Symptoms of a Bad or Failing Brake Calliper

A vehicle would not be able to stop without a functioning brake calliper. Each wheel of your vehicle has a calliper and rotor in it. The rotors all spin as the vehicle is moving. When you want to slow down your vehicle, you press on the brake pedal which causes the brake callipers and its brake pads to produce friction along with the rotors. It is very rare that you will have a brake calliper sticking but it does happen. If it is happening to your vehicle, it is important that you understand the causes and symptoms to look out for. That way, you can take your vehicle to the nearest mechanic and have them fix or replace your brake calliper right away.

Causes of a Failing Brake Calliper

  1. Calliper Bolts – There are slides on the brake calliper bolts which must always be lubricated. Each bolt has a rubber boot which maintains their lubrication. If this rubber is torn, it could lead to less lubrication and soon cause stickiness with the brake calliper.
  2. Calliper Slides – The calliper has grooves which secure the brake pads in place and allow the pads to slide inward after you put your foot on the brake pedal. However, there are shims on the brake pads which can get caught in these grooves from built up debris that may be there. This will make the brake pads unable to slide, causing calliper sticking.
  3. Brake Hose – Brake hoses eventually get worn out and then break apart inside. This will direct the brake fluid to possibly flow one way only after you apply pressure to the brake pedal. If that happens, the fluid can’t get back into the master cylinder after you take your foot off the brake pedal. The result is brake calliper stickiness.
  4. Calliper Piston – A rubber boot protects the piston on the outside. Often times, when people get their brake pads replaced, the mechanic will accidentally tear the rubber of the pistons. This will cause debris and residue to get piled up inside of the calliper which ultimately affects the functionality of the piston.
  5. Brake Pads – If you don’t replace your brake pads after a while, they are going to get worn out. Then your calliper won’t be able to create the necessary friction against the rotor, causing extreme stickiness in the calliper.

Symptoms and Indications Your Brake Calliper Is Failing

  • Brake fluid leaks

One of the most common symptoms of a bad or failing calliper is brake fluid leakage. The callipers operate using brake fluid pressure from the master cylinder and pedal to extend the piston and slow the vehicle. A rubber seal and boot are what keeps the fluid from leaking out. Over time, with constant exposure to the intense heat generated by braking, these seals will wear out and leak. Any leaks from the calliper will mean a compromise to the pressure sealing capacity of the braking system, which will not only make a mess of brake fluid, but also take away greatly from its ability to stop the vehicle.

  • Abnormal sounds

Another symptom of a potential problem with the brake calliper is abnormal sounds coming from the wheels when braking. If you notice any sort of high pitched noises, or any sudden thud or impact sounds when you apply the brakes, then that may be a sign of a potential problem with the calliper – perhaps that it has come loose or it is binding or sticking. A loose, stuck, or binding calliper will not be able to properly stop the vehicle, and may even lead to premature brake wear.

  • Vehicle pulling

Another common symptom, one of a calliper that probably needs to be replaced, is a vehicle pulling to the left or right. Callipers are exposed to extreme heat from braking, which can sometimes lead to the calliper piston seizing. A seized calliper piston will not be able to automatically retract, which will cause a constant drag onto that wheel. This will cause the vehicle to have a tendency to pull towards the side with the affected calliper, as the wheel on that side is traveling slower than the wheel on the opposite side due to the brake drag.

Brake callipers are an important mechanical component of the braking system, and important to the overall safety and handling characteristics of a vehicle. For this reason, if you suspect that one of your callipers may be having a problem, have the vehicle examined by a professional technician to inspect your brake system and determine if the car needs a calliper replacement.

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