If your brake calipers are old and seized. Then it’s a good time to look at brake caliper costs. But take a note that a lot of caliper makers out there, promise a lot. But some of their promises are not fulfilled.
- What Is A Brake Caliper?
- Symptoms Of A Bad Caliper
- Brake Caliper Cost?
- How To Replace Caliper DIY?
The brake caliper has a crucial role in the braking system. And its role is when the brakes are applied, the caliper applies pressure on the brake pads and then begins the braking process. This is not a complicated procedure. But it has to be perfect all the time because a driver relies on the brakes in order to stop the vehicle.
In cars that have malfunctioning braking calipers. The braking procedure doesn’t work as it should and the brakes don’t perform well. For example, one caliper is seized and slows down the car too much. In this case, you will feel that you lose power and something wrong is going on with your engine. But you shouldn’t worry, because bad brake calipers can cause your car to slow down more often.
In this article, we are going to cover the basics of brake calipers. How do they work? Then we are going to take a look at the types of brake calipers. We are going to cover all of the symptoms of a bad brake caliper. We are also going to cover what is the cheapest way to fix them and also the brake caliper cost. And finally, we are going to show you how you can replace them DIY. So, follow along.
What Is A Brake Caliper?
The brake caliper is an essential part of your braking system. Without brake calipers, the brake system would be incomplete. The calipers are clamp-like devices that cover the rotor and apply pressure on the disk when there is input from the brake pedal.
Every modern vehicle has disc brakes at least in the front. In the past, another format of brakes called drum brakes were used. But their braking performance was very poor and they stop working after some hard braking. Then some new solutions had to be made to improve the braking distance and safety. That is where the disc brakes come into play.
The disc brakes consist of 4 components. And these components are. Master cylinder, brake calipers, brake discs, and brake pads.
The master cylinder is mounted on the firewall of the car and this master cylinder builds the pressure for the system to work. That pressure goes in the brake lines and then to the calipers. The calipers then press the brake pads and the brake pads apply the pressure on the discs. Making the car come to a stop.
Inside the brake caliper, there are pistons that work in a way when you apply the brakes. These pistons expand and apply pressure on the pads. Making the braking process very easy and effective.
Types Of Brake Calipers
There are a couple of types of brake calipers. These depend on the size of the disk that the calipers cover. Depending much on the application. They can go from a single-piston and up to six-piston calipers in some modern and high-performance cars.
The more pistons you have, the more surface needs the caliper to cover. And that translates to bigger disks and better stopping distance. But also, bigger brakes mean bigger brake caliper costs. Brake calipers that have a lot of pistons tend to have a lot higher price than other calipers. These four or six-piston calipers will cost double or triple the amount of money to replace compared to a regular caliper.
Symptoms Of Bad Brake Calipers
When brake calipers go bad, they develop symptoms, similar to other components in our vehicles. It is of big importance to notice these symptoms and make sure that your brakes are in check.
The brake system is probably the most important aspect of your car. Because it allows you to brake on time and avoid accidents. This means that this system has probably saved your life many times.
In this chapter, we are going to discuss the symptoms of bad brake calipers and how you can notice if a caliper is bad.
The Pistons Are Seized
The most notable symptom of bad brake calipers is seized pistons. The pistons are the parts that move in and out of the caliper to apply the pressure on the pads. So, if your pistons are not working, your car will have bad braking as well.
These pistons are made to be durable and withstand a great amount of heat, but sometimes they fail and they get stuck in one position. If they are open, your car will brake less and will be more likely to involve you in an accident. Or if they are stuck closed it may cause your pads to be in contact with the disk and wear out the pads and disk. You may not notice this at first, but you will notice when there will be nothing left on the disk and your car will be hard to move from a stand-still position.
Heat On The Wheels
If your pistons are stuck in an open position, you will notice heat on the wheel that is affected. If the pads come into contact with the disk all the time, a lot of heat will be generated. And when you inspect the wheel, you are going to notice a lot of pad wear and brake dust on the wheel affected compared to the other wheel.
Lock Up Of The Wheel
Also, when the pistons are stuck open it may cause a lock up on the wheel. This can be noticed when you apply pressure on the brakes. The car comes to a stop, but when you apply the gas, the car doesn’t like to move forward or backward.
This means that your pistons on the caliper are completely frozen and the rotors cannot move freely. If unable to move it means that your car is stuck in the same position and you can’t move the vehicle.
The only solution for this problem will be to call roadside assistance and load the car on the trailer. Or, to do a brake job on the spot, which is a bit difficult to perform.
Make sure that you notice these issues and you will probably avoid this problem of your car getting completely inoperable.
Car Pulls On One Side
You may also notice that when you brake sharply the car pulls on one side. This pull can be caused by brakes that are working unevenly. If one caliper is seized up in a closed position. Only one wheel will brake and you will notice a light pull on that side. This can also take you into some potentially dangerous situations. For example, you brake in traffic and if your brakes pull you on the one side you may end up hitting someone.
Uneven wear is also one of the possibilities when you have bad brake calipers. If your calipers don’t work in perfect harmony, one of the rotors may go off prematurely. For example, if your brake piston doesn’t close fully, it may cause the pad to rub with the rotor, and eat the rotor and pad.
In order to notice this symptom, it is recommended to do a regular inspection of your wheels. Inspect how much surface is left on the rotors and pads. They should pretty much mimic one another. Because they are changed at the same time. If one side has a bigger surface left than the other, your calipers are probably faulty. This means that you need to replace your caliper that is affected when you are going to do your next brake job.
Warped rotors may also ruin your calipers. Imagine that you have a warped rotor and when you apply the brakes the pistons do not work properly because they are not in contact with a smooth surface. This may cause the pads and pistons to wear off prematurely and cause you some high brake caliper cost. The best thing to do is to make regular inspections of your car.
If you have bad brake calipers, you will also notice some vibrations. These vibrations may appear when you apply your foot on the brake. You will notice how the car desperately tries to brake and some vibrations may be felt in the cabin. Especially in the wheel that you are holding to steer the car. These vibrations will be pronounced if your rotors or pads are pretty much done from the uneven wear that the frozen caliper is creating.
Inspect the side where this vibration is coming from and see if the rotors and pads are any good. Make sure that everything is in check. Because brakes are an essential tool in our daily driving routine.
Increased Fuel Mileage
Increased fuel mileage can also be one of the symptoms of a seized brake calipers. If your brake calipers are seized, you will need to apply extra pressure on the gas pedal. The more gas you give, the more fuel your car spends. And this in other words translates into more frequent stops at the gas station.
If you notice that your gas mileage is worsened. It is a good idea to check the rotors and pads. Give them one little inspection and see the amount of wear and compare them. Another good way how you can check this is by not washing your alloy wheels. Leave them like that for a few hundred miles and inspect how much brake dust is collected. If one of the alloys has a bigger amount of dust. That means that the wear is uneven and you have a potential problem with your caliper. Don’t wait for the brake caliper cost to climb up.
Brake Light Is On
The brake light may also turn on, these emergency brake lights usually turn on in some situations when there is a loss of traction and immediately turn off after the brake balance is returned to normal.
Make sure that this light doesn’t appear very often. Because if it does, one of the probable reasons is a seized-up caliper. If your caliper is seized then you should look at the brake caliper replacement cost. More about the cost we are going to discuss in the next sections.
One of the last symptoms of a broken brake caliper is poor braking. If your car brakes poorly and it pulls on one side. Usually, your brake caliper is seized. That means that you don’t have brakes on one of your wheels. This is a dangerous situation because you are probably used to when to apply your brakes. So, if one of your brakes doesn’t work, it means that your brake distance will be increased by double. And also, braking on a single caliper can put a lot of stress on the functioning caliper.
This stress may cause the caliper to prematurely go bad also. That means that you will need to completely swap your braking system.
Brake Caliper Cost, Rebuild or Replace them?
If you are looking for options for your seized brake caliper. You have two options, replace it with a new one and look for brake caliper replacement costs. Or rebuild them. Yes, you can rebuild these calipers.
There are a lot of kits that offer you to refurbish your brake calipers for a fraction of the price of a single new caliper. You can get these in your local auto parts store or look for them online. It doesn’t matter. But always look to get a quality kit. Don’t go for the cheaper options because they will not last for long.
The procedure is fairly simple, you need to take your caliper out and replace the seized piston with a new one. This job also requires that you replace the seals in order for the system to work properly.
They also come at a really affordable price of around $50 if you do the job by yourself. If you take your car to a mechanic’s shop, it may cost you a lot more than this. Maybe more than $200 with all the parts and labor. Labor is quite expensive and you need to take that into consideration.
We will also share a video how you can replace these pistons without removing the caliper from the car, this means no fluid lines removal. Everything is done on the car.
Brake Caliper Cost?
Brake calipers are a bit more expensive than repair kits. But if you want to be on the safe side, this is the way to go. because you don’t have any guarantee with the repair kits.
A single brake caliper for a Chevy Cruze can come to a cost of $200 on eBay. This is for a front-wheel caliper. This is not that expensive compared to a brake caliper for a BMW 5 Series, which can come to a cost of $400 for a single brake caliper, and if you want to do both, they will set you back for more than $800.
If you go even up into the high-performance cars, a single brake caliper can cost more than $1000. All these prices are without the labor hours that will be spent on the installation. With the labor, these prices will go up for about $150-$350 depending on the make and model, and also on the shop that you are taking your car to.
Brake caliper cost doesn’t come cheap, but in my opinion, it is worth it. You don’t want to have a faulty brake system on your car and your car not be able to stop when you need it the most.
Which Brand Should I Choose?
When you go online, or at your auto parts store, always look to replace your brake calipers with an OEM replacement part. This will make your life easier because OEM parts are bolt-on. You don’t need to make modifications. Just plug and play.
Also, you need to have a matching caliper, you can’t run one side with 4 piston calipers and the other side with 2 piston calipers clearly. Also, the build quality is on the side of the OEM. They are made to last and be durable. They are probably going to last you for a couple hundred thousand miles. During this time, you are probably going to sell and buy a few more cars.
Also, be aware of cheap copycat brands. These can come cheap, but their quality is poor and they will give up after 30,000 miles or so. You probably don’t want to have another brake caliper job that soon.
With OEM also comes a guarantee, and this will give you some reassurance that these calipers are actually good and won’t ruin your discs.
Going aftermarket is also a good idea if you want to do a full brake job. This is an especially good way if you are working on a project car. There are plenty of companies on the market that offer a full brake kit for old classic cars.
These kits are modern and will improve the braking distance compared to the old brakes by a big margin. Your car will brake like a brand new model. And these kits are also coming at affordable prices. Ranging from $1,000 up to $4,000. Depending on how much you want to spend. Just to note that this price is for four wheels. Everything new, brakes, pads, and rotors.
How To Replace My Calipers DIY?
You can also try to do this job by yourself. And you don’t need much tooling for this. Regular wrenches will do the job. But to note that you will need something like a pump to flush the old brake fluid from the lines and replace it with a new one. We are going to describe the whole process of replacing a caliper and also, we are going to attach a video on how to do it.
Step 1: Remove The Wheel
First, you need to remove the wheel. Unbolt the four bolts that are holding your wheel and jack up your car. Then remove the wheel.
Step 2: Unbolt The Caliper
In this step, you need to unbolt the caliper. The caliper is held by one screw at the back. Make sure that you find it. Slowly unbolt the caliper and make sure that it’s loose.
Step 3: Remove The Caliper
Now it’s time to remove the caliper from the caliper bracket. Just pull it out from the side. If it’s stuck and doesn’t want to come off you can use a hammer. If it still doesn’t want to come off then remove it with the disk.
Step 4: Remove The Brake Line
Now remove the brake line. Make sure that you don’t lose any of the fluid in the process.
Step 5: Mount The New Caliper In Place
Mount the new caliper into place and tighten the bolt that is holding it.
Step 6: Connect the brake lines
Now connect the brake lines. Make sure that you open the canister of the braking fluid and press the brake pedal to remove all the air from the brake system.
Step 7: Top off your brake fluid
And lastly, you need to top off the brake fluid that you lost during this process. Make sure that the brake fluid can is full. Mount the tire and you are good to go.
In this article, we discussed the symptoms of a bad brake caliper. We covered all of them and explained in great detail how to notice if your caliper is broken. We also discussed the brake caliper cost and the alternatives in the aftermarket. Lastly, we explained how you can replace your caliper at home with common tools. It is really simple to do.
Just be aware that this repair requires a bit of knowledge. Make sure that you know what to do before you start doing it. And this involves a lot of research on the topic. This will guarantee that your brake caliper is installed correctly and you will not search again for brake caliper cost in the near future.