Modern disc braking systems include plenty of extra hardware and equipment to provide data to your car's computer, work with your traction control system, and provide a safer and more comfortable driving experience. However, the core parts of these systems remain the same, and nearly every modern vehicle still uses relatively straightforward hydraulically-actuated calipers.
These calipers act as a housing for the brake piston that applies pressure to your brake pads, ultimately creating friction and bringing your car to a stop. Calipers aren't complex devices, but they can fail in a few different ways, with sticking being one of the most common failure modes. Keep reading to learn why this happens and what you can do about it.
Why Do Brake Calipers Stick?
A typical brake caliper only has a few parts, including the caliper housing and the brake piston. When hydraulic brake fluid enters the caliper, it pushes the piston against your brake pads, clamping them down to the rotor. When you release the pedal, fluid flows out of the caliper, and the piston can retract. A set of simple slide pins allow the caliper to move forward and backward.
Problems arise when part of the caliper can't move smoothly. For example, your calipers may stick if the piston seals degrade, allowing moisture to enter the piston chamber and cause rust. Worn or dirty slide pins are another potential cause of a stuck caliper. In most cases, the caliper with stick with the piston extended, causing your brake pads to "drag" against the rotor at all times.
How Do You Know if Your Caliper is Sticking?
The earliest symptom of a stuck caliper is usually excessive brake dust on the affected wheel. You may also notice the car pulling to one side, especially when braking at low speed. The affected wheel and brake components may also become extremely hot due to constant contact between the pads and rotors, so it's important to be careful if you suspect a stuck caliper.
As the problem worsens, the brake pads on the stuck caliper will begin to wear down much more quickly. You will eventually notice the worn pads squeaking and, if you don't address the problem quickly enough, grinding. Driving with a caliper in this condition can cause additional damage to your brakes or even reduce your braking performance.
What Can You Do About a Stuck Caliper?
If you suspect a stuck caliper, your best option is to have an experienced brake shop investigate the problem as soon as possible. The best solution will depend on the underlying cause of the problem. Sometimes, you may only need to replace a deteriorating brake hose. You'll need to rebuild or replace the caliper in more severe instances.
Whatever the cause, you shouldn't ignore the symptoms of a stuck caliper. Getting the problem fixed will ensure your car continues to brake smoothly and safely under all conditions. For more information, contact a company like Greg's Japanese Auto Parts and Services.