the brake rotor. They house pistons and brake pads which helps in the process of slowing down or stopping the vehicle.
Signs of worn brake calipers.
According to the way brake calipers are designed, they should last for the vehicle’s lifespan. Unlike the brake pads which tend to wear out after a number of miles.
The following are some of the obvious indications of when to replace brake calipers.
a] Leaking brake fluids around the wheels area.
As per the way the modern brakes are set-up, they tend to use hydraulic pressure from brake fluids to function.
Once the driver presses the brake pedal, the break fluid in the master cylinder moves through the brake hose to the calipers.
This pressure facilitates the movement of pistons which press the brake pads against the brake rotor. Hence slowing the vehicle down or stopping it completely.
The brake fluid starts to leak when the brake caliper brakes. Afterwards you will notice an oily patch around the tires area.
b] Clunking or Squeaking sound.
A faulty brake caliper bracket is one of the reasons why breaks make a squeaking sound. This noise will show up when you’re driving then it will stop when the brakes are applied.
This means that it’s time to replace the calipers. Avoid driving the vehicle while in this condition. Because the brakes will not be functional.
However, you may notice the squeaking sound comes about when you apply the brakes. In such a case, the problem could be because you need to apply caliper grease.
It means that the brake pad is frozen in place while pressing against the brake rotors.
c] Car pulls to one side.
When the car is in motion, and you notice that it leans to the left or right side there is a problem. Caliper relies on pistons in order to be fully functional.
The pistons enable the caliper to move in or out in order to press the brake pad against the brake rotors. However, there are occasions when they freeze in one place.
Whereby, they will either remain on the rotors or they will refuse to move in to press the brake pad against the rotor.
If they remain pressed against the rotors, the vehicle will pull to one side where there is a faulty caliper. On the contrary, when the caliper freezes away from the brake rotors, the car will pull away from the damaged rotor side.
d] Uneven wear of brake pads.
When talking about this uneven wear of brake pads, we are referring to the brake pads of either sides of the front or rear wheels.
If you notice that the right side brake pads are wearing off unevenly in comparison to the left side, a faulty caliper is responsible.
e] Brake drag.
This happens when you notice that the vehicle is not rolling freely. It will feel like the wheels are being held in place.
This means that the brake pads have frozen in place and they are holding the rotors. Grease for brake calipers can help to solve this issue.
Other reasons that may point to a faulty brake caliper are
- Failure of the parking brake to hold the car in place when you park on a hill.
- Overheating of one of the wheels.
- A brake caliper that is overheating and shows physical damage.
- Smoke coming from the wheels.
Common causes of brake caliper failure.
A failure in the brake calipers will be accompanied by the signs we have mentioned above. But these signs of a damaged brake caliper are brought about by the following things.
Ignoring the signs of a faulty caliper will cause bigger problem. Hence the common reason for damaging brake calipers is driving with worn out brake pads.
a] Brake hose.
When the brake hose wears out, you will notice that the brake pads do not operate well enough. Because the brake fluid will not flow freely.
This may result into a stuck caliper. Hence resulting to a brake drag problem.
b] Caliper bolt.
The caliper bolts have rubber boots whose function is to keep them well lubricated. Additionally, these rubber boots help to protect the caliper bolt.
In case the rubber boots tear up, the caliper bolts will dry up. Hence causing the brake to freeze which leads to squealing noise or the car will start pulling to one side.
c] Brake caliper piston.
The caliper pistons move inwards and outwards in the process of stopping the car. This in and out movement helps to press the brake pads against the rotors.
Pistons have a rubber boot for the purpose of protection and lubrication. Incase the rubber boot brakes, there will be an accumulation of dust particles as well as rust.
This will cause the brake caliper to freeze. Hence preventing proper inwards and outwards movement of the brake pads.
d] Brake caliper slides.
Caliper slides are grooves that move according to the pressing or release of the brake pedal. When the slide inwards, they cause the brake pads to press against the brake rotors.
Afterwards, they slide outwards when the brake pedal is released. In order for the pads to release the brake rotor. The brake pads tend to accumulate particles which cause the grooves to get stuck.
Cleaning out the grooves may solve this issue. But if it doesn’t then it could be time for a replacement.
How to properly maintain brake calipers.
- Clean the set-up whenever you’re undertaking a brake pad replacement to remove dirt particles.
- Know where to apply brake lubricant on the moving components.
- Regular inspection of dust boots protecting slide pins and piston.
- Replace any worn out rubber boots to prevent freezing of calipers.