Brake caliper replacement - Tips and instructions!
Why replace a brake caliper?
A brake caliper is an important part of any disc brake. There is usually one per wheel, but there may be more on some models of very powerful or heavier vehicles. The functionality of the caliper is largely responsible for the braking performance of the vehicle. In the event of a malfunction, the calipers will not apply sufficient pressure to the pads, causing an imbalance and lack of braking power. As a result, the vehicle may become uncontrollable when braking. Damage and wear can have a significant impact on driving safety. That's why you should immediately check the brake caliper for damage and replace it. When replacing a brake caliper, it is recommended that you also replace the brake rotors and pads. A defective caliper will cause the brake pads and rotors to overheat, often resulting in irreversible damage to the brake pads and rotors.
Should I replace the brake caliper myself or have it replaced by a mechanic?
In principle, you should only have your brake caliper replaced by a specialist workshop. This is because the brake caliper is an extremely important part of the vehicle, essential for safe driving. However, if you have the necessary tools and know-how, you can do the job yourself. The replacement itself is fairly simple and straightforward.
How do you change the brake calipers on your car?
- Step 1: Raise the vehicle off the ground. On a solid, level surface, use your jack and lift the vehicle. Place the car on jack stands so it won't fall off while we're underneath. Block the wheels that are still on the ground so they can't roll away.
- Step 2: Remove the wheel. This will expose the caliper and rotor for us to work on.
- Step 3: Remove one of the bolts from the caliper mounting bracket. These will be closer to the center of the wheel, at the back of the hub. Remove one and set it to the side.
- Step 4: Remove the second bolt from the caliper mounting bracket. With one hand under the caliper to support it, use your other hand to loosen the bolt and remove the caliper.
- Step 5: Secure the bracket so it doesn't dangle. As mentioned earlier, we don't want the weight of the caliper pulling on the brake lines. Find a solid piece of suspension and secure the caliper to it with the bungee cord. Wrap it around a few times to make sure it doesn't fall off.
- Step 6: Install and mount the new brake caliper. Start with the top bolt and give it a couple of turns. This will help you align the hole in the lower bolt.
- Step 7: Tighten the mounting bolts to the specified torque. Specifications vary from car to car, but you can find them online or in your vehicle repair manual.
- Step 8: Use wing nuts to hold the rotor in place. Take two of your wing nuts and screw them back onto the bolts. This will hold the rotor in place when we install the new caliper and make the job a little easier.
- Step 9: Clean the mounting bolts and apply new loctite. Before reinstalling the bolts, we need to clean them and apply new threadlocker. Spray on some brake cleaner and use a wire brush to clean the threads thoroughly. Make sure they're completely dry before applying new threadlocker.
- Step 10: Remove the banjo from the old caliper. Unscrew the bolt and remove the banjo. Fluid will leak out again, so prepare a rag.
- Step 11: Remove the old washers from the caliper. The new caliper comes with new washers, which we'll use. Also clean the banjo bolt with brake cleaner. One will be between the bracket and the caliper. The other will be on the bolt. You can squeeze it and it's hard to tell there's a washer, but there is. When you tighten the banjo fitting, it slightly crushes the washer, creating a tight seal so that fluid won't leak under pressure.
- Step 12: Install new washers. Place the new washers in the same locations as before. One on the bolt and one between the fitting and the bracket.
- Step 13: Tighten the banjo bolt. Use a torque wrench to achieve the proper torque. The torque specification can be found online or in the vehicle service manual.
- Step 14: Reinstall the pads. Remove the upper sliding bolt and open the caliper to reinstall the pads.
- Step 15: Install the new anti-vibration clips into the new caliper. New clips should come with the new caliper. If it does not, you can re-use the clips from the old caliper. These clips prevent the pads from rattling inside the caliper.
- Step 16: Lubricate the back of the brakes. Without lubricant, disc brakes tend to squeal when the metal rubs together. Apply a thin layer of lubricant to the back of the brakes and inside the caliper where they rub against each other.
- Step 17: Close the caliper. Close the caliper and tighten the top slide bolt to the specified torque. The new caliper may have a different torque specification than the original, so check the owner's manual for the correct value.
- Step 18: Open the bleed valve. This will help start the bleeding process by allowing air to escape from the valve. Gravity will help push the fluid down, and as the fluid starts to come out of the valve, tighten it securely. Not too tight, because we still need to open the valve to get the rest of the air out.
- Step 19: Bleed the brakes. There will still be some air in the brake lines and we need to pump it out so the pedal doesn't get spongy. Just bleed the lines from the calipers you've replaced.
- Step 20: Put the wheel back on. With the brakes bled, make sure the calipers and lines are completely free of brake fluid and put the wheel back on. Tighten to the proper torque.
- Step 21: Time for a test ride: Make sure you have plenty of room in front of you in case the brakes don't work as expected. Start at a very low speed to make sure the brakes can stop the car easily.
After a few starts and stops, check for leaks. Mainly at the banjo fitting that we moved. If you can't see it through the wheel, you may need to remove it for inspection. It's worth making sure everything is working as it should before you put the car on the street.
With the new calipers and bleed lines, your brakes should look like new. As we've mentioned before, regular brake bleeding can really extend the life of your calipers by keeping the fresh fluid that keeps your seals intact.