The Best Way to Clean Brake Calipers

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What You'll Need
Jack stands
Cling film
Compressed air pump
Air Nozzle
Scrub pad
Brake Fluid

Brake calipers can become dirty and greasy. Over time, it’s almost inevitable given their location and the amount of work they have to undergo. Eventually, you might need to clean the brake calipers. If you’re repainting your car or adding more chrome, you might want to do this for aesthetic purposes. It’s not a difficult job, but it does take some fairly hard work.

Step 1 - Removing the Caliper

Start by slightly loosening the lugs on the wheel. Jack the car up and put it on a jack stand before fully loosening the lugs and removing the wheel. Open the hood and the brake fluid master cylinder. Lay cling film over the top of the liquid and close the cap to keep most of the vacuum intact on the brake fluid.

Next, you need to slightly loosen the brake line where it meets the caliper. Don’t unscrew it entirely, and put a tray underneath to catch any drips. Use your screwdriver to pry off the caliper spring clip that you should be able to see on the outside of the caliper. If there are covers on the guide bolts for the calipers, these can be removed. You can then loosen and remove the caliper bolts and take the caliper off the rotor. Once the caliper is free, remove the brake pads from the caliper.

Step 2 - Freeing the Caliper

You’ll find that the caliper still has the brake line attached. Make sure that you don’t twist the line as you pull out the caliper. Remove it and plug the end using a vacuum cap, which is made of rubber. Put the end of the line in the tray to catch any leaks.

Step 3 - Preparing to Clean

You need to be able to access the piston on your brake calipers in order to clean it. To do this, you’ll need a source of compressed air and an air nozzle. You’ll also need a small piece of wood that’s about ½ an inch thick. Place the wood between the piston on the caliper and the outer flange. Insert the nozzle into the brake line hole on the caliper and feed a little compressed air through it. This will force the piston out. Make sure you keep your hands clear of this because it will come out with a fair amount of force.

Step 4 - Cleaning

To clean the piston, use brake fluid, with a scrub pad to take off hard dirt and grease. If you see that the piston is pitted in any way, you’ll need to replace it. To clean the caliper, use a scrub brush and brake fluid, which is the best at removing grease and dirt.

For smaller areas you’ll need to use an old toothbrush that can penetrate small areas. Do this outside or, at the very least, in a well-ventilated area. Where dirt remains, go over the brake caliper again until it’s completely clean. Replace the piston then reattach the brake line before putting the brake caliper back in the wheel. Bleed air from caliper using approved bleeding procedure for your vehicle.

Not many people think about cleaning their brake calipers, but it is an important part of maintenance. All it takes is these four steps.