If your car uses a disc and pad braking system, it will have brake calipers. They are an essential part of your brakes and are critical in slowing down and stopping your vehicle. By the end of this article, you will know what brake calipers do, how they work, and how to recognise when you need to have them replaced.
- How Do Brake Calipers Work?
- What Do Brake Calipers Do?
- What Does It Mean To Have A Seized Brake Caliper?
- How Can I Tell If I Need My Brake Calipers Replaced?
- Can I Drive With A Broken Brake Caliper?
- What Happens During A Brake Caliper Replacement?
- How Much Does A Brake Caliper Replacement Cost?
- How Can I Save Money On My Brake Calipers?
How Do Brake Calipers Work?
The majority of car models now use a disc and pad braking system. This works by the two components working together – more specifically, the act of friction between the discs and pads. When the brake is pressed, it releases hydraulic fluid which causes the brake calliper to clamp the pads down on the disc, slowing or stopping the car.
What Do Brake Calipers Do?
The caliper essentially works as a clamp. It works by releasing brake fluid through the brake lines, which happens when you put your foot down on the brake pedal. This creates pressure, which is then converted into friction, caused by the clamping motion.
The brake caliper also acts as a bracket to support your brake pads on either side of the disc.
What Does It Mean To Have A Seized Brake Caliper?
If you have a ‘seized’ brake caliper, it simply means it has become stuck. This could be down to a number of reasons. It could be that the piston becomes stuck within the caliper. The brake pads may become skewed and get stuck. On single-piston calipers, the slide pins may seize, and sometimes the pads can get stuck to the disc, meaning the car won’t move at all.
The main cause of brake calipers seizing is inactivity. If you don’t plan to drive your car for a while, try and take it for a short drive when you can – especially if you leave your car outside rather than in a garage.
Corrosion is another cause of seized brake calipers. Your brakes are exposed to extreme temperatures and all-weather types, which can lead to a build-up of corrosion and cause failure.
How Can I Tell If I Need My Brake Calipers Replaced?
Chances are, you’ll need your brake pads and discs replaced before you need the calipers replaced. However, if your brake pads are worn, or the discs are warped, this can damage your brake calipers. The system won’t be able to dissipate the heat as they are supposed to, which will lead to damage.
Here are some signs that your brake calipers are damaged and may need replacing.
Car May Pull To The Side When Braking
If your calipers are damaged, you may feel your car pull to one side whilst operating the brakes. This can also happen when your calipers are stuck. This may happen when the car has been sitting in one place for a while and hasn’t been used. It could be down to a build-up of dirt, corrosion to the calipers themselves, or extreme temperatures.
Uneven Wear On Brake Pads and/or Tyres
You may begin to notice uneven wear on either, or both, your tyres, and your brake pads. This can cause issues, as if one set of brake pads isn’t working as well as the others, you will not have the correct amount of braking power. This could result in an accident. If you notice uneven wear, be sure to have the pads or tyre replaced when you take the calipers to be looked at.
Braking Distance Increases
If you are finding that your braking distance increases – the amount of time it takes your car to stop when you put your food on the braking pedal – you may have a stuck caliper. It could have seized, or not sliding on the pins correctly.
Leaking Brake Fluid
If you notice that you have a brake fluid leak, your brake calipers will not work correctly. Without the correct amount of hydraulic fluid, your calipers can not deliver the friction your pads and discs need to slow or stop the vehicle. If it is the caliper, it will be because a damaged piston may not be sealed properly.
If you can’t see any oil pooling underneath your car whilst it is parked, you should see a warning light appear on your dashboard. It looks like this:
Clunking Sound When Brake Is Engaged
If you come across a clunking noise when you engage the brakes, it may be that your caliper bracket that is responsible for holding the caliper in place has broken. This is particularly dangerous as it could lead to the wheel locking up – if you suspect your caliper bracket has slipped or is broken, have a mechanic look at it as soon as possible.
Squealing Noise Whilst Driving
You may notice a squealing sound coming from your brakes when they are not engaged. This could be caused by a brake caliper getting stuck.
If you notice any of these symptoms, it is worth getting it looked at straight away. It is not worth risking any fault with your brakes. You can compare local garages with us for free today: just enter your vehicle registration and post code and get one of our trustworthy garages to take a look at your brake calipers as soon as you can.
Can I Drive With A Broken Brake Caliper?
It is not a good idea to drive with damaged brake calipers. At the very worst, you could find yourself in an accident caused by unresponsive brake calipers. At the very least, you will end up causing long-term damage to your car – your brake pads and discs may need replacing sooner, which will end up costing you an unexpected amount of money.
If you suspect your brake calipers need fixing or replacing, get booked in at a local garage as soon as you can.
What Happens During A Brake Caliper Replacement?
First, the mechanic will inspect the calipers for leaks or corrosion to determine if they need fixing or replacing.
If there is no corrosion, and the caliper is simply stuck, it can be a simple fix. The mechanic may lubricate the brake or use a tool to apply force to unstick the brake. If there is corrosion, your mechanic may recommend replacing the calipers, which requires taking apart and reassembling the braking system.
Depending on what your mechanic decides to do, the job may take them anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours.
How Much Does A Brake Caliper Replacement Cost?
The cost of your brake caliper replacement depends on the make and model of your car, and the mechanic you take them to. The calipers themselves can cost anywhere from £100 to £300, plus labour, meaning your brake caliper replacement may cost anywhere between £200 to £500.
It may end up being more expensive if your broken calipers have damaged your brakes and pads, as they may need replacing too.
How Can I Save Money On My Brake Calipers?
The easiest way to save money on your brake calipers is to be cautious to not overwork them. Try to avoid leaving your car stationary in cold or wet weather for extended periods of time and avoid braking harshly or abruptly where you can.
Taking your car for a full service every 12 months can help save you money. The mechanic performing your service will check your brake calipers as well as the discs and pads, and other aspects of your braking system. This ensures your car is safe.
You can also save money by comparing prices with our free price comparison tool. Enter your registration number and postcode to start saving money today. Filter by location, price, rating, and availability and choose the garage which best suits your needs. Don’t wait to book in your brake calipers if you suspect they are damaged.