What is a Brake Caliper?

The modern car is equipped with a disc brake system that allows for easier motion and braking. This technology is vital in the further development of cars as they travel at higher speeds for longer distances. One thing all disc brake cars have in common is the brake system in which they use. This braking is done by a part called the brake caliper.

A brake caliper is the device that applies pressure to the wheels of a car that force it to slow down or stop. Since your car’s brake system relies on so many parts, we cannot refer to the calipers as simply the brakes. These parts may seem to have a single purpose, but they provide multiple services to the wheels and the car overall.

Your brake calipers are most important for their ability to apply force to the rotor disc on the wheel in order to stop the vehicle in motion. It does so by receiving pressure through the brake line via brake fluid.

When the brake pedal is pressed, brake fluid is pushed from the brake fluid reservoir through the brake pump which regulates pressure inside the brake line. That pressure is transferred down the hydraulic brake line to the caliper, which then clamps the brake pads against the brake rotor. This friction between the brake pads and the wheel is what slows the wheels down.

Brake calipers serve another function as well. The caliper bracket acts as a support structure holding the brake rotor in place, keeping the individual wheel aligned. Depending on the location of the brake caliper on your car, it may be made of different components.

Brake calipers on front wheels may have dual pistons to allow for stronger braking, while rear wheels can have a single piston caliper since the rear wheels require less force to brake.

Symptoms of a Bad Brake Caliper

Contrary to popular belief, the brake caliper itself rarely experiences damage or wear. However it’s the brake pads and brake rotor that deteriorate over time.

A common sign there are issues around your brake caliper is a loud screeching sound when braking. This is likely due to worn brake pads, and the unpleasant sound comes from the rotor scratching against worn brake pads. When this happens it is important to the brake pads replaced.

Another similar symptom of bad brake calipers is a worn out or warped rotor. If the rotor holding the caliper to the wheel is off center, then the brake pads will unevenly apply pressure to the wheel. This can cause too much friction on parts of the brake pad as well as the rotor itself. This can cause the rotor to wear out and make your brakes less effective.

Since the act of braking creates a lot of friction, residual heat is also created by the brake caliper. Too much heat can cause the pistons inside the caliper to become damaged which weakens the brake caliper’s effectiveness.

Brake Caliper Replacement Cost

In the event you need to replace a brake caliper, you may need to get your hands dirty. Of course, doing so will require you to remove the wheel first, so your car will need to be at least partially lifted.

The average cost to replace a brake caliper is between $400 – $700. The new caliper will cost around $200 – $300 while the labor will account for the rest of the total.

If you’re wondering how to replace brake calipers yourself, you will need an array of socket wrenches to unbolt the wheel, the brake caliper, and the brake pads form the car. The most important part of changing your brake caliper is to observe your brake fluid hose. If this is damaged or leaks, then brake fluid will corrode on the other ocmponents of your car.

Also remember that after replacing your brake caliper, you need to bleed your brake lines of any air bubbles. Attaching the brake line hose to a new caliper will allow air to enter where the brake fluid operates. This air can negate the action of your brake fluid by not allowing pressure to build up. So make sure to open the bleed valve enough to let air get out.