› Brake Caliper Sticking

Brake Caliper Sticking

Brake caliper sticking is not a common problem, but something that does happen periodically. If you find that your vehicle pulls to one side when you brake or the brakes don't seem to release all the way after you let off the pedal then you might be having this problem. This is an important thing to have diagnosed because it affects one of the most important safety systems on your vehicle. It can be tough to figure out what is causing this so you may need to take your car or truck to a repair shop or brake shop to have it diagnosed for you. Keep reading to find the most common causes of this problem as well as the fixes. 

Brake Caliper Sticking Causes

Common Causes of Your Brake Caliper Sticking

There are a few things that are very common causes of a sticking brake caliper. I'll list them here along with what you can do about it. 

  • Caliper Slides. There are grooves located in the caliper that hold the brake pads and let them slide in as you push on the brake pedal and out when you let off. Sometimes the brake pad shims get stuck in the grooves or they just get corroded or debris built up in them. This will cause the pads to not be able to slide in and out correctly and make them stick. If this is a problem with your brakes you shouldn't need new calipers, you should be able to just clean them or replace the shims that are causing the problem. In some cases the metal groove might be getting worn out. If that is the case then the whole caliper assembly would need to be replaced. 
  • Brake Hose. Sometimes the brake hoses will wear out internally. This can create a small piece of brake hose to break mostly off, but still have a small piece attached to the main part of the hose. This will make a sort of valve that will let the brake fluid only flow one way. When you step on the brake pedal the fluid could flow to the brake pistons and cause the pads to engage and slow the vehicle, but then when you let off the brakes the fluid would not be able to return to the master cylinder. This will cause the caliper to stick and make the vehicle pull to that side. This can be a tough problem to diagnose even for a seasoned mechanic. One way that it can be done though it to raise the vehicle up and step on the brakes, then let off and try to turn the wheels. If one of them won't turn, then open the bleeder valve and see if brake fluid shoots out. If it does then you know that there was a lot of pressure built up in the braking system. This could be caused by a bad brake hose. 
  • Caliper Bolts. The brake caliper bolts also have slides on them that need to stay lubed. They have protective rubber boots on them to keep the lubrication in but sometimes careless mechanics tear them when they are installing new brake pads and that can cause them to dry out and sometimes rust or get other debris in them which can make them not slide like they should. In extreme cases this will cause the brakes to stick. Sometimes you can take these bolts out and recondition them, but you may just need new bolts. If new bolts are not available then the only solution is to buy a new caliper. Another thing that can sometimes happen is the bolts will sometimes break off. This happens more often when a mechanic over tightens them. It is important to take your car or truck to a repair shop that you can trust. 
  • Brake Caliper Piston. The piston can sometimes brake caliper sticking. As you can see in the picture above, the piston has a rubber boot around it. This rubber boot protects the piston and seals and keeps them lubricated as well. This boot is easily torn when retracting the piston back into the caliper while replacing the brake pads. If it gets torn then rust and other debris can build up inside the caliper and cause the piston to not slide smoothly. This can cause the caliper to stick. Sometimes you can find brake caliper rebuild kits, but most of the time the only way to fix this type of problem is to replace the brake caliper assembly. 

How to Avoid Brake Caliper Sticking Problems

The best way to avoid brake caliper sticking problems is to simply take care of your brakes. It is actually pretty rare to have this problem. Most calipers will last the life of the vehicle or close to it, depending on how many miles the car ends up going! If you have your brake pads replaced when needed and make sure your brake fluid is in good condition then you shouldn't have any problems with your calipers. If you do find yourself in a situation where you suspect a sticking problem with your calipers then go through each of the items I listed above, if that doesn't help then you might need the expertise of a good mechanic. Sometimes this type of problem can be very hard to diagnose so don't be afraid to get help if needed. 

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