How To Replace Brake Calipers
Over time, brake calipers can wear down due to constant use, leading to decreased braking efficiency and potential safety hazards. Regularly replacing your brake calipers ensures optimal performance, preventing accidents and preserving the longevity of your brakes overall.
Here’s What You’ll Need:
- Jack and safety stands
- Socket set (torx or hex sockets may be needed)
- Wrench set (specific line wrenches may be needed)
- Caliper brake piston turning tool
- Brake fluid bleeding tools
- 1-2 feet of clear 1/4" hose
- Glass jar and a helper if a Brake Bleeding Kit is not available
- Torque wrench
- Large pliers
- Brake fluid
- Drain pan
- Oil absorbent
- Vinyl gloves
- Brake clean
- Bearing grease (some applications)
- Disc brake quiet
- Caliper lube
- Hand cleaner
- Torque specifications
- Application specific instructions
- Brake calipers (semi-loaded or non loaded)
- Brake pads
- Brake rotors (if needed)
- Caliper mounting bolts
- Work boots/rubber boots
Words of Wisdom From The King:
- Calipers come as "non-loaded" or "semi-loaded". Non-loaded calipers will need the mounting hardware from the old calipers to complete the installation. Semi-loaded calipers come with the necessary hardware to install. All you need are your preferred brand of brake pads.
- Always replace brakes in pairs.
- Make sure your parking brake is off if you are working on the rear brakes.
- Chock any wheels that are not raised off the ground.
- Disassemble only one side at a time in case you need to refer to the other side when reassembling.
Steps for Caliper Removal
- Loosen the lug nuts on the wheel before you jack up the vehicle
- Raise and support vehicle.
IMPORTANT: Always place a safety stand under the raised part of the vehicle. If the vehicle slips off of the jack, it could cause serious injury or death.
- Remove wheel.
- Loosen caliper bolts. If your vehicle has a two piece caliper (some late model GMs), loosen all of the necessary bolts before removing the caliper.
- Have your drain pan ready under the caliper, and loosen the brake hose "banjo" bolt before removing caliper. Pay attention to the hose position so it can be reinstalled the same way later.
IMPORTANT - Brake fluid is corrosive! DO NOT spill any on your car or yourself.
- Remove caliper mounting bolts and the caliper from the steering knuckle.
- Remove the banjo bolt that holds the brake hose to the caliper and separate the caliper and hose.
- Once the hose is separated from the caliper, make sure all of the fluid still dripping from it is caught in the drain pan. In trying to prevent the loss of brake fluid, some people will try to clamp the brake hose. If you want to try this, be very careful to not damage the hose. The inner material can be damaged, causing premature failure of the hose and possibly loss of brake control.
- Drain as much fluid as possible from the old caliper.
- Separate caliper sections (if needed), remove the brake pads, shims, anti-rattle clips and any other hardware that may be needed on the new calipers.
- If your new caliper is "semi-loaded," you can skip the next three steps
- For added safety place blocks behind the rear wheels.
- If your new caliper is "non-loaded", remove the caliper bolts/sliders and rubber boots from the old caliper. Inspect the bolts and sliders for damage including stripping, pitting, rust or tear and replace them if needed.
- Properly lube bolts and sliders by liberally applying caliper lube to any parts that the caliper slides on. Also apply lube to the inside of the rubber boots or bushings that the sliders go through.
- Install the rubber boots, bushings, bolts and sliders into the new caliper.
IMPORTANT: Properly lubed and functioning caliper bolts and sliders will help prevent premature wear and failure of brake pads, rotors and calipers.
Once all needed parts are removed from the old caliper, and the fluid has been drained from it, place it in the box the new caliper came in.
If replacing or machining the rotors, remove them next.
Steps for Installation
- Before installing new brake pads, you'll want to make sure the caliper piston is compressed completely. This should be fairly easy with the caliper not attached to the brake hose, and with no fluid in the caliper. There are different ways to compress different calipers. With Improper compression you can destroy your caliper.
- Once the caliper is compressed, you can install any shims and anti-rattle clips. You should never reuse old shims or anti-rattle clips.
- Install the brake rotors.
- Reattach the brake hose to the caliper, but don't tighten it completely.
- Install new brake pads onto the caliper, paying attention to inboard and outboard pad position.
- Apply Anti-Seize to the caliper bolt threads and install the caliper. Be sure to use proper torque settings on the caliper bolts.
- Once the caliper is installed, move the brake hose into its original position and tighten to the proper torque.
- Everything should now be reinstalled.
Steps For Bleeding the System
Next you'll need to "bleed" the system. This ensures that you only have brake fluid in the brake lines and the caliper. If there is any air left in the system, it will compress when you step on the brake pedal, giving you a mushy feel to your brakes and causing poor stopping performance.
There are a couple of different ways to bleed brakes, but the result is the same. By using a one-man vacuum style kit, it can be done by one person. If you have a buddy who is able to lend a hand, all you need is a foot of hose and a clear jar.
IMPORTANT: Always use new brake fluid. Brake fluid is hydroscopic, which means it absorbs moisture in the air once the seal on a bottle has been broken. This effectively lowers the brake fluids boiling point and makes it less effective in the brake hydraulic system.
If you're using a one-person brake bleeding kit, follow the instructions included with the kit. If a friend is able to help, use the following guidelines:
- Fill the clear jar with 1-2 inches of new brake fluid.
- Using a clear 1/4" hose, 1-2 feet long, attach one end to the bleeder valve of the caliper and place the other end directly into the brake fluid in the clear jar.
- Top up the fluid in the brake master cylinder.
- While you hold the hose onto the bleeder valve, loosen the brake bleeder valve.
- Keep holding the hose on the bleeder valve and have your assistant slowly press the brake pedal down. This will force the brake fluid from the master cylinder through the lines, forcing the air and fluid through the caliper, and out the bleeder valve.
- You will see fluid and air bubbles coming out of the hose into the brake fluid in the jar. Make sure the hose keeps the fluid in the jar to avoid any air going back up to the caliper.
- Check the master cylinder fluid level, and top up as needed.
- Repeat the bleeding process until there are no air bubbles showing in the jar.
- Once you are satisfied that the system is free of air, have your assistant slowly step on the brake pedal one last time.
- As fluid flows into the clear jar, tighten the bleeder valve and check your master cylinder fluid level again.
- Are brake hoses or lines leaking?
- Are the struts and/or shocks leaking?
- CV boots cracked or missing?
- Ball joints sloppy or need grease?
- Tie rod ends sloppy or need grease?
- Springs sagging or cracking?
Double-check all of your torque settings and make sure everything has been reinstalled.
Once you're satisfied everything is complete and safe, install the wheel and lower the car.
Repeat for the other side.
IMPORTANT: Always torque the wheel lug nuts properly. Never use an impact gun on lug nuts! Over torqued lug nuts can quickly ruin new rotors by causing them to warp!
- Take the car for a test drive. Drive slowly at first until you're sure everything's okay.
- After returning home safely, re-check the brake fluid, and if everything looks good, you're finished!