Your calipers have a relatively simple (but critical) role in your car's braking system. These heavy-duty components house the pistons that ultimately push your brake pads into your rotors, allowing your car to stop effectively. Calipers are durable, and their design hasn't changed much, so they typically don't fail or require routine replacement.
However, some situations can cause your calipers to fail. Faulty calipers can cause numerous symptoms, from dragging brakes to severe brake fluid leaks. Ignoring a failing caliper is never a good plan, so it's crucial to understand when to repair them and which options will work best for your situation.
How Do Calipers Fail?
Brake caliper designs can vary between manufacturers, but most consist of a housing, a piston, slide pins, and several seals to keep brake fluid in and dust and moisture out. Your caliper also needs a connection to the hydraulic braking system to supply the pressure that extends the piston and pushes your brake pads against the rotors.
This design leaves several clear failure points and a few that may be a little less apparent. The dust boots and seals tend to be the most vulnerable areas. If either of these fails, debris can enter the piston chamber. At best, this will cause the piston to bind which may cause your brakes to drag. In a worst-case scenario, the seal may fail, allowing brake fluid to escape.
Less obvious scenarios include other components, such as your brake pads and brake fluid hoses. For example, if you allow your brake pads to run too low, the piston can extend beyond its limit. This situation may damage the dust boot and seal, leading to the abovementioned problems. A collapsed brake hose can also cause a caliper to drag by preventing the piston from retracting.
Should You Rebuild or Replace Your Failing Caliper?
The good news is that it's relatively rare for calipers to fail in pairs. Once you notice trouble, it will usually only be on one specific wheel. The possible exception is if you've allowed your brake pads to become too thin. In this case, you may have overextended and damaged your calipers on multiple wheels at once.
Once you've narrowed down the problem to the affected wheel or wheels, you'll usually have two options to repair your brakes: replace the caliper or rebuild it. If both the piston and caliper housing are still in relatively good shape, a brake shop may be able to rebuild your caliper by replacing the dust boot, seal, and slide pins.
On the other hand, a caliper with a worn-out piston or severe rust inside the piston chamber may require replacement. You'll need an experienced brake shop to examine your braking system to determine the best option for your particular situation.
Contact a local auto shop, such as BMS Automotive, to learn more about brake repair.Share
22 July 2022
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