Brake Calipers: The Top 3 Things You Need to Know
If the mention of brake calipers instantly cues the sound of crickets chirping, you’re not alone. Although calipers are a vital part of keeping your vehicle’s brakes working, this actual function is not widely known.
But it should be.
Brake calipers are a crucial part of making your car stop when you hit the brakes.
They’re arguably one of the most important brake parts. That said, let’s break down what they do, why they matter, and what you can do to keep them in peak shape.
1. What are brake calipers?
A caliper is part of the disc brake system, the type most car's have in their front brakes.
The brake caliper houses your car’s brake pads and pistons. Its job is to slow the car’s wheels by creating friction with the brake rotors.
The brake caliper fits like a clamp on a wheel’s rotor to stop the wheel from turning when you step on the brakes. Inside each caliper is a pair of metal plates known as brake pads.
When you push the brake pedal, brake fluid creates pressure on pistons in the brake caliper, forcing the pads against the brake rotor and slowing your car.
2. How are they connected to the rest of the braking system?
The caliper assembly lives in your brakes and is connected to the master cylinder through tubes, hoses, and valves that conduct brake fluid through the system. We could go on about brake calipers for days on end, but we’ll show some restraint. Here’s what you really need to know: your brake calipers are really important.
Which conveniently leads to our next point.
3. When do your brake calipers need attention?
Over time in normal driving conditions, the heat generated from the braking system can weaken and break down seals inside the calipers.
They can become rusty, contaminated or dirty, and start to leak brake fluid if you don’t drive regularly.
However, you should have your brakes checked immediately if you experience any of the following:
- Your brakes are continuously squeaking, squealing or grinding
- Your brake or antilock braking system (ABS) warning light comes on
- Your car jerks or pulls to one side when braking
- You need to pump your brakes for them to work properly
- Your brake pedal feels unusually soft and spongy or hard
- You notice brake fluid leaks around the wheels or engine compartment
The next time brake calipers come up during dinner conversation, you’ll be ready to impress.