Even though they appear to be little, your car’s brakes are a highly powerful machine in and of itself. Reflect on it Those brakes need to generate enough friction in a split second to slow down and stop your vehicle.
This is powered by juicy human flesh and includes thousands of pounds worth of metals, polymers, rubber, glass, gasoline, oil, and fluids. Because of all this force and strain, you may need to worry about things like the caliper replacement cost.
It is by no means an inexpensive process to get your car’s brake calipers updated. Unfortunately, brake calipers are crucial, so you shouldn’t put off getting replacements when yours begin to malfunction.
If you put off replacing them when they’re not working correctly, you incur the long-term danger of even more extensive damage. Damage may include harm to your car and possible injuries to you or other drivers on the road from incidents. Your brake calipers may be changed for an average cost of between $350 and $800.
You may get front brake calipers at AutoZone for anywhere from $40 and $440, depending on the sort you need for the car they were made for. The cost of rear brake calipers is often a little higher.
In light of this, let’s examine the functions of your brake calipers, warning indicators that they aren’t performing as they should, and remedies for fixing them. It’s always possible that getting them running won’t require a complete replacement, which might up saving you some money over time.
Brake Calipers: What are They?
Warning: brake caliper replacement won’t be inexpensive, even though it’s a necessary repair. However, let’s set that aside for the time being and focus instead on understanding what they are and how to brake calipers operate.
There are a few essential parts in your car’s overall braking system, especially the one that fits around the wheels. You have brake pads to help you slow down and stop your vehicle.
The next component is the braking discs or rotors as they are also known. When the brake pads start rubbing against the discs, friction is produced. On either side of the disc (or rotor) plate, there are two sets of brake pads.
In particular, their friction pads are oriented toward the discs. The brake pads will then be clamped together against the disc by the force you provide to the brake pedal, either by hydraulic pressure or an electronic brake-by-wire system.
This strong frictional force causes the wheels on your vehicle to travel more slowly by converting kinetic energy into heat energy. However, the brake pads are unable to force the discs down on their own.
The brake calipers come into play. You can see the plate-shaped disc when you look at a car’s brakes. Then, you could see a device attached to the side of the brake discs that resemble a crescent.
The brake caliper is responsible for pressing the brake pads firmly against the rotors. The pistons in the calipers pressurize when you depress the brake pedal. This may then exert all of its force to force the brake pads onto the rotors.
How Much Does the Brake Caliper Replacement Cost?
This line should serve as a warning that it is never a good idea to keep driving with brakes that aren’t working properly or at all. Your life might be lost as a result of this error. It’s hardly ideal to have no control over your vehicle, as you could think.
Therefore, even though replacing all of the brake calipers would be expensive, it would be well worth it. When calculating a complete brake caliper replacement cost, there are a few factors to take into account.
The most important factor is your car’s make and model, which ultimately determines the type of brakes it will require. The average caliper replacement cost will thus range from roughly $150 to as much as $900.
That is a considerable price difference. Driving a more common road-going vehicle may result in a decreased cost of between $200 and $500. However, you should budget at least $500 if you drive a premium, high-performance, or heavy-duty car.
A new brake caliper for an Audi, BMW, or Mercedes, for instance, can cost between $800 and $1,000. It’s important to note that the costs shown are for each caliper, not for a pair of axles.
Additionally, if you’re going to be spending money on a new brake caliper, you may as well spend it on new rotors and pads. When time and components are taken into consideration, a repair and replacement of both the pads and the rotors can often cost between $250 and $500 per axle.
How Much Do Brake Calipers Cost?
For most autos, a complete brake repair operation that includes the calipers might run you upwards of $1,000. not cheap. But are there any methods to reduce the brake caliper replacement cost?
Is it possible to merely replace the calipers on one side of the car? is a popular query. Say, avoiding any alterations to the front-right wheel and solely making changes to the front-left wheel. We respond that it is not suggested to replace the brake calipers on just one side.
The brake calipers are crucial. Looking at a car’s brakes will allow you to view the plate-shaped disc. Then, a device with a crescent-shaped attachment could be seen on the side of the brake discs.
That is presuming the calipers are even the same brand, model, and specification on both sides. If you simply do caliper replacement on one side, the braking force may be applied unevenly.
This might prematurely wear down both the new and old calipers, making them unsafe as well. It is often recommended to replace both the front and rear calipers on an axle at once. If the other caliper is largely brand new and a little worn, you could get away with replacing the caliper on one side.
How Can You Rebuild a Brake Caliper?
The justification for reconditioning outdated brake calipers rather than replacing them completely is another frequent cost-cutting fallacy. In other words, a worn-out caliper may be disassembled, with the pieces then being rebuilt and replaced.
Pistons, seals, bushings, guide pins, pin sleeves, covers, boots, and so forth are a few examples. Even though your brake calipers may be worn out, you may only need to replace one or a few of these individual parts to make them work again.
Yes, it can reduce the price of raw materials and components. You must, however, consider labor. Given the complexity of the brake calipers, a qualified technician will need a lot of time to analyze each little component before replacing it.
This is contrasted with the comparatively straightforward task of installing the whole caliper. If you’re prepared to do this yourself to save money on labor, it does make financial sense. Even yet, it requires much expertise and work, even if there are plenty of internet resources available to assist you.
Should You Consider Replacing or Rebuilding the Brake Calipers?
Many websites that offer advice and instructions on how to rebuild the brake caliper rather than considering caliper replacement may be found by searching for “brake caliper repairs” online. Nowadays, most fixes only entail purchasing a new part and replacing the old one. However, brake calipers may be fixed with a rather easy rebuild. Without even having to remove the brake caliper from your vehicle.
However, because it requires more sophisticated repair skills, you shouldn’t do it if you’ve never done any auto maintenance on your own. Rebuilding the caliper rather than making a special trip to acquire a new one might save you some money if you feel up to the challenge.
As we previously said, brake caliper replacement is frequently rather economical. In certain circumstances, replacing old ones will result in time and financial savings for you. Your vehicle’s make, model, and year will determine this.
However, you might want to give it a go if you’re up for the task and you’ve never done it before. You may get step-by-step instructions online in the form of several tutorials and videos. Otherwise, simply throwing away a broken one and using a new one will be faster and maybe more cost-effective.
Because there are so many other parts, including pistons, sliders, brake pads, and more, it is frequently in your best interest to completely remove the calipers and take a look at everything to ensure that it is all in functional, working order. This is one of the main reasons to consider caliper replacement rather than rebuilding them.
You wouldn’t want to spend the effort rebuilding your brake calipers only to discover that the other parts were also broken and run the danger of having brakes that still didn’t work well.
Car brakes by CZmarlin / CC BY-SA 3.0. Pressing the brake pads firmly against the rotors is the job of the brake caliper. When you press down on the brake pedal, the pistons in the calipers pressurize. The brake pads may then be forced onto the rotors using all of this object’s force.
Why Do Brake Caliper Failures Occur?
And what exactly are those factors that keep you awake at night worrying about the brake caliper replacement cost? Several elements are important. One illustration is how you operate the brake pedal in your vehicle, whether it be obediently or flagrantly.
There are other factors, such as the climate those awful brakes are subjected to and how smooth or rough the road you’ll be traveling on is. How quickly and severely your brake calipers age and wear depend on many factors, including air humidity.
However, there is one factor that consistently causes your brake calipers to wear out. As we’ve already discovered, there is a lot of heat surrounding your brakes. Even with typical braking pressure, the calipers themselves as well as the pads and discs will become hotter than 300°F.
The calipers are then quickly cooled by the ambient air when you remove your foot from the brake pedal. Every time you brake, thousands of times, you experience these repetitive “heat-up” and “cool-down” cycles.
Corrosion may develop both within and outside the brake calipers as this persists. Moisture in the air or water that has been thrown up and absorbed from the road might also contribute to this oxidation.
In any case, the water will subsequently begin to boil and produce steam. The aforementioned heat-up and cool-down cycles are the cause of this. Multiply that by the countless times your brake will boil, condense, and re-boil the water for years of driving. This is how corrosion develops.
Along the pistons or cylinder walls of the calipers, corrosion will begin to produce a rough surface. As a result of having to go through so much rust, the brake piston seals experience this highly abrasive wear.
According to you, it can result in inconsistent braking performance. However, once the rust has eaten its way into the interior walls, it may still become worse. When the pistons get trapped in their cylinder chambers because of heavy rust, the entire system may clamp and stop moving completely.
Is it Possible to Replace Just One Brake Caliper?
Unfortunately, there isn’t a firm response to this specific query. You can do just one brake caliper replacement if just one of your calipers is malfunctioning. Many mechanics would advise you to repair them both at once, though, as if one wears out, the other is probably going to follow.
Because calipers only function in pairs, it is advisable to perform caliper replacement in pairs. Do you understand that when you use your brakes, more than one wheel is not being stopped at once? Thus, they ought to get evenly worn out.
You will have one that is brand new and one that is already showing signs of wear and tear, though, if you perform one caliper replacement but not the other. Therefore, the caliper can eventually wear out on you if it remains unaltered.
You might not need to carry out caliper replacement at the same time if they were still quite fresh when one of them failed due to a mechanical or unintentional issue. In this case, just replacing the damaged one with a new one would be more cost-effective and sensible.
However, it’s safe to assume that the second caliper has also likely endured much of the same wear and tear, which is why you should replace it if your caliper failed because it had been on your car for a long time or perhaps it had been sitting for a long time and moisture caused it to seize up and get damaged.
Even though the red brake calipers seen here typically outlast brake pads, they are not built to last forever and will ultimately need to be serviced or replaced.
It’s not necessary to replace all 4 calipers at once, but if wear and tear is the consequence of aging, you should replace either the front pair or the back pair at the same time. Otherwise, you might just need one caliper replacement.
Your best option, given how relative the problem is, is to have a mechanic examine both of your calipers to see whether the unaffected caliper can remain in its current location safely.
How Often Should You Replace Your Brake Calipers?
Although brake calipers normally last longer than brake pads, they are not designed to endure indefinitely and will eventually need to be maintained or replaced. Typically, after 75,000 miles, or around 7 to 10 years of driving, you may anticipate that you will need to get your calipers checked out.
The calipers do have rubber seals on them, and after this amount of time, those seals will start to wear down, necessitating inspection and, if required, replacement.
Depending on the technician you take your car to, you can choose to either rebuild the calipers or replace them. However, nowadays it is more common to do caliper replacement than to repair them, therefore rebuilt calipers are becoming less common. Because a rebuilt caliper does have the potential to wear out again and fail on you, it is frequently seen to be safer as well.
In addition to a caliper’s typical lifespan, it is a good idea to carry out caliper replacement entirely if it has begun to leak fluid or if it has any significant wear and damage. Depending on what brought about the issue, that can happen at any time.
It wouldn’t hurt to get your brake calipers tested if you’ve been operating without issues for at least 75,000 miles to evaluate how they’re holding up. You should also get your brake calipers checked out if it hasn’t been that long but you have seen some of the telltale signs and symptoms of damaged brake calipers. Mechanical failure is a possibility, especially if those seals start to wear out or leak on you.
What are the Symptoms of Damaged Brake Calipers?
Your vehicle’s brake calipers can malfunction or seize up in a variety of ways during its lifetime. If something has happened, you should take your vehicle to repair it at once to avoid things getting worse. Avoid putting yourself or others on the road in danger of harm or accident.
1. Dragging to One Side
Your car may pull vehemently in one way or another when you brake if one of your brake calipers seized up. Due to the brakes’ unequal operation, one side of your vehicle won’t be stopping as quickly as the other, which causes you to lose your balance.
2. Unsharp Brake Pedal
Your brake pedal may feel mushy and spongy if your brake calipers are leaking. This could also occur if a piston freezes or if your caliper’s sliders have allowed too much room to develop between the pad and the rotor. When that occurs, you’ll see that applying pressure to the brake seems to be met with little resistance. It may become more effective the harder you push, but it still falls well short of the effectiveness of conventional brakes.
3. Leaks of Fluid
The closed hydraulic system that utilizes pressure to operate the brakes includes the braking fluid in your car. When you use the brakes, the pressure in the brake lines causes the calipers to strain against the brake pads and bring your vehicle to a complete halt.
Your calipers won’t function correctly if there is a leak in the hydraulic fluid system. If this is the case, you will typically notice a leak on the ground near the afflicted wheel where your car is parked. There will likely be a burnt rubber odor present as well.
4. Discrepant Brake Pads
If one of your calipers isn’t working correctly, it won’t be able to evenly apply pressure to the brake pads while you brake. This will ultimately result in uneven brake pad wear. When this occurs, you’ll notice that the brakes aren’t working quite as effectively. One of the pistons may not be fully engaged or a caliper slider that has started to stick might be the culprit.
5. A Grinding Sound
Your brake pads may wear out more quickly than usual depending on the way your calipers are acting. This will cause that awful whining or grinding sound you experience while using your brakes to occur.
6. Clattering Sounds
There are times when a broken caliper’s sound is a little more audible than a worn-down brake pad’s whining and grinding alone. A thumping or clunking sound may result from sufficiently damaged caliper brackets that keep the caliper in place. If it occurs while you are driving, the brakes may eventually completely lock up, resulting in serious brake damage.
7. Wobbling or Vibrations
When you press the brakes, the steering wheel may vibrate, which might indicate that your brake caliper is broken and the uneven rotor is the problem.
8. Slow Motoring
It would be the same as continuously applying the brakes if the brake caliper was stuck in a position that caused the brake pads to rub against the rotors while you were driving. As a result, especially on one side, your vehicle may seem slow.
9. The Brake Light Is On
If there is a braking issue, there should be a yellow or red light that flashes on your dashboard to alert you. Additionally, they have a sign that may or may not read “brakes are anti-lock brakes,” but if it illuminates, your car’s computer may be informing you that your brake calipers are malfunctioning.
It’s advisable to pay attention to such warnings as you would any other dashboard warning lights. The brakes are one item in your car that you should never neglect for an extended period.
10. Faulty Braking
This one appears to be a given, but if your calipers are working, you’ll notice that your brakes aren’t operating as they should. When you press the brake, you undoubtedly do not receive the reaction you were hoping for.
This implies that you frequently have to push the brakes harder to get them to react, which means you have to brake much early to slow down your vehicle to a halt.
Because there are moments in your car when you require exceptionally rapid response times, you don’t need us to warn you that this can be exceedingly dangerous. You don’t want to have to swerve to avoid a car in front of you if they suddenly stop short because your brakes can’t stop you in time.
In terms of possible damage to your car from being unable to stop in time, bad brake calipers might wind up costing you a lot of money. The most crucial factor is, of course, because failing to stop correctly puts both you and others in danger. Your life or the lives of others are not worth it to fix a vehicle. You must fix your brake calipers as soon as possible if they aren’t working properly.
If your brake calipers are leaking, your brake pedal might feel soft and spongy. This could also happen if a piston freezes or if the sliders in your caliper let too much space form between the pad and the rotor.
Is It Safe to Drive with a Faulty Brake Caliper?
It would be similar to driving while using the brakes if you attempted to move your vehicle when the brake caliper was jammed. The brake pad won’t entirely separate from the rotor when your caliper becomes stuck, so it will continue to rub against the wheel while you drive.
That will have an impact on the overall performance of your car since it will force you to go considerably more slowly, it will hasten the deterioration of your brake pads, and it will put stress on your transmission, increasing the likelihood that it may break down.
On the other hand, if your brake caliper malfunctions in a certain way, you could find yourself unable to apply enough force to the brake pad to stop your wheels when you’re moving.
If that happened, your vehicle would have to rely on its other three brakes to stop, which would be adequate but might also lead it to swerve in one or the other directions due to the unequal application of the brakes.
Your car will lurch in whichever direction your brakes are still engaged if you have to brake suddenly, which might cause an accident.
As you can see, each of these situations has the potential to be risky and result in pricey repairs. Therefore, there is no compelling reason to wait any longer than necessary if you are aware that you have a problem with your brake calipers.
Can a Brake Caliper Be Unsticked?
Your brakes might lock up for a variety of reasons, many of which are fixable without actually replacing the brake caliper. If your parking brake cable or mechanism is malfunctioning, your brake pads are clinging to your disk, or your caliper has seized, you can oil the parking brake system to hopefully restore functionality.
If a car hasn’t been driven for a while and the calipers have had time to rust significantly due to moisture, they may occasionally just seize up.
On occasion, the caliper sliding pins or pistons may become caught, causing the caliper to seize up as well. With the right tool for the task, or even a C-clamp, they may be released.
In certain circumstances, all you need to do to get your brakes functioning again is remove the caliper from the disc and then try applying little pressure to the brake pedal. The brakes may be disassembled and then put back together since the piston will still function despite the rust.
However, to achieve all of this, you must feel confident working on your brakes. You might still want to take it to a mechanic even if you’ve never done this before or don’t feel like doing it.
Just be aware that they might be able to unstick the calipers rather than a complete caliper replacement if the correct conditions exist. This could end up saving you some money in the long run, but you’ll need to talk to your technician about it and ask them to explain everything in detail so you understand how and why they’re correcting it.
Taking unnecessary risks with your brakes is never a smart idea. Drivers frequently ignore problems longer than they ought to since it looks like the vehicle is still functioning normally despite the numerous potential problems that might arise with their vehicle. On my dashboard, the check engine light has been illuminated for a lot longer than it should have. It occurs.
There are several potential causes of brake lockup, many of which may be resolved without actually changing the brake caliper.
You don’t want to spend money when you don’t have to since getting things checked may be expensive, especially in this economy. However, no amount of money can compensate for what can occur if your brake calipers malfunction while you’re in motion.
When you go for a drive, if any of the signs of damaged brake calipers that we described occur, you should stop and speak to a professional who can identify the issue and diagnose it for you.
By avoiding more damage, you’ll ultimately save money in the long term. However, as we’ve previously stated, the most crucial thing is to keep both you and other drivers on the road safe from harm or death.
About 5% of traffic accidents are thought to be the result of brake-related issues each year. Overall, it may seem like a small figure, but with more than 5 million incidents annually, it amounts to possibly hundreds of thousands of collisions that could have been prevented if brakes had been properly inspected and maintained.
Don’t jeopardize your or others’ security. Make sure to get your vehicle checked out as soon as possible if your brake calipers are malfunctioning or otherwise acting up.
Jim Wicks is the founder of MotorVehicleHQ. With over two decades of experience in the automotive industry and a degree in Automotive Technology, Jim is a certified car expert who has worked in various roles ranging from a mechanic, car dealership manager, to a racing car driver. He has owned more than 20 cars over the past 15 years. Ask him about any vehicle you see on the road and he can tell you the make, model and year. He loves the aesthetics of all things cars, and keeps his vehicles in pristine condition.
In his free time, Jim enjoys getting his hands dirty under the hood of a classic car or taking long drives along the country roads. His favorite car? A 1967 Shelby GT500, a true classic that, according to Jim, “represents the pure essence of American muscle.”