Stuck Brake Caliper Quick Fix, Causes and Symptoms

Brake caliper sticking

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Let’s get to know what a brake caliper is, what it means when you say a brake caliper is sticking, the causes and symptoms of brake sticking, and how to quick fix stuck brake caliper issues.


How Do You Fix a Brake Caliper Sticking?

Stuck brake caliper quick Fix?

For some, the shortest way to fix such a frozen brake caliper is by simply replacing the brake caliper. I had one on my car stick a little over 50 kilometers from home. It wasn’t easy deciding what to do because I didn’t have the experience, but I ended up mustering the courage to do the dirty work.

I jacked the car up and detached the caliper from the rotor. I did this twice on two calipers and then drove the vehicle while reminding myself to take it easy on the brakes. Luckily, nothing awry happened on the way home.

The price for a rebuilt caliper was $35 and I realized that the main charge was higher than the caliper itself. Calipers are not that difficult to replace. Most likely, you’ll find a YouTube vid that illustrates your particular car and know exactly what is involved.  

But assuming you aren’t keen on the idea of your wallet shouldering the expense, or you also want to have

What is a brake caliper?

The caliper is part of a vehicle brake assembly. Its main components are piston, shim, piston seal, pad, piston boot, boot ring, bleed ring and bleed screw.

Brake calipers are very important to a car as they are there to give it the ability to stop by creating friction with the rotors. Most cars nowadays have calipers for the front wheels only, while some have calipers in the rear, too. 

How brake calipers work

At its most basic, a caliper is a force-multiplier device. When you step on the brake pedal, a small piston squeezes fluid that’s contained in the master cylinder, and due to the fact that brake fluid can’t be compressed, the compression force is channeled to the brake caliper.

There are large pistons inside the brake caliper and their job is to multiply the exerted force. The large force produced allows the system to push the brake pads into the rotor. This slows or stops the rotor, ultimately slowing and stopping the wheel as well, as the rotor and the wheel are attached to each other.

If you have a stuck brake caliper, it means that the brake pad cannot fully disengage from the brake rotor. This means that you have to drive with the brakes slightly pressed all of the time, as I did when I encountered this problem.  


What Causes a Brake Caliper to Stick?

Whether it is brand new brake caliper sticking or it involves an old caliper, the common causes of brake caliper stuck on are just the same in both cases.  Here are the areas to check:

1. Brake caliper pin stuck

There are two rails that the caliper slides along (the caliper guide pins). If one or both of these rails get seized or sluggish, the caliper can't slide resulting from the outside brake pad not fully squeezing the rotor. This is "caliper pin stuck”

How to deal with stuck brake caliper pin

The first step is to get access to the pin. Using a sledgehammer, knock the caliper off its bracket. The bracket is located at the bottom part of the caliper.

Clean the pin using a wire brush, basically buffing off rust or gunk you see there. Clean the inside of the bores that hold the pins as well.

Torn Piston Rubber Boot

The piston has a rubber boot on it. It is this rubber boot that provides lubrication to the piston. If the rubber is torn, rust and debris will form inside the caliper. That will diminish the piston’s sliding abilities.

How to replace the piston rubber boot

For this issue, I would deal with it by replacing the caliper itself to ensure that everything will run smoothly 100%. This is usually best to do using the factory scan tool.

If you choose to replace just the boot, start by removing the caliper and then access the piston boot. Take the dust seal and the piston off the bore. Use brake cleaner to clean the boot.

After cleaning, lubricate the parts using brake fluid. Groove the seal properly and make sure it is not twisted. Put the boot back to its place.

2. Brake caliper sticking when hot

If you have brakes that are sticking, and the problem gets worse when the brakes are hot, check all the wheels, and see if it is difficult turning them.

This problem can be stemming from issues related to the ABS, or the master cylinder or the brake booster. If all the brakes are getting hot, it tells you that it is likely that it is a central problem.

How to fix caliper sticking when hot

Still, the best approach is to know the cause of the sticking brakes in the first place. Then proceed to fix the problem.

If the root cause is the ABS, I would like to recommend deactivating it and then releasing pressure if it has. Then test it again.

You may also try loosening the bleeders in the calipers. Is there pressure inside? If the fluid is released fast, then the system is holding much pressure – and that shouldn’t be the case.


A Couple of Symptoms of a Brake Caliper Sticking to Watch out for

A frozen caliper causes brake caliper sticking noise and the noise from it can be heard from the damaged part. Unlike the noise from worn brake pads (occurring when the brake pedal is pressed), the noise from a damaged caliper is usually heard when the brake pads are not being used.

Another sign is sticking brake caliper causing vibration. The vibration is usually felt through the steering wheel starting when the speed reaches 45 miles per hour.


If there is anything you want to know more about these car issues, just post your question below. I’ll be very glad to read them and reply to you as best as I can.


About the Author JamesL Davis

James is a certified auto technician specializing in commercial vehicles. With 30 years of experience under his belt, James has encountered almost every type of automotive issue there is! Besides his day job at the repair shop, he is also an amateur race car driver.

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