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The Ultimate Guide To Brake Caliper Replacements (2021)

March 12, 2021

Think you need a brake caliper replacement?

The brake caliper is a part of your car’s disc brakes that houses the brake pads and pistons. When you apply the brakes, the brake caliper forces the brake pad to clamp down on the wheel rotor to cause friction. This friction is what slows down your car.

If you’re using a damaged caliper, your brakes won’t generate enough friction, which can make them less effective and compromise your road safety. It’s one of those situations where you need to take your car to a mechanic right away.

In this article, we’ll take a brief look at what a brake caliper is and highlight some red flags associated with faulty brake calipers. We’ll then discuss how often you’ll need to replace brake calipers, how much it’ll cost, and the best way to keep your brake calipers in check.

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Let’s get started.

What Is A Brake Caliper?

The brake caliper is a crucial component of your car’s disc brake system since it houses the brake pads and pistons.

How does a brake caliper work?

When you apply brakes, the following usually happens:

Essentially, a brake caliper’s job is to help create the friction that brings your car to a halt.

But, what if your brake calipers don’t work, or what if they’re damaged?

Then, your calipers won’t be able to exert the necessary pressure to create sufficient friction, making it challenging to slow down your car. This compromises your road safety.

When Do You Need A Brake Caliper Replacement?

Here are some tell-tale signs indicating you need a brake caliper replacement soon.

Consider getting them replaced if you experience any of these brake caliper issues:

1. Leaking Brake Calipers

When the caliper piston seal gets worn out or damaged, brake fluid starts to leak onto the caliper.

This affects your brake system performance since you’re losing brake fluid — which ultimately reduces the braking force that a brake caliper piston can generate. 

So, if you notice a brake fluid leak, take your car immediately to a mechanic and get the brake caliper piston and its seal inspected.

2. Your Car Veers Off To One Side When Braking

Sometimes, when you slam the brakes, you’ll notice that the car veers off to one side.

This usually indicates uneven brake pad wear on either side of your vehicle. It could also mean that you’ve got bad brake calipers that can’t exert uniform braking pressure on both sides.

To be safe, take your car to a mechanic to inspect both your brake pads and brake calipers to determine which component might warrant a replacement.

3. You Hear Noises When Braking

If you notice high-pitched squealing or groaning noises whenever you hit the brakes, it usually means that the brake pads within the caliper have worn out.

When the brake pads wear out entirely, the backing plates behind them start grinding at the discs and produce brake dust that sticks to your car’s wheels. Eventually, this can damage both your brake caliper and brake rotor.

Have your brake system inspected to verify whether you need just a brake pad replacement or must replace the brake calipers as well.

4. The Brake Pedal Feels Soft

When your brake pedal feels soft when you press down on it, it can mean that air has seeped into the brake fluid.

Since air is compressible, it reduces the pressure that your brake line can transmit; and reduced pressure results in lower stopping power.

If you feel like you’ve got a spongy brake pedal, chances are you’re dealing with failing brake calipers. Be sure to call a mechanic as soon as possible to inspect your brake assembly and see if you have a damaged caliper.

5. Your Brake Warning Lights Are On

Some cars come with a built-in warning light that alerts you if your brake system isn’t working as expected.

However, the warning light is usually representative of your entire brake system. So it can light up when any of the brake components aren’t functioning properly.

If your brake warning lights are on, take your car in for a full inspection, so your mechanic can determine whether you have a bad brake caliper or another issue.

How Often Should You Carry Out A Brake Caliper Replacement?

Brake calipers are usually quite resilient and don’t require frequent replacements. 

Brake calipers are designed to last the lifetime of a vehicle if taken care of properly. However, due to road conditions, environmental factors, and driving habits, they will inevitably see their share of wear and tear. If you have a modern vehicle, your brake caliper can likely last at least 100,000 miles or 10 years.

Additionally, your brake pad thickness and brake fluid levels directly impact your brake calipers’ performance.

How?

Over time, corrosion and debris can build up on your brake pads, and this could prevent them from sliding out of the brake grooves when you release the brake pedal. This can result in a stuck caliper which prevents uniform braking action, causing your car to pull to one side.

If the brake fluid level is low or air has seeped into a brake line, your vehicle’s brake calipers wouldn’t be as effective as they used to be and can quickly become damaged.

How Much Does Brake Caliper Replacement Cost?

The cost of brake caliper replacement varies depending on your car’s make and year.

In general, you can expect to pay between $300 and $800 for your caliper replacement — this includes the cost of purchasing a replacement caliper as well as the labor to install it.

For an accurate quote, simply fill out this online form by entering your car’s make, model, and engine.

How To Replace Your Brake Calipers

While it’s possible to replace your brake caliper by yourself, it’s not recommended.

Why?

Your brake caliper is a critical component of your disc brake system, and you must be very careful about how you replace it — do your brake job the wrong way, and you could be risking your road safety.

Moreover, a brake caliper replacement requires specialized knowledge and tools to get the job done, like a lug nut wrench, breaker bar, brake bleeding tool, and more.

Your best course of action is always to take your car to a good auto repair shop or have a skilled mobile mechanic come over for a brake service.

When performing a brake caliper replacement, your mechanic would:

1. Stop the car on a level platform and engage your parking brake to prevent the vehicle from rolling.

2. Use a jack to slowly elevate the part of the car that needs to be examined (for example, the front or rear caliper).

3. Carefully loosen and remove the wheel and tire assembly using a lug nut wrench.

4. Place a pan below the old caliper and then slowly remove the brake line (aka brake hose) by unscrewing the banjo bolt.

5. Tightly plug the vehicle’s brake line using a rubber seal or cap to minimize brake fluid loss. 

6. Loosen and take off the old caliper mounting bolts.

7. Remove the old caliper with a screwdriver or pry bar.

8. Remove the brake pads from the caliper bracket (if you’re using a fixed caliper brake — not required for floating caliper brakes).

9. Place and align the new caliper to the brake rotor.

10. After installing the new brake caliper, they’ll have to install the brake pads into the mounting bracket as well if they’re using fixed caliper brakes.

11. Tighten the new caliper mounting bolts.

12. Take off the rubber cap blocking the brake fluid and reinstall the brake hose.

13. Refill the brake master cylinder (if needed).

14. Bleed the brakes using the suitable brake bleeding tool in tandem with the bleeder screw.

15. Confirm that the caliper assembly is working as expected.

Pretty tricky, right?

That’s why you should always let a professional mechanic handle your brake repair.  

When hiring a mechanic for a brake job, always ensure that they:

Luckily, there’s an easy way to find mechanics that meet all these criteria:

The Best Way To Keep Your Brake Calipers In Check

The easiest way to take care of your brake calipers in the middle of your busy schedule is to have a mobile mechanic drop in and perform an inspection and a replacement if needed.

RepairSmith is a convenient mobile car repair and maintenance solution.

Here’s why you should turn to RepairSmith for all your brake caliper needs:

Functional Brake Calipers = Optimal Brake Performance

The brake caliper is a critical part of your disc brake system, and it has a direct impact on your vehicle’s brake performance and road safety.

If you notice any of the red flags we mentioned, consider getting your brake calipers inspected ASAP.

Luckily, keeping your brake calipers in check is convenient and easy with RepairSmith.

Their certified mobile technicians come to you and can replace your brake calipers right in your driveway.

So, if you’re looking for an accessible and convenient repair service for your caliper replacement, give RepairSmith a try!