Calipers are an essential part of the braking system of any vehicle. The calipers press the brake pads against the surface of the rotor to slow or stop the vehicle. The two types of calipers, fixed and floating, are different only in how they are attached.
Fixed calipers are attached firmly to the steering knuckle and spindle. They provide a more evenly distributed braking experience, leading to a smoother feel for the vehicle operator. As they are more expensive but don’t provide a significant operational benefit, they are only used on high-end cars.
Floating calipers sit within caliper brackets, but aren’t fixed into the brackets. Floating calipers are cheaper, lighter, and use fewer parts than fixed calipers. Because there are fewer parts, the floating calipers are less likely to fail prematurely.
Problems with brake calipers
The calipers themselves can last for the entire life of the car if taken care of properly. While the rotors and pads of a brake system will have normal wear from use, and need to be changed with some regularity, the calipers do not unless there is a mechanical problem with them. Most problems that arise with a brake caliper are a result of inactivity and debris:
Inactivity: If a vehicle sits for an extended period of time, the caliper may stick.
If the vehicle is exposed to the elements, debris may collect in the braking system.
If the brakes seem to pull on one side, or the brake does not release completely when you take your foot off of the brake pedal, the brake calipers should be inspected or replaced by a licensed mechanic. Problems with the brake calipers will affect the rest of the braking system, causing brake pads to drag or corrode.