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Seized Brake Caliper : How To Service A Seized Brake Caliper

Seized Brake Caliper Causing You Trouble?

Have a seized brake caliper on your hands? If your brake caliper is failing, you may be in for some trouble. It plays a crucial role in applying pressure to the brake pads, which then clamp onto the brake disc or rotor to slow down or stop the vehicle.

However, sometimes a brake caliper can seize, causing various issues with the braking performance. In this article, we will explore what a brake caliper is, why it seizes, the symptoms of a seized caliper, and how to fix and prevent it from happening.

If you have a seized brake caliper, it wont allow proper pressure between the caliper, pads, and rotors to create enough friction for the vehicle to stop. When a caliper seizes it should be replaced to prevent damage to the braking system which could cause an accident. Also replace your brake calipers in pairs and ensure you stay on top of your brake fluid for the best results. Brake calipers on average last between 50,000 to 75,000 miles.

What Is A Seized Brake Caliper?

seized brake caliper

Understanding the function of a brake caliper

A brake caliper houses the brake pads and is responsible for the movement of the piston that pushes the pads onto the brake disc. When you press the brake pedal, hydraulic pressure is created, which activates the caliper piston and causes the pads to make contact with the disc. This friction helps to slow down or stop the car.

Common causes of a seized brake caliper

There are several reasons why a brake caliper can seize. One common cause is the build-up of corrosion and rust within the caliper, especially if it has been exposed to the elements for a long time.

Another cause can be the lack of lubrication on the caliper slide pins, which can lead to them becoming stuck or binding. Furthermore, inactivity or infrequent use of the brakes can also result in a seized caliper.

How to diagnose a seized brake caliper

Diagnosing a seized brake caliper is relatively straightforward. Some common symptoms include reduced braking performance, brake dragging or sticking, and even a burning smell or smoke coming from the affected wheel.

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If you notice any of these signs, it is essential to inspect the caliper to determine the cause of the problem.

What are the symptoms of a seized brake caliper?

seized brake caliper symptoms

Reduced braking performance

One of the key symptoms of a seized brake caliper is reduced braking performance. You may notice that it takes longer for your vehicle to come to a complete stop or that the brakes feel less responsive. This can be dangerous, especially in emergency situations, as it increases the stopping distance of your car.

Brake dragging or sticking

If you experience a sensation of the brake dragging or sticking, it could indicate a seized caliper.

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This means that the brake pads are not releasing properly from the disc after you release the brake pedal, causing them to continue applying pressure to the disc even when you are not pressing the brakes. As a result, the affected wheel may feel hot to the touch due to the excessive friction.

A great way to test for this is to take squirt bottle with plain water and spray the rotor a time or two after a short 2 minute drive. If the rotor instantly starts steaming it means its too hot from the caliper seizing. This is a great way to check for a seized brake caliper.

Burning smell or smoke coming from the affected wheel

A seized brake caliper can generate a burning smell or even produce smoke coming from the affected wheel.

This is caused by the continuous friction between the brake pads and the disc, which creates heat. If you notice this symptom, it is crucial to address the issue promptly to prevent further damage to the brake system.

Here’s a simpler list though of some brake issues you may have if your brakes seize:

  • Reduced braking ability
  • Reduction in immediate braking power
  • Overheating and burning smell from brake pads
  • Premature fault and failure of brake pads
  • Uneven rotors or warped rotors

If you have any of these symptoms on your car, it’s a good idea to get your car’s braking system inspected as soon as possible. Your brakes are subject to normal wear and tear but they are a very crucial part of our safety.

How to fix a seized brake caliper

replacing a brake caliper

Fixing a seized brake caliper will depend on the extent of the damage and whether it can be repaired or needs to be replaced. Here are some potential solutions:

Inspecting the caliper for damage

The first step is to visually inspect the caliper for any signs of damage, such as corrosion, leaking fluid, or a stuck caliper piston. If the caliper is severely damaged or cannot be repaired, you may need to consider buying a brand new caliper.

Most of the time this is the best course of action. Brakes are one of the most simple things to repair on your vehicle and one of the most complex at the same time. A lot of calipers actually go bad because the boot the keeps out dirt and moisture usually fails. Over time it becomes brittle, cracks, tears, and allows moisture and dirt to get inside the caliper. 

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This causes the caliper to rust from the inside out. As I stated earlier as well, make sure you check the pins on each caliper as well and lubricate them to make sure they can move properly.

Rebuilding the caliper

If the caliper appears to be in good condition with minimal damage, it may be possible to rebuild it by replacing the caliper seals and cleaning the caliper slide pins. This can help restore proper functionality and prevent further issues with the caliper seizing.

This is a much more cost effective option, but doesn’t always work. The only way to really do this correctly is to remove the caliper and once you do that, you have to bleed the brakes. Just replace it as I stated above. 

Replacing the caliper

In some cases, the best solution is to replace the entire caliper. This is particularly true if the caliper’s damage is extensive or if there are concerns about its reliability. Replacing the caliper will ensure that you have a fully functional and safe braking system.

I never rebuild my calipers, most of the time I get my normal 50-70k miles out of them and decide to just replace them. They really aren’t that expensive, and it’s a very critical piece to our stopping power.

If you need to price out exact fit replacement calipers for your vehicle, hit the image below and put in your year, make, and model. This will give you a list of all direct fit calipers and brakes for your vehicle! Good luck enthusiats!

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Image : Advance Auto Parts

Tips for preventing brake calipers from seizing

brake caliper porsche

Maintaining the brake system

Regular maintenance of the brake system is crucial in preventing caliper seizure. This includes checking the brake fluid level regularly and replacing it when necessary, as well as inspecting the brake pads and discs for any signs of wear or damage. Addressing any issues promptly can prevent them from leading to a seized brake caliper.

Make sure you check your brake pads often, look for signs of uneven brake pad wear. Having uneven pad wear is a sure sign of either a warped rotor or a seized caliper.

Properly lubricating the caliper slide pins

Applying lubrication to the caliper slide pins is essential for their smooth operation and to prevent them from becoming stuck or binding. It is recommended to use high-quality silicone-based lubricants specifically designed for brake systems. Regularly inspecting and lubricating the slide pins can help maintain the caliper’s functionality.

Protecting the caliper from corrosion

Since corrosion and rust are common causes of a seized caliper, taking steps to protect the caliper from these elements is crucial. This can include using brake caliper paint or using a corrosion inhibitor spray on the caliper’s exposed surfaces. Additionally, avoiding driving through areas with excessive salt or water accumulation can help prevent caliper corrosion.

In conclusion, a seized brake caliper can lead to significant issues with the braking performance of a vehicle. It is important to understand the symptoms and causes of a seized caliper to diagnose and address the problem promptly.

Whether it requires a caliper rebuild or replacement, proper maintenance and proactive measures can help prevent future caliper seizures. Remember to regularly inspect and service your vehicle’s braking system for optimal performance and safety.

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