The symptoms of a bad brake caliper

15 July 2019 / Lindleys Autocentres

Your vehicle’s braking system is made up of various parts that work together in order for the brakes to function correctly. If a part within the system is faulty or worn out, it can have a devastating effect on the whole braking system which can cause it to fail. 

This is why regular car servicing and maintenance is required to ensure you avoid any risks of accidents caused by a brake failure. 

In this article, we will cover the main symptoms of a bad brake caliper to ensure you are able to look out for the signs and proceed with the correct measures to ensure the safety of your vehicle. 

What is a brake caliper?

Understanding how your brake system works, and how to identify problems in order to keep it maintained is important for safe driving. 

The majority of cars will have either front-wheel or four-wheel disc brakes. Whenever you press on the brake pedal, the brake pads within the brake system will create friction onto the metal disc that is attached to the wheel. This friction slows down the wheel which ultimately helps your vehicle come to a stop. 

To help complete this stop and start motion, the brake caliper is the hydraulic mechanism that suspends the brake pads around the discs. Therefore, when you do press down onto the brake pedal, hydraulic pressure is pushed through the brake lines to the caliper. The pistons inside the caliper force the brake pads to press against the brake disc. When you release your foot off the pedal, the caliper will help the brake pads pull away from the disc (brake rotor). 

What happens when a brake caliper goes bad?

It isn't unusual for your brake pads to wear down due to excessive use. However, your brake pads can wear down a lot quicker if your brake calipers are faulty. 

When this occurs, your vehicle will begin to pull to one side. This is why you should look out for whether your car is pulling to one side or not.

When working well, the pistons within your brake caliper will move in and out as you press and release the brake pedal (they react from the hydraulic pressure).  If one of the pistons inside of the brake caliper locks up due to erosion or dirt, it can prevent the brake pad from touching the brake disc. When this occurs, you will notice that your vehicle pulls to one side as you brake. Locked up calipers can also delay the release of the brake pad as you take your foot off the brake.  This too can cause car pulling. 

If you begin to hear a squealing noise coming from your wheel area whilst driving, this could be due to a damaged or sticking brake caliper. This is not to be mistaken to the noise that occurs when your brake pads are worn out. That particular noise will arise when you press down on your brakes. We suggest you get your brake system checked by a local mechanic when you start to hear any type of strange grinding noises. 

When a brake caliper is faulty, there is a high chance that it will wear down your brake pads unevenly. If you inspect your brake pads and notice that one side has worn down more than the other, there is the possibility that your caliper has caused this. 

Your brake calipers functions due to the pressure from the hydraulic system. Therefore, if you begin to notice any hydraulic oil leaking (which is basically brake fluid), it can be an indication that your caliper has a leak. You should be able to spot this leak if you see oil spots on the ground near your tyres. 

If you notice any symptoms mentioned in this article we strongly recommend that you get your brakes checked as soon as possible. Delays in fixes can cause serious damage to your brake system and potentially put yourself at risk on the road. 



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