The brake calipers are some of the most important components that are part of modern disc brake systems. They work together with the brake pads and rotors, along with the rest of the hydraulic system, to slow and stop the vehicle. When the pedal is pressed, brake fluid pressure is pushed through the master cylinder to the caliper, which extends the piston and forces the brake pads against the rotors to slow the vehicle. Over time, brake calipers are subject to the intense heat that is created when braking, and can eventually go out, which will interfere with the vehicle’s braking and negatively affect its handling and safety characteristics. When a caliper does go bad, the vehicle will usually display a few symptoms that can alert the driver that a potential problem has occurred that should be serviced.
1. Brake fluid leaks
One of the most common symptoms of a bad or failing caliper is brake fluid leakage. The calipers 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 caliper 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.
2. Abnormal sounds
Another symptom of a potential problem with the brake caliper 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 caliper - perhaps that it has come loose or it is binding or sticking. A loose, stuck, or binding caliper will not be able to properly stop the vehicle, and may even lead to premature brake wear.
3. Vehicle pulling
Another common symptom, one of a caliper that probably needs to be replaced, is a vehicle pulling to the left or right. Calipers are exposed to extreme heat from braking, which can sometimes lead to the caliper piston seizing. A seized caliper 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 caliper, as the wheel on that side is traveling slower than the wheel on the opposite side due to the brake drag.
Brake calipers 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 calipers may be having a problem, have the vehicle examined by a professional technician, such as one from YourMechanic, to inspect your brake system and determine if the car needs a caliper replacement.