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Brake Calipers

Your brake calipers house your brake pads, and when you step on the brakes, hydraulic pressure forces the pads against the rotors and slows the car through friction. Signs of a caliper problem can include a tendency to pull to one side while braking, leaks of brake fluid from around the tires, or a burning smell while braking. Shop Advance for calipers from top brands like Cardone™, Carquest™, ACDelco and more!

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Brake Caliper Components

Carquest PremiumBrake Caliper: Remanufactured, Includes Bracket, Anti-Corrosion Coated, Front

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Picture the handbrakes on a bicycle, and that's much like how your car's disc brakes work. The wheels are connected to smooth steel discs (called rotors), and the calipers enclose the discs. When you step on the brakes, hydraulic pressure through the brake lines actuates the pistons in the calipers. The calipers hold semi-metallic, ceramic, or organic brake pads that are then forced against the rotor to slow your car via friction.

Calipers are reliable, but they can and do fail. A dragging caliper will mean overheated brakes and a strong pull to one side while braking. If you suspect your caliper is dragging, you may want replace the whole unit.

FAQs Concerning Brake Calipers

My calipers are bad, should I replace the brake pads too?
Yes! Many times, the brake pads go bad alongside the brake calipers. Many calipers also come with pre-installed brake pads to make it easier for DIY mechanics to install at home!
Is it difficult to replace brake calipers?
No, it's not too difficult. In short, you're removing the wheel, removing the old caliper and installing a new one, replacing brake fluid, and ensuring the brake pressure is sufficient. It can take as little as an hour per caliper or as much as a day (for all four brake calipers), depending on issues that may arise.
What are some of the items I'll need to get started?
First, you'll need to find brake calipers and brake pads that fit your vehicle by going online or in-store to the nearest Advance Auto Parts. You'll need a lug-nut wrench, the new caliper with pre-installed pads and fresh braking fluid, jack stands and the tools specific to your car.

Signs You Need a New Brake Caliper

  • Brakes seize
  • Lost braking pressure
  • Spongy brake-
  • Brake squealing or noise
  • Pulling to the left or right when braking
  • Uneven brake pad wear

Brake Caliper Types

There are several types of brake calipers that modern vehicles use. Check your Owners Manual or the Advance Auto Parts website to see which brake calipers your vehicle needs.

  • Floating/Sliding Caliper – Puts pressure on the rotor from the inboard side of the vehicle
  • Fixed Caliper – The pistons are fixed within the caliper and put pressure onto the rotor from opposing sides
  • Disc Brakes – Brake calipers and pads put pressure on a brake rotor to slow a vehicle
  • Drum Brakes – Brake shoes put pressure on the interior of a drum to slow a vehicle
  • Brake Caliper Internals
    • Ceramic Brake Pads – Quieter than Semi-Metallic, long lifespan, most-expensive
    • Organic Brake Pads – Quiet, low-dust, low-cost
    • Semi-Metallic Brake Pads – better braking performance, may be noisier

How to Install a Brake Caliper

  • Loosen the lug nuts on the side needing replacing
  • Jack up that end of the vehicle and then finish taking off the wheel
  • Find the brake caliper
  • Compress the caliper piston to relieve pressure on brake rotor
  • Disconnect the brake hose from the caliper. Caution: You may be tempted to clamp the end of the flexible brake hose, but doing so can cause damage to the inside of the brake line that can't be seen. This can lead to a dangerous failure of the brake line.
  • Remove the brake caliper from the wheel assembly
  • Install new brake caliper (easiest with pre-loaded pads)
  • Re-install brake line and bleed the brakes using a helper, the jar method or using a vacuum bleeder
  • Important: Ensure no air is inside the brake lines
  • Test brakes from inside the vehicle to ensure they're well-pressurized
  • Re-install wheels and take vehicle off jack stands

Additional FAQs

Does Advance Auto Parts have more information on the braking system?
Yes! Check out Christa Hogan's 'Braking Fundamentals: Brake Pads, Rotors, and Fluid'.
My caliper is good, but my brake pads are bad. What do I do?
Fear not DIY Mechanic, Advance Auto Parts has a handy 'How To Replace Brake Pads' write-up just for you!
I've replaced my brake calipers and brake pads. Now, how do I replace the brake fluid?
If you're stuck on replacing your brake fluid, check out the Advance Auto Parts 'How to Do A Brake Fluid Change' for more information.

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