Mechanics

Brake Caliper Replacement

How to Replace a Front Brake Caliper

Front and rear brake calipers are an extremely important component of the braking system. On vehicles built after the late 1960’s, most all vehicles used front disc brakes which utilize brake calipers. Many new vehicles now offer four wheel disc brakes which have a brake caliper at each wheel. At a minimum, newer vehicles will all have front disc brakes. Considering the front brakes are responsible for approximately 60% of the braking, it is important they work properly. Brake caliper failure can result in a couple different ways. To name the most common failures, the caliper piston can seize, brake fluid can leak past a worn caliper piston, and some caliper pistons can crack. When this happens, the caliper needs to be replaced.

Park your car on level ground with the engine off and the emergency brake on. Always raise a car according to the manufacturers recommended instructions and secure with jack stands. Also we will be dealing with brake fluid so be sure to wear protective clothing, eyewear and gloves.

Tools Needed to Complete this Job:

1. Hydraulic Jack

2. Jack stands

3. Wrenches or sockets

4. A collection pan to capture brake fluid

5. Caliper retainer bolts can be a hex head, allen wrench type, or torx (identify which is needed).

Parts and Supplies List:

1. Replacement Brake Caliper

2. Brake Fluid

3. Shop Towels

4. Brake Cleaner

Instructions to Replace a Front Brake Caliper:

Step 1. Locate the hood release and activate it, release the safety latch and continue to open the hood, secure with prop rod if required.

Step 2. While the vehicle is still on the ground, remove hubcap (if applicable) and turn each lug nut ¾ of a turn to loosen.

Step 3. With a floor jack, lift the vehicle so the tire being worked on is off the ground. Make sure to place the jack on the vehicle’s frame or recommend jacking location.

Step 4. Place a jack stand under the frame or manufacturer’s recommend location of the vehicle and place the vehicle’s weight on the jack stand allowing the wheel to remain off the ground. MAKE SURE THE JACK STAND IS SECURE AND CAN NOT MOVE. (note: Never trust a jack only when working near or under a vehicle.)

Step5. Remove the lug nuts and tire to expose the brake caliper.

Step 6. Turn the steering in a direction to allow you to gain the most access to the brake caliper.

Step 7. The brake caliper will have a rubber brake hose attached to it. It is attached with a fitting called a Banjo fitting. Place the drain pan under that area of the caliper to catch the brake fluid that will leak when the fitting is removed.

Step 8. To avoid draining the master cylinder, we recommend having a nut and bolt that will fit through the Banjo fitting that you can slip through, place a washer on both sides, and a nut on the opposite side to eliminate the Banjo from leaking. Brass washers are best used to avoid damage to the fitting, but if you only have steel, do not over tighten.

Step 9. Remove the bolt from the Banjo fitting and follow step 8. Make sure the drain pan catches the brake fluid that will leak.

Step 10. Locate the bolts on the rear of the caliper that attach the caliper to the caliper mounting plate or bracket. Remove the bolts and slide the caliper off.

Step 11. Inspect the new caliper being used as a replacement. Check to make sure none of the old parts need to be transferred to the new one. If a part does, check it for damage, dry rot, crack, or anything that may affect its performance.

Step 12. Reinstall the replacement brake caliper and bleed the brake system as needed.

Brake calipers are a very important part of the braking system. If you see leaks, if the a brake seems to be overheating, or if the brakes no longer seem to work as well, always check the calipers for proper operation. Also, remember that most parts stores want your old caliper back. As a result, they charge you a “core charge.” If you don’t return the old part, you don’t get that money back. Don’t forget and throw the old part away.

CAUTION: Brake fluid is corrosive and will damage your vehicle’s finish. If brake fluid comes in contact with the painted surface of your vehicle, quickly wipe it with a clean cloth and then wash the area with soap and water. Check the brake pedal operation, it should be normal. Do not move the vehicle until normal brake operation has resumed.

Replacing a Brake Caliper Outline

  • Loosen but (Do Not Remove) the lug nuts of the wheel to be serviced
  • Support car in a safe position high enough to remove the brake caliper
  • Remove the lug nuts and wheel
  • Loosen the hydraulic brake hose at the caliper, do not remove
  • Loosen appropriate nuts and bolts to remove the caliper
  • Continue the remove the hydraulic brake hose
  • Clean all caliper slides and mounting surfaces, lubricate as needed
  • Reconnect hydraulic brake hose
  • Re-Install new or rebuilt brake caliper
  • Tighten all mounting bolts with the brake hose fitting
  • Bleed brake system as needed
  • Slowly push the brake pedal down and then up to take up air gap space between the brake pad and rotor
  • Inspect brake caliper and hose connection for leaks, if brake fluid leaks exist repair as needed
  • Reinstall wheel and lug nuts, lower the tire onto the ground and then finish tightening lug nuts
  • NEVER MOVE A CAR WITHOUT NORMAL BRAKE PEDAL OPERATION
Visit - How to Replace a Brake Caliper for more information

Rebuilding a Brake Caliper Outline

  • Once the brake caliper has been removed the caliper piston will need to be removed this can be done either with a pry bar on either side to work the piston out of the housing or inserting compressed air into the hydraulic hose fitting. If compressed air is used use caution because the piston will shoot out the caliper housing with force. Install shop towels in between the piston and caliper housing and keep fingers away from the piston.
  • When the brake caliper is apart clean all debris and rust from all components. If severe rust exists replacement is required
  • Install new seal with a touch of brake fluid for lubricant and insert the brake caliper piston into the main caliper housing
  • Now install the new dust boot over the piston and into the main housing
  • Reinstall caliper to bleed and recheck as needed
  • Slowly push the brake pedal down and then up to take up air gap space between the brake pad and rotor
  • Inspect brake caliper and hose connection for leaks, if brake fluid leaks exist repair as needed
  • Reinstall wheel and lug nuts, lower the tire onto the ground then finish tightening lug nuts
  • NEVER MOVE A CAR WITHOUT NORMAL BRAKE PEDAL OPERATION
Common Problems

  • When replacing a brake caliper make sure the sealing washer is not leaking
  • If a brake caliper slide has seized use an anti-rust solvent such as wd40 or equivalent

AUTHOR


Written by
Co-Founder and CEO of 2CarPros.com
35 years in the automotive repair field, ASE Master Technician, Advanced Electrical and Mechanical Theory.


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Article first published (Updated 2013-08-16)