Sticky Brake Syndrome: What You Should Know About Stuck Calipers

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Your car's brake system consists of many different components, but one of the most important aspects of your braking system is the caliper. Calipers use hydraulic pressure, created by the brake fluid, to push the pad to the rotor when you press the brake pedal. Stuck calipers can cause your brakes to function poorly, or not function at all. Here are a few common causes of caliper issues as well as some warning signs that indicate you might need brake service.

Causes of Caliper Trouble

There are a few common issues that can lead to caliper sticking. Here are some of the ones that you might encounter:

No lubrication – Brake calipers need to be treated with a silicone lubricant to keep the moving parts functioning. Otherwise, you risk the caliper pins seizing up due to overheating. This will ultimately cause your brake system to bind up and fail. Having your calipers lubricated regularly can keep this from happening.

Bad lines – In order for your brake system to build and maintain the level of hydraulic pressure required to function properly, you need to have durable brake lines. If your brake lines are punctured or have started to swell, you'll lose some of that pressure due to leakage or poor fluid flow. Inspect your brake lines regularly for signs of wear to avoid this problem.

Dirty fluid – The older your brake fluid gets, the more water it's likely to absorb. As the brake fluid heats up, the water in it starts to steam. The steam in the lines can interfere with the pressure levels in the lines. If you have too much water in the lines, the added steam can actually prevent the system from generating enough pressure to engage the caliper. Keeping your brake fluid changed regularly so that it is clean and free of water is the only way to avoid this.

Signs That Your Calipers are Sticking

Here are a few key signs that your calipers may be sticking:

  • Pulling to One Side: When a caliper is stuck closed, it applies steady, constant pressure to the brake pad on that wheel. This pressure can actually cause your car to pull to the side where the caliper is stuck.
  • Poor Fuel Mileage: Since stuck calipers keep the brake engaged on that wheel, it creates drag in your car's response. This can ultimately cause your car to have to work harder to get where you're going, which can burn more fuel.
  • Shaking: If the caliper sticks, it can cause uneven wear on your rotors. The valleys and peaks created from this wear will often cause your car to vibrate or shake when you press the brakes.

Stuck calipers are a common source of brake trouble, but one that many drivers don't know how to recognize. With the information here, you'll be better equipped to not only identify that you have a problem, but possibly the source of the problem as well. If you suspect that you have a problem and need to have a brake check in Calgary, take your car to a brake mechanic for an inspection.