How to Replace Brake Calipers [14 Step Guide]

By Jed Lehman •  Updated: 01/30/24 •  11 min read

A vital part of a vehicle’s braking system are the brake calipers. Brake calipers may need to be replaced as they become worn out or damaged over time. If you are experiencing poor brake performance or notice that your brake calipers are leaking, it may be time to replace them. Replacing brake calipers is a task that can be performed by someone with intermediate automotive repair skills. However, it is important to exercise caution and follow proper procedures to ensure a safe and effective repair.

In this guide, we will walk you through the steps of how to replace brake calipers, including gathering the necessary tools and supplies, removing the old calipers, installing the new calipers, and bleeding the brake system. By following these steps, you can improve the performance and safety of your vehicle.

First Off What is a Brake Caliper?

There are two types of brake calipers: fixed calipers and floating calipers.

Fixed calipers have the brake pads mounted on opposite sides of the rotor and are typically found on smaller vehicles.

Floating calipers have one brake pad on each side of the rotor. They are mounted on a sliding mechanism, allowing them to move back and forth as the brake pads wear down. Floating calipers are typically found on larger vehicles and provide more even braking force.

how to replace brake calipers

Signs of Caliper Problems

Table: Average Cost of Brake Calipers by Vehicle Type

Vehicle TypeAverage Cost per Caliper
Sedan$150 – $250
SUV$200 – $300
Truck$250 – $350
Performance Vehicle$300 – $500

Tools You Need to Replace Brake Calipers

Here is a list of tools that you will need to replace brake calipers:

  1. Lug wrench: This is a special type of wrench that is used to remove the lug nuts that secure the wheels to the vehicle.
  2. Hydraulic jack and jack stands: You will need a hydraulic jack to lift the vehicle off the ground and jack stands to support it while you work on it.
  3. Torque wrench: This is a special type of wrench that is used to tighten bolts to a specific torque specification. It is important to use a torque wrench when installing brake calipers to ensure the bolts are tightened to the correct specification.
  4. Brake caliper tool: This is a special tool that is used to loosen and tighten the bolts that secure the brake caliper to the caliper bracket.
  5. Channel lock pliers: These are a type of pliers that can be used to loosen and tighten bolts and nuts. They can be used as an alternative to a brake caliper tool.
  6. Brake cleaner: This is a special cleaning agent that is used to remove dirt, grime, and brake dust from the brake pads and the caliper bracket.
  7. Small brush: This can be used to scrub away any dirt or debris that may be stuck to the brake pads or the caliper bracket.
  8. New brake caliper: You will need a new brake caliper to replace the old one. Make sure to get the correct type of caliper for your vehicle.
  9. Brake caliper mounting bolts: These are the bolts that secure the brake caliper to the caliper bracket. Make sure to get new bolts when replacing the caliper.
  10. Brake hose banjo bolt: This bolt secures the brake hose to the brake caliper. Make sure to loosen and tighten it to the correct torque specification when replacing the caliper.

How to Replace Brake Calipers

As stated above, replacing brake calipers is a task you can be perform with intermediate automotive repair skills. However, it is important to exercise caution and follow proper procedures to ensure a safe and effective repair. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to replace brake calipers:

  1. Lift the vehicle using the hydraulic jack and secure it on the jack stands. Make sure the vehicle is stable and level before proceeding.
  2. Locate the brake caliper on the wheel assembly. The brake caliper is the component that houses the brake pads. It is responsible for applying pressure to the rotor to slow down or stop the vehicle. It is typically located near the top of the wheel assembly, near the brake rotor.
  3. Remove the lug nuts that secure the wheel in place using the lug wrench. Then, carefully remove the wheel from the vehicle.
  4. Once the wheel is removed, you will have access to the brake caliper. Begin by loosening the brake hose banjo bolt that secures the brake hose to the caliper. You may need to use a wrench or pliers to loosen the bolt.
  5. Next, use the brake caliper tool or a pair of channel lock pliers to loosen the mounting bolts that secure the caliper to the caliper bracket. The caliper bracket is the component that holds the caliper in place. It is usually located near the top of the rotor.
  6. Once the mounting bolts are loosened, you should be able to gently pull the brake caliper away from the rotor. Be careful not to damage the brake hose or the rotor as you remove the caliper.
  7. With the brake caliper removed, you will have access to the brake pads. Use the small brush and the brake cleaner to clean any dirt or debris from the brake pads and the caliper bracket.
  8. Once the brake pads and caliper bracket are clean, you can begin installing the new brake caliper. Start by attaching the brake hose to the caliper using the banjo bolt. Then, position the caliper over the rotor and secure it to the caliper bracket using the mounting bolts. Make sure the caliper is aligned properly and tightened to the appropriate torque specification.
  9. Repeat the process on the other side of the vehicle to replace the brake caliper on the opposite wheel.
  10. Once the brake calipers are installed, you will need to bleed the brake system to remove any air that may have entered the lines during the repair. This is a crucial step in the process, as air in the brake system can lead to poor brake performance and even failure.
  11. To bleed the brake system, you will need a brake bleeding kit, a container to catch the brake fluid, and a helper. Begin by loosening the bleeder valve on the caliper farthest from the brake master cylinder (usually the rear calipers). Have your helper press down on the brake pedal while you open the bleeder valve to allow the brake fluid to flow into the container. Close the bleeder valve when your helper releases the brake pedal. Repeat this process until you have a steady stream of clear brake fluid flowing from the caliper.
  12. Repeat the bleeding process on the other caliper and then check the brake fluid level in the brake master cylinder. If necessary, add brake fluid to bring the level up to the full mark.
  13. Once the brake system is bled, you can install the wheels back on the vehicle. From there, lower it off the jack stands. Test the brakes to make sure they are functioning properly and there are no leaks in the system.
  14. As a final step, inspect the brake pads for proper clearance and adjust them if necessary. The brake pads should have a small amount of clearance between the rotor and the pad when the brake pedal is not pressed. If the pads are too close to the rotor, they may cause the brakes to drag or overheat. If the pads are too far from the rotor, they may not make proper contact when the brakes are applied, resulting in poor brake performance.

By following these steps, you should be able to successfully replace your brake calipers and improve the performance and safety of your vehicle. If you are unsure of your ability to perform this repair, seek the assistance of a trained professional.

How Much Does it Cost to Replace Brake Calipers?

The cost of replacing brake calipers yourself will depend on the price of the parts and any additional tools or supplies that you may need to purchase. In general, you can expect to pay anywhere from $100 to $300 per caliper for the parts. This is depending on the make and model of your vehicle and the type of brake calipers you need. You may also need to purchase additional tools or supplies, such as a hydraulic jack, jack stands, a torque wrench, or a brake caliper tool, which can add to the cost of the repair. However, by replacing the brake calipers yourself, you can save on labor costs, which can be significant.

At a repair shop, you can expect to pay around $300 to $400 for a single brake caliper replacement. However, the total cost could be higher or lower depending on the location and the rate of the shop. If you are comfortable with automotive repair and have the necessary tools and skills, replacing the brake calipers yourself can be a cost-effective option.

Additional Information:

  1. Brake Caliper Maintenance Tips:
    • Regularly inspect and clean brake calipers to remove debris and prevent corrosion.
    • Lubricate caliper slide pins and bushings as part of routine brake maintenance to ensure smooth operation.
    • Check brake fluid levels regularly and top up if necessary to prevent air from entering the brake lines.
  2. Common Brake Caliper Problems:
    • Sticky or seized caliper pistons: This can cause uneven brake pad wear and reduced braking efficiency.
    • Leaking brake fluid: A leaking caliper can lead to a loss of braking power and potential safety hazards.
    • Corrosion and rust: Over time, calipers can corrode, affecting their structural integrity and performance.
  3. Brake Caliper Material Options:
    • Cast iron: Traditional caliper material known for its durability and heat dissipation properties.
    • Aluminum: Lightweight option that offers good thermal conductivity and corrosion resistance.
    • Carbon ceramic: High-performance material used in high-end vehicles for superior heat resistance and reduced weight.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):

  1. How long do brake calipers last?
    • Brake calipers typically last between 50,000 to 100,000 miles under normal driving conditions. However, factors such as driving habits, vehicle usage, and maintenance practices can affect their lifespan.
  2. Can I replace brake calipers myself, or should I hire a professional?
    • While replacing brake calipers is possible for DIY enthusiasts, it requires mechanical skill and knowledge of automotive systems. If you’re unsure or uncomfortable with the process, it’s recommended to seek assistance from a professional mechanic to ensure the job is done correctly and safely.
  3. Do I need to replace brake calipers on both sides of the vehicle at the same time?
    • It’s generally recommended to replace brake calipers in pairs (both sides of the axle) to ensure balanced braking performance. However, if only one caliper is malfunctioning or damaged, you can replace it individually.
  4. What causes brake calipers to stick?
    • Brake calipers can stick due to various reasons, including corrosion, worn caliper slide pins, or a malfunctioning caliper piston. Lack of lubrication or contamination of brake fluid can also contribute to caliper sticking.
  5. Can I reuse brake calipers after rebuilding them?
    • In some cases, brake calipers can be rebuilt by replacing seals, pistons, and other components. However, it’s essential to carefully inspect the caliper for any signs of damage or wear and ensure proper rebuild procedures are followed to maintain safety and performance.

Conclusion

By following the steps outlined in this guide, you can replace your brake calipers and improve the performance and safety of your vehicle. Keep in mind that replacing brake calipers is a crucial safety repair. It is important to use high-quality parts to ensure the safety and performance of your vehicle. If you are unsure of your ability to perform this repair, it is always best to seek the assistance of a trained professional.

Jed Lehman

Jed Lehman is a born gearhead who has been working on cars since he could crawl. He inherited his love for auto from his grandfather who owned a maintenance shop in Carlsbad, California. Jed is the driver behind Gearshift, and started this site to provide straightforward, helpful automobile information. From maintenance tips to product reviews, you can find it all here.