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5 Signs That Point To A Bad Brake Caliper
A faulty brake caliper can present itself in many ways.
Here are some of the most frequent signs:
1. Leaking Brake Calipers
A broken or faulty caliper piston seal can lead to a brake fluid leak inside the old caliper.
It can affect your brake system performance and eventually result in bad brake control.
2. Vehicle Veers Off To One Side While Driving
If you notice your vehicle steering to one side of the road when you press the brake pedal, it’s probably a problematic caliper.
It could be because you have uneven wear on your brake pads (in disc brakes) caused by a stuck caliper piston. It could also be because you have failing brake calipers that are not exerting sufficient, uniform braking pressure on both sides.
3. Brake Noise
A damaged brake caliper can cause the brake pads to drag against the brake rotor (brake discs) — for instance, when there’s a stuck caliper piston.
This can produce excess brake dust that may stick to the car’s tires, brake caliper, and brake rotor. While brake dust is a normal byproduct of the braking process, an excessive amount can create squealing noises or an uneven rotor surface that generates vibrations while braking.
On top of that, if your brake pads are getting old, the backing plates (that are situated behind the brake pads) may start grinding against brake rotors, damaging them.
While brake noise may not be a direct symptom of failing brake calipers, it’s best to get your brake system checked if you ever encounter these.
4. The Brake Pedal Feels Soft
A soft or spongy brake pedal is when you feel the brake pedal’s pressure change when applying the brakes. There may also be little to no resistance in the brakes, and the pedal may keep sinking.
This could be due to a seized caliper piston that creates excessive clearance between the brake pad and the brake rotor.
It’s also possible that you have a damaged brake line or there’s air in the brake fluid. Whatever the case, if your brake pedal feels weird, it’s best to consult a mechanic and get your brake parts checked.
Faulty brake calipers can eventually damage the master cylinder and the rest of the braking system.
5. Warning Lights Turn Up
Most cars are equipped with a built-in warning light that’ll alert you if there’s any problem with the braking system. However, it’d be tricky to determine if the problem is with your brake calipers or some other brake part.
So, if any of the previous signs show up along with your warning lights, it’s probably your brake calipers. In this case, get your braking system checked by your mechanic to identify the problem.
Brake calipers can cost about $300-$400 per pair but can go up to $700 for expensive, luxury cars. To that, you can expect to pay about $100-$150 for labor charges.
So in total, a brake caliper replacement can range from $300-$900. This includes the cost of your new brake caliper, brake inspection, labor costs, and any other repair costs you may need.
You may also need to replace other brake parts or get a brake pad replacement, depending on the severity of the auto repair diagnosis.
How Urgent Is A Brake Caliper Replacement?
Brake calipers play an important role in the functioning of your brake system. They are responsible for creating the friction that slows down the car when you press the brakes.
As a result, broken or failing brake calipers can cause brake failure and other issues.
In most cases, you’ll have to press your brakes several times to stop the car. But you could end up having trouble stopping the car altogether.
So it’s best to get your brake caliper repair done as soon as possible.
3 Brake Caliper Replacement FAQs
Let’s take a closer look at brake calipers and understand how they function.
1. What Is A Brake Caliper?
Most cars are equipped with a disc brake system in the front, but some may have it as the rear brake as well. A brake caliper is a very important part of the disc brake system. It houses the brake pads and brake caliper piston.
Here’s how it works:
When you apply the brakes, a small piston inside your car’s master cylinder puts pressure on the brake fluid.
The brake line then carries this pressurized brake fluid (in the form of hydraulic pressure) to the front and rear brake calipers.
The brake calipers consist of a large piston or multiple smaller pistons that multiply this hydraulic pressure. They convert the hydraulic pressure back into mechanical force that presses the brake pad against the rotor, resulting in friction that slows down your car.
In short, your car’s brake calipers are responsible for creating the necessary friction that brings your car to a halt.
2. How Often Should You Change A Brake Caliper?
Brake calipers are tough and do not need replacing that often.
In general, a new brake caliper can last for about 70,000 to 100,000 miles, maybe even more. Or, depending on your car and driving habits, it can last 10 years or so.
However, if you feel like your car has a bad brake caliper, your mechanic should be able to perform a brake inspection and replace the brake caliper piston and other brake parts if needed.
3. How To Replace A Brake Caliper?
While it is possible to DIY your brake caliper replacement, most mechanics would recommend against it unless you have proper mechanical knowledge.
Even then, it’s best to take your car to a mechanic. Being a critical engine component, incorrectly replaced brake calipers can cause more harm than good.
That said, here’s a general how-to on tackling this repair:
Park the car on a high platform and engage the parking brake.
Using a jack, elevate the required part of the car (front or rear brake calipers) for a brake inspection.
Loosen and remove the wheel and tire assembly using a lug nut wrench.
Place a pan below the caliper and remove the brake hose by loosening the caliper bolts. Remember to tightly plug in the vehicle’s brake line using a rubber seal/cap to minimize brake fluid loss.
Next, loosen the caliper mounting bolts and remove the old caliper with a screwdriver.
If you’re working with fixed calipers, proceed to remove the brake pads from the caliper bracket (not necessary for floating calipers).
Next, place and align the new caliper to the rotor and install the brake pads into the mounting bracket.
Tighten the mounting bolt and reinstall the brake hose and brake fluid line. Remember to refill the brake master cylinder if needed.
Bleed the brakes, and confirm if the new caliper is working in the appropriate manner.