Brake Calipers

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A Simple and Complete Guide to Brake Calipers

Brake Caliper for Toyota Prado

Imagine speeding your car on a smooth and traffic-free track, in the centre of green fields, with a cold breeze touching your face. What a pleasant image. Let’s make this picture a little more interesting. Another car suddenly overtakes yours, close enough for you to need to press the brake paddle immediately. BUT, your car does not stop despite forcing the brake paddle down. We need no online polling to determine if this idea is terrifying enough for you or not—the image portrayed here itself is self-explanatory for each of us.

Needless to mention, a vehicle’s braking system is as essential as its running system especially after the case presented. The brake calipers form an integral part of a vehicle’s braking system, which requires your attention.

In this article, we present to you a simple and complete guide to the brake calipers and answer some frequently asked questions, such as:

  • What is a brake caliper?
  • What is the function of brake calipers?
  • What happens when a brake caliper goes bad?
  • Do brake calipers need replacement?
  • Can you drive with a bad caliper?
  • When to replace brake calipers?
  • Do brake calipers need to be replaced in pairs?
  • How much does it cost to replace calipers?

How does a vehicle braking system work?

While driving your car, when you push the brake pedal, the car stops. It may seem to be very simple. However, there is a complex braking mechanism which follows the brake pedal push before the car stops.

When you press the brake pedal with your foot, the brake pedal, in turn, pushes a lever connected to it. This lever is linked with the master cylinder of a hydraulic system. The force on the pedal is transferred to this master cylinder. This master cylinder of the hydraulic system is connected to wider cylinders positioned near the wheels of the car through a network of pipes carrying brake fluid. When the master cylinder is pressed, it squirts the brake fluid contained in the pipes of the hydraulic system, inserting pressure on the wider cylinders. Note that you have not gotten to braking yet.

For clarity, the interconnected units of the hydraulic systems are meant for two purposes: 1) to transfer the force of your foot exerted on the brake pedal to the actual braking unit positioned near the wheels, and 2) to multiply the force of your foot exerted on the brake pedal by multiple folds to a sizeable force to cause the braking effect.

How do brake calipers work?

Let us now move on the brake calipers where the real action of braking takes place. Car wheels cars contain a brake disc on the rim, which is the rotating part of the wheel. The brake disc moves with the rotation of the wheels. The brake calipers are fixed near the wheels like a cap and contain a brake pad. The wider cylinders of the hydraulic braking system of a car are connected to the brake caliper. In case of pressing of the brake pedal, the wider cylinders of the hydraulic braking system of the car exert force on the brake calipers. The brake calipers press the brake pads against the brake discs on the wheels. This causes the brake discs to rub against the brake pads, causing friction. This friction causes your car to stop.

In case you were not aware of this process, we know exactly what you’re thinking—yes, this is an extensive process which occurs in only a few seconds.

In the older cars, only rear brake calipers exist, i.e. the brake calipers are positioned with the rear wheels only. While most of the modern cars contain both the front brake calipers and the rear brake calipers.

caliper brake disc

Why replace brake calipers?

Now that you are aware of the braking process that follows pushing of a brake pedal of a car, there should be no need to emphasize the importance of brake calipers. What is important for you to understand is that the brake calipers of your car require adequate attention.

Quickly rewind the braking system in your head, and focus on the function of brake calipers alone. The effect of braking is ultimately achieved through the friction between the brake pads of the brake calipers and the brake disc on the wheels. When a vehicle moves, it carries a large amount of kinetic energy. For braking, this kinetic energy is converted into heat due to friction using the contact between brake pads of the brake calipers and the brake disc on the wheels.

Thus, the brake calipers go dodgy with time and require to be fixed or repairs. In such a situation, a car exhibits some warning signs of a failing brake caliper to the driver which need to be seriously accounted for.

What causes brake calipers to go bad?

The most common symptom of a bad brake caliper is reduced braking power, which can be caused by a number of underlying issues.

  • The friction produced between the brake pads of the brake caliper and the brake disc at the wheel, produces a large amount of heat, causing wear and tear of the brake pads. Reduced area of contact between the brake pads and the brake disc reduces the braking power. These brake pads pay to require replacement with time.
  • The brake calipers of a car are connected to its hydraulic braking system. A rubber seal at the connecting point contains the brake fluid in the system. This rubber seal is prone to wear and tear due to exposure to the heat produced during the braking process, leading to leakage of the brake fluid which reduces the pressure within the hydraulic system, compromising the efficiency of the braking system of the car. These rubber seals require replacement with time.
  • Hearing metal squealing and/or grinding noises while applying brakes and uneven brakes can be a sign of damaged or misaligned brake caliper. When the brake caliper bracket is damaged or misaligned, it can cause clunking sounds on the application of brakes. In such an event, a thorough inspection of the brake calipers and immediate fixing or replacement is suggested.
  • The vibration of the steering wheel when brakes are applied is a typical indicator of misalignment of the brake calipers and wheels.
  • When the car pulls to one side when the brakes are applied (either far left or right), then brake caliper of one side needs replacement. The balancing of the brake calipers of both left and right side wheels of a vehicle is essential. Therefore, it is usually suggested that front and rear, left and right, both sets of brake calipers are replaced together – unless the damaged brake caliper requiring replacement is new.

We strongly suggest replacing bad brake calipers as soon as their damage is established, instead of trying to fix it. Your safety comes first. We, Machter Auto, offer a range of aftermarket brakes.

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