Brake calipers play a pivotal role in your vehicle’s braking system, giving you precise control over your car’s stopping power.
Read on and find out what brake calipers are, how they work, and what you should do when your brake calipers seize.
- What Are Brake Calipers?
- What Do Brake Calipers Do?
- How Much Does It Cost to Replace a Brake Caliper?
- What Happens During a Brake Caliper Replacement?
- How Long Does a Brake Caliper Repair Take?
- What Is a Seized Brake Caliper?
- Do My Brake Calipers Need to be Replaced?
- Can I Drive With A Bad Brake Caliper?
- Can I Replace a Brake Caliper Myself?
- What If My Brake Caliper Isn't Broken?
- How Can I Look After My Car's Braking System?
What Are Brake Calipers?
A brake caliper is part of the disc brake system, which most cars have in their front brakes.
The brake caliper houses your car's brake pads and pistons and can slow down your car's wheels by creating friction with the brake rotors.
It is important that you have your brake calipers replaced when needed so that you can stay safe whilst driving and stop the car quickly in emergencies.
What Do Brake Calipers Do?
The caliper is the arm which squeezes the brake pads onto the rim of the wheel to stop it from turning when you step on the brakes.
A pair of metal plates known as brake pads can be found inside each caliper.
When the brake is pressed, it releases hydraulic fluid which causes the brake caliper to clamp the pads down on the disc, slowing or stopping the car.
The calipers are mounted on the suspension, and can be either floating or fixed.
Floating brake calipers move with the suspension, whilst fixed calipers are bolted in place.
How Much Does It Cost to Replace a Brake Caliper?
A brake caliper replacement in the UK can cost anywhere from £140 to £400 for parts, and £70 to £80 an hour for labour.
The price can vary depending on the make and model of the vehicle in question and the parts which your car’s manufacturer recommends are used for the replacement.
The cost can also depend on whereabouts in the UK you are based and who carries out the replacement.
The mechanic may discover that another part of the braking system needs to be replaced, which can lead to an increase in costs.
What Happens During a Brake Caliper Replacement?
During a brake caliper replacement, a professional mechanic will inspect the front and rear brakes on both sides.
If they find that there is a problem with one or more of the brake calipers, they will replace them and advise you as to any other braking system components which may need to be replaced.
The mechanic will then bleed the brake system, top up the brake fluid, and test drive the car before inspecting the brake system once more.
How Long Does a Brake Caliper Repair Take?
On average, a brake caliper repair can take between 1 and 3 hours per brake caliper to complete.
The time it takes to complete the replacement can vary depending on the braking system and will increase if further repair work is required.
What Is a Seized Brake Caliper?
A seized brake caliper is a stuck brake caliper.
This can happen when the piston becomes stuck within the caliper, if the pad become stuck to the disc, or if the slide pins seize on a single-piston caliper.
Brake calipers can seize due to inactivity, so you should try and take your car for a short drive on a regular basis.
Corrosion is another cause of seized brake calipers, which can occur as your vehicle experiences temperature changes as you brake and accelerate.
Moisture can seep into the caliper’s piston over time and cause it to erode, leading to the seizing.
If one of your brake calipers has seized up, this means that the disc and pads on the other side of the car will have to work harder.
You may feel the car pulls to one side when you brake hard, which can put you in danger on the road.
If your brake calipers are sticking, you should have this checked by a mechanic as soon as possible to prevent additional damage being caused to the braking system.
Do My Brake Calipers Need to be Replaced?
When a brake caliper goes bad, you may notice the following warning signs:
- Uneven tyre wear
- The car pulls to one side
- Spongy brake pedal
- Uneven brake pad wear
- Leaking brake fluid
- Squealing noise whilst driving
- An illuminated dashboard warning light
- Reduced stopping power
- Unpleasant smell
If you have noticed any of these issues, then you may need to have your brake calipers replaced.
Chances are, you may need to have your brake pads and discs replaced before you have the calipers replaced.
Worn brake pads and warped discs can caused damage to the brake calipers, meaning that the system won’t dissipate heat effectively.
By having your brakes checked sooner rather than later, a mechanic will be able to spot any minor issues before they evolve into major problems.
Can I Drive With A Bad Brake Caliper?
You should not drive with a seized or faulty brake caliper.
If the brake caliper is stuck, damaged, or bad, this can pose real dangers for both you and other road users.
Your brakes will be less effective, and so you may find it harder to stop your car in an emergency.
Not to mention the long-term damage that this could cause to your car’s braking system.
You should book a brake repair as soon as possible to have the issue resolved.
Can I Replace a Brake Caliper Myself?
When it comes to your car’s brakes, you don’t want to take any chances.
Whilst you can technically carry out a brake caliper replacement yourself if you have the confidence and technical know-how to do so, you should not risk damaging the braking system if you can help it.
If you do want to carry out a brake caliper replacement at home, you will need to raise the car off the ground using a jack.
You will need to know how to bleed the brake system, top up your brake fluid, and inspect each part of the brake system.
Even if you manage to stop a brake caliper from sticking, there is a high chance of it seizing again.
If you are going to try and rebuild a caliper yourself, you should not buy a used caliper – it could be worse than the one you are replacing.
Only use a brand new caliper if you plan on doing this yourself - but we strongly advise that you consider getting a skilled mechanic to do this for you.
What If My Brake Caliper Isn't Broken?
If it turns out that your brake caliper isn’t to blame, then any number of other brake components could be causing problems with your vehicle.
Be it the brake pedal, pistons, disc brake pads, disc brake rotors, brake drums, brake master cylinder, brake lines, hoses or brake fluid, all brake issues need to be rectified as soon as possible.
How Can I Look After My Car's Braking System?
Given that the braking system is constantly subjected to stress, pollution, dirt, and water, it deserves to be well-looked after.
Make sure that you check and replace your brake fluid levels regularly. You should also follow all the brake lines to each brake to look for leaks.
You can inspect the brake pads and discs, replacing the pads when they are approaching 5mm thickness and the discs if they feel grooved or ridged - or every 20,000 and 40,000 miles, respectively.
Dirt and grime can build up on the calipers, leading to rust and corrosion. You should clean your brakes regularly to prevent this.
If your brakes need to be replaced, then you can find a skilled garage in your local area to do the job right by browsing on BookMyGarage.
We hope you have enjoyed learning about brake calipers.