Brake Caliper Replacement Guide - How to Change Brake Calipers
Are you hearing noise while driving, or while braking? Do you feel a vibration in the pedal or steering wheel when you slow down? Does the vehicle pull to one side when driving and even more when braking? These are signs that you may have brake caliper problems. In this video, we'll go over the basic steps in replacing a caliper.
Since we'll be working under the car, it's important to observe basic safety precautions. Wear a dust mask and eye protection to protect yourself from brake dust. Do not use compressed air to clean brake parts. Always use a spray brake cleaner to keep brake dust from becoming airborne. Park the vehicle on a flat, dry surface, and make sure the parking brake is not engaged. Chock the wheels, and place automatic transmissions in park, and manual transmissions in neutral.
Before beginning, gather all the tools and supplies that are needed so that they'll be within reach when you do the job. When jacking the vehicle, ensure the jack is rated for the weight of the vehicle being lifted, and use factory lift points, which can be found in your owner's manual. Once the vehicle is lifted, support the vehicle on jack stands and not the jack.
Most vehicle manufacturers recommend replacing calipers in pairs for maximum performance and even wear, since they work together to stop the vehicle. This assures safe, efficient braking. Work on one wheel at a time, using the other wheel for reference. Snap a photo of the system, or better yet, have a vehicle repair manual handy.
While the vehicle is still on the ground, loosen the lug nuts just a little on the wheel that you'll be working on. Once each lug nut has been loosened, lift the vehicle with a proper jack, and support it on jack stands. Once you have the vehicle on jack stands, remove the lug nuts and wheel.
Next, thoroughly clean the brake hose-to-caliper fitting with a cloth before disconnecting to prevent contamination to the brake fluid. Now disconnect the brake hose fitting at the caliper. There are two types of brake hoses, one with a banjo bolt, and the other with standard threaded fittings. If the hose has a threaded end connecting into the brake caliper, loosen or disconnect the flexible hose from the brake line on the frame end first. Remove the retaining clip holding the hose to the frame or bracket, then separate the hose from its mounting and disconnect it from the brake line fitting. This will prevent the brake line from twisting and possibly getting damaged.
Now unscrew the hose assembly at the caliper. Cap or tape the open brake line end, or caliper inlet port, to keep dirt from entering the system, and prevent brake fluid loss. Next, remove the pins or bolts securing the caliper to the mounting bracket. Then lift the caliper off the rotor. If the original caliper can't be removed because the brake pads are held tightly against the rotor, apply a little pressure to the brake pad to push the piston in, just enough to allow the caliper to loosen up for removal. A rubber mallet can also be used to tap the caliper off the rotor, but care must be taken to prevent damage that can occur if the caliper is hit too hard.
Now that the caliper has been removed, detach the brake pads and hardware from the caliper, and set it to the side. This is a good time to inspect the area for leaks and check for cracked or worn hoses.
We can now install the new caliper. Remove the caliper bolts, sliders, and rubber boots from the old caliper, and inspect them for damage. Take a moment to clean the caliper mounting points and the slides. Check bolts and pins for pitting and rust. Check boots for tears and brittleness. If any of the hardware appears to be worn or damaged, replace with new hardware.
Properly lube bolts and sliders with silicone lubricant, and apply lube inside any rubber boots or bushings. Be careful not to get grease, brake fluid, or other contaminants on the brake pads or the brake rotor, as it could affect braking.
Before installing brake pads into the new caliper, make sure the caliper piston is compressed completely. Then install any shims, clips, or pins that were removed from the old caliper onto the replacement. For front calipers, most of the time, you can simply press the piston into the caliper by hand, but occasionally, it requires the use of a C-clamp. If a C-clamp is used, place the old pad onto the piston, and apply force to the center of the pad. For rear calipers, the piston needs to be screwed back into the caliper. This can be accomplished by using a special brake tool that can be purchased at your local AutoZone. Check your vehicle repair manual for specific instructions.
After applying synthetic brake lubricant to the back side of the brake pads, install the brake pads into the caliper, taking care to avoid chipping the brake pad edges. Then reinstall it over the rotor. Take care not to cut or damage any dust boots that are installed, and torque the mounting bolts to the manufacturer's recommended torque. As torque requirements vary from vehicle manufacturer to manufacturer, refer to the vehicle repair manual for exact specifications.
If the brake hose that was removed had a copper gasket, install a new gasket, and reconnect the brake line to the caliper. Reclip the brake hose in its frame mount or bracket with the retaining clip, and tighten the hose end on the caliper first, followed by the frame end second.
Before reinstalling the wheel, bleed the brakes to ensure there is no air in the system, and the brake system is working properly. Be sure to use new, clean fluid. For more information on how to bleed the brake system, see our video, How to Bleed the Master Cylinder and Brake System.
Once the brake system has been bled, reinstall the wheel. Tighten the wheel nuts by hand until they are as tight as possible, and then snug them down with a ratchet and socket with the wheel still off the ground. Complete this process one nut at a time, going in a star pattern around the tire, one nut across from the other.
Jack the vehicle off the jack stand, and remove it from under the vehicle. With the jack stand removed, slowly lower the vehicle to the ground without applying the full weight of the vehicle on the tire. Using a torque wrench, tighten the wheel nuts to the required torque specification, once again repeating the star pattern tightening procedure. When all nuts have been completely tightened, lower the vehicle all the way to the floor. Remove the jack and repeat the process for the rest of the brake system that you're performing the brake job on.
Once the job has been completed, check the brake fluid level, add fluid if needed, then start the vehicle, and press on the brake pedal a few times to prime the system. Once the brake pedal feels firm, remove the wheel chocks and test drive the vehicle to ensure the brakes are working properly.
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