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There’s no doubt that the braking system is the most important safety feature your vehicle has. Your brakes help you slow down or stop your vehicle when needed, preventing fender benders and accidents. The brake caliper is an important component of your vehicle’s brake system. This part clamps down on the brake rotors, using brake pads to slow down the vehicle.

Although relatively rare, a sticking brake caliper is a major safety hazard that can prevent you from braking safely. What causes your brake caliper to stick and how can you prevent it? This guide will answer these questions and more.

brake caliper and brake disc
A sticking brake caliper is a major safety hazard that can prevent you from braking safely.

What Causes a Brake Caliper to Stick?

Sticking brake calipers can cause braking issues. But what causes sticking calipers in the first place? Here are some of the most common causes of a sticking brake caliper:

Worn or Faulty Brake Hose

One of the most common causes of a sticking brake caliper is a damaged brake hose. A worn-out brake hose can cause leaks, preventing brake fluid from returning to the master cylinder.

Worn or Faulty Brake Caliper Piston Boot

Another common cause of a sticking brake caliper is a faulty brake caliper piston boot. The caliper piston has a rubber boot that lubricates it and protects it from debris. A torn piston boot can allow debris to enter the caliper or rust to form inside, limiting the brake caliper piston’s sliding motion.

Debris and Stuck Brake Pad Shims

Debris can accumulate and get stuck in your brake caliper’s crevices, making it difficult for the brake pads to slide properly. It’s also possible for your brake pad shims to get stuck, which can then cause your brake calipers to stick.

Brake Caliper Slides

When the brake pedal is depressed, the brake pads slide into grooves on the brake calipers. Rust and accumulated debris can damage brake pads as well as these grooves, preventing the brake pads from sliding out of them even if you’ve taken your foot off the brake pedal.

Worn or Faulty Brake Caliper Bolts

The bolts on a brake caliper require regular lubrication so they can easily slide and move when needed. These bolts typically have a protective rubber coating to prevent the lubricant from spilling out. If the rubber coating on the brake caliper bolts breaks, the bolts themselves can dry up and accumulate debris and rust.

car brake disc and caliper
A damaged brake caliper bolt can dry up and accumulate debris and rust.

What Are the Symptoms of a Sticking Brake Caliper?

When dealing with brake caliper issues, it’s important to be able to spot symptoms and understand their possible causes so you can address the problem as soon as possible. Here are some of the most common symptoms of a sticking brake caliper:

Vehicle Pulling to One Side

Having your vehicle pull to one side is one of the most common signs of a stuck brake caliper. You might have a hard time driving your vehicle in a straight line. This is a serious safety hazard that can lead to accidents and injury if left unaddressed for too long.

Car Unexpectedly Slowing Down

Sometimes, when brake calipers get stuck, the brake pads are in constant contact with your vehicle’s brake rotors. This can make you feel like your vehicle is slowing down even if you don’t have your foot on the brake pedal. Another potential result of this issue is an irritating, high-pitched grinding sound. This typically happens when the pads’ braking material has been entirely worn out.

Poor Fuel Economy

A sticking brake caliper can slow down your vehicle. To compensate for this, your engine will work harder and consume more fuel than usual just to maintain your vehicle’s speed. Bad fuel mileage can be caused by several different issues, not just a sticking brake caliper, but it’s important to pay close attention when this happens.

Unusual Heat from Affected Wheels

Another common symptom of a sticking brake caliper is excessive heat coming from the affected wheels. The more you drive with a sticking caliper, the more heat is produced. After driving your vehicle, you might notice that your wheels are radiating heat. Note that you should avoid touching the rims when they’re hot because they can cause severe burns and injury.

Is It Safe to Drive with Sticking Brake Calipers?

It isn’t safe to drive with sticking brake calipers or any damaged braking parts. Driving with damaged braking components is dangerous for everyone involved because one of your vehicle’s primary safety mechanisms isn’t working properly.

If your brake calipers are sticking or if you notice any of the above symptoms, we recommend that you take your vehicle to a shop for repairs as soon as possible to avoid accidents and further damage.

brake fluid refill
Changing your brake fluid regularly can help prevent your brake calipers from sticking.

How Can I Prevent My Brake Calipers from Sticking?

To keep yourself, your passengers, and other people on the road safe, you need to make sure that your braking system is in tip-top shape. Here are some great tips to help prevent your brake calipers from sticking:

  1. Change your brake fluid regularly.

Different vehicle manufacturers have different service intervals for brake fluids. Consult your owner’s manual for the recommended service interval for changing brake fluid and stick to a regular schedule.

  1. Clean brake pads, guide pins, and pistons at the recommended service intervals.

Brake components such as brake pads, guide pins, and the like have different recommended service intervals. This information is commonly found in your owner’s manual or in a vehicle-specific repair manual. It’s important to stick to the recommended service intervals and do regular maintenance checks to avoid major problems down the line.

  1. Use your parking brakes.

Even if you have an automatic transmission, you need to use the parking brake from time to time to prevent the cables and the bracket from sticking.

aftermarket brake caliper and brake pads
Make sure to clean your brake pads, guide pins, and pistons at the recommended service intervals.

How to Fix a Sticking Brake Caliper

Fixing a stuck brake caliper can be tricky, as you have to determine the root cause of the issue first. If you don’t have experience with automotive maintenance and repairs, we recommend that you leave the job to a certified mechanic or technician. Doing so helps you save time and money and prevents further damage to your vehicle.

How Much Does a Brake Caliper Replacement Cost?

The price of replacement brake calipers can range anywhere from $10 to $2,100. This price range depends on a variety of factors, including brand, quantity, condition, and inclusions. Labor can cost you an additional $140 to $170, depending on your location.

Any information provided on this Website is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace consultation with a professional mechanic.

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