How To Fix A Sticking Brake Caliper

180 Automotive is reader-supported. This post contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

It’s not time yet to throw away your car’s brake caliper or replace it. Here are a few simple and easy-to-follow steps you can take to fix the sticking caliper of your car brakes.

I have highlighted the nine (9) steps to fix a sticking brake caliper:

  1. Place The Jack Stands Under The Car
  2. Twist The Lug Nuts Counterclockwise
  3. Remove The Wheel And Lug Nuts
  4. Spray And Clean The Pads
  5. Unbolt The Brake Caliper And Pads
  6. Clean Caliper And Slide Pins
  7. Lubricate The Caliper And Slide Pins
  8. Reinstall The Lug Nuts And Wheel
  9. Replace The Caliper

Don’t forget, the caliper, like other components of your car, has a mileage mark. Until exhausts its lifespan or it can no longer be repaired or fixed, then you should start to consider replacing the caliper.

9 Steps To Repair A Sticking Brake Caliper

Typically, when you press the brake pedal, the caliper is designed in such a way that it will hold the brake pads and push them against the rotors. The calipers will glide around the slide pins, moving in and out of them.

The idea is that the slide pins should be free to move any form of road dirt, surplus brake gunk, or corrosion can obstruct this free movement.

Apart from corrosion, if the caliper slide pins go on for days or weeks without lubrication, their free and smooth movement will be hindered, causing the brake calipers to stick.

If this happens, here are the steps to follow to fix the problem.

Step 1: Place The Jack Stands Under The Car

With a floor jack, raise the car by setting it on a jack stand. Make sure you chock the other wheels strategically to prevent the car from rolling. This way, you can access the wheel and easily work on the brakes.

Step 2: Twist The Lug Nuts Counterclockwise

Now that you can access the brakes, the next step is to turn the lug nuts counterclockwise using the lug wrench. Tighten the nuts until they’re finger tight.

Step 3: Remove The Wheel And Lug Nuts

After twisting with the lug wrench, remove both the lug nuts and the wheel with your hand. Place the nuts and the wheel next to you.

Step 4: Spray And Clean The Brake Pads

While removing the wheel, don’t forget to place the drip pan beneath the brake house. By now, you should have access to the brakes. After this, apply the heavy-duty brake cleaner spray to clean the brake pads thoroughly.

Step 5: Unbolt The Brake Caliper And Pads

Using the socket set, remove the brake caliper. To remove the caliper from inside the caliper bracket, pull it up. Also, by hand, remove the brake pads. Take some time to inspect the pads.

If their thickness is less than one-quarter inch, it’s time to get them replaced. Thin or not-too-thick brake pads cause the unusual squeal you hear when you press your foot on the brake pedal.

Step 6: Clean The Caliper And Slide Pins

The next line of action after pulling out the caliper is to clean it together with the slide pins. Using the recommended brake cleaner and rag, it’s time to get rid of all gunk, brake dust, or lubricants build-up from inside the caliper. The caliper slide pins also house a lot of old lube and road dirt that clog them.

While cleaning the caliper pins and bolts, you must be careful not to cause any tear to the rubber boot on them. Any tear will cause excessive deposit and so will mean that you’ll need to replace it. Also, replace the bolts if they’re too corroded.

Step 7: Lubricate The Caliper And Slide Pins

After pulling them out, you’’ need to add new lube on the body of the caliper and the caliper slide pins.

To lubricate the caliper slide pins, the back section of the brake pads, pistons, and other hardware, you’ll need generic lube like a white lithium lubricant or any caliper-specific grease. This will make your caliper look like a brand new component. Thoroughly lubricate every part to allow smooth gliding.

Step 8: Reinstall The Brake Caliper

The penultimate step is to reinsert the caliper, starting with the brake pads. Using your hand, you should reinstall the caliper into the bracket holding it. Make sure you carefully thread the caliper bolts by hand before tightening them with the socket set.

Step 9: Replace The Wheel And Lug Nuts

After you’ve completed the entire process, it’s time to reinstall all the parts you pulled out earlier. Starting with the wheel and lug nuts, you should lower your vehicle with the floor jack. Using a torque wrench, firmly tighten the lug nuts up to the recommended torque.

Once you complete the process, you should test the brake once again to observe if the caliper still sticks. If it’s properly done, you won’t feel any sticking caliper. However, you may have to repeat the entire process if you missed or omitted any of the procedures here.

FAQs

1. What Tools Do I Need To Fix My Sticking Brake Caliper?

Just before that, you’ll need the following tools and materials to effectively complete the fixing of your stuck brake caliper:

  • Floor Jack: To raise the car wheel and access the brakes.
  • Lug Wrench: To remove the wheel nuts.
  • Allen Wrench Or Torx Wrench: To remove caliper bolts.
  • C-Clamp: To retract the pad.
  • Glove: To protect the hand against or minimize injury.
  • Dust Mask: To prevent inhaling brake dust.
  • Safety Glasses: To protect your eyes from flying metal pieces, insects, or fluid.
  • Brake Pads: To replace old or damaged brake pads.
  • Brake Hone: To clean the caliper’s internal bore.

2. Brake Caliper Replacement Or Rebuild: Which Is Better?

Both replacing and rebuilding a brake caliper is good, but you need to assess the extent of damage to the caliper and other components to know which option to go for.

The truth is that there is a higher likelihood that your caliper will stuck again when you free it. This is especially potentially likely if the problem was initially caused by the corroded slide pins or caliper piston. The corrosion won’t go suddenly. In this case, replacement is the best option.

However, you can opt for a rebuild on three conditions. First, if the corrosion is not too bad. If you’re running on a low budget, you can also consider a rebuild. The third point is that you should be sure that you’re a competent DIYer.

How do you rebuild a stuck brake caliper? It’s pretty simple. Start by uncoupling the parts and cleaning the various parts. After doing this, you can replace the piston and the rubber components. You’ll need a brake hone to get rid of the corrosive elements in the internal bore of the caliper.

Some car owners go for a junkyard caliper they can rebuild with new seals. This is not a good idea even if your caliper is badly corroded. I’ll advise, if your budget can shoulder it, to opt for a brand caliper.

Replacement of a stuck caliper gives you more peace of mind than a rebuild. But then it all boils down to your budget.

3. How Can I Unstick A Seized Brake Caliper?

It depends on the cause of the sticking in the first place. Inspect if the pads are sticking to the disc or if the parking brake cable is having issues. It may also be that pad is skewed. It doesn’t matter the cause, remedying a seized brake caliper is pretty simple.

For the parking brake issue, all you have to do is to apply some amount of grease to lubricate the parking brake system. For skewed brake pads, you should simply remove the pads and lubricate them. Alternatively, remove the pads and resurface the disc.

Fixing seized slide pins or caliper pistons can be a little bit tricky. But with a C-clamp, you can easily retract the brake pads by applying force. The hydraulic pressure of the brake will effectively serve to remove the seized caliper pistons.

After this, you should remove the caliper and then pump the brake pedal to allow the piston to free itself from the corroded part. You can disassemble from there and replace or rebuild.

Final Thoughts

My step-by-step guide on how to fix a sticking brake caliper is borne out of my practical experience with car brakes over the years. Brakes are an important aspect of driving.

It doesn’t matter whether your vehicle uses the Jake braking or the pedal braking; you’ll have to ensure the caliper is free to slide around the rotors.

Finally, when you replacing your brake pad, make sure you don’t force the slide pins to avoid the brake caliper sticking.