Troubleshooting a Brake Caliper that Locks Up

A brake caliper.

Anyone who owns an automobile knows that the brakes are one of the most important systems in the car. If your car is pulling to one side, it could indicate that one of your brake calipers is seizing up. This can be a serious problem and should be dealt with as quickly as possible. Rather than heading straight for the mechanic, see if you can troubleshoot and fix the problem yourself.

Check Your Calipers for Tightness

The job of your calipers is to pinch the brake pads onto the rotor, initiating the friction that stops the vehicle. The most common reason for the calipers locking up when you are driving is that the caliper piston is seizing in the bore and not releasing. If this is the case, then a piston replacement is necessary. This is best accomplished with a new or rebuilt caliper assembly. Both calipers on same axle should be replaced at same time because if one fails the other will probably fail soon.

Check Calipers for Dirt and Rust

Like any other part of the car, the brake calipers can become exceedingly dirty and dusty over time. This can prevent the caliper pistons from proper movement, causing the car to pull unexpectedly to the side. Check your calipers for mud, rust, grass, and other debris. Remove any dirt and make sure the pistons move freely and are not overworking, in which case you will need to have the braking systems removed and refitted. If your calipers show rust, replace them. Although you may be able to remove the corrosion, it could weaken that part of the caliper so it is better to fix the problem completely with a replacement part.

Check Calipers for Wear and Tear

Age is another factor that can cause calipers to lock up. Over time these parts of the braking system become very worn and need to be replaced. This wear is shown in the amount of caliper-to-piston action, and the clearance produced between these two sources. Calipers may also wear down on the front pads, meaning that they cannot form a good grip, and this leads to over-exertion of the parts, consequently locking out. If you find that your brake calipers are very worn, it is a good idea to get them replaced immediately before they fail you in your time of need.

Calipers are a key component to any vehicle’s braking system. If they are dirty, worn, or broken it will cause an essential failure and create a major hazard for you as the driver. Avoid that scenario by getting your car up on jacks so you can maintain your calipers for safe braking.