Rick's Free Auto Repair Advice

When to replace brake calipers

When to replace brake calipers — How long do they last?

Many of chain operated brake shops replace brake calipers on every brake job. For example, The Les Shwab chain brags about how they replace brake calipers on every brake job.

Why brake shops replace calipers on every brake job

It’s simple; they buy fully loaded calipers from their vendors. In other words, they don’t buy pads alone. A fully loaded caliper comes with a rebuilt caliper, new caliper pins, pin boots, anti-rattle clips and new brake pads. So you get the whole shootin’ match whether you need it or not.

But, when do you replace brake calipers?

Brake calipers do fail and when they do, they must be replaced.

Brake calipers can cause uneven brake pad wear if the caliper slide pins corrode. That’s not a reason to replace the entire caliper. New slide pins cost around $11/set.

Brake caliper dust seals can fail and allow moisture into the piston area. That seal must be replaced and many times, it’s less labor intensive to replace the caliper with a rebuilt unit.

If the brake caliper is leaking, it must be replaced.

If the brake caliper piston isn’t retracting when you release the brakes, it must be rebuilt or replaced with a rebuilt unit.

If the caliper pins slide into the caliper bracket and are corroded, you can buy a rebuilt bracket. However, it may cost about the same to buy a rebuilt caliper.

How to prevent brake caliper problems

• Always use the proper tools to compress the piston when performing a brake pad change. Never use screwdrivers or pry bars. Those can damage phenolic pistons and damage the dust seals.

• Always replace the caliper pin boots and grease the slide pins when doing a brake job. A caliper boot kits costs around $6 and keeps water out of the slide pin bores.

• Perform a brake fluid flush when recommended by the carmaker. Brake fluid anti-corrosive additives break down over time and corrosion sets in. That corrosion can settle in the brake caliper piston bores and prematurely wear out the square cut O-ring seal, causing a perfectly good caliper to leak.

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Posted on by Rick Muscoplat

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