You may have a seized brake caliper if you hear a wheel’s squealing or metallic rubbing noise. Most calipers size because the caliper guide pins rust to lack of lubrification or the piston size due to rust build-up. This guide provides instructions on how to replace a brake caliper on a vehicle.
This guide is based on a 2006 Honda Ridgeline, but the procedure is the same for most makes and models. Note that the brake calibers vary between makes and are not interchangeable.
Common symptoms of a bad brake caliper include
- Pulling to one side. A seized brake caliper or caliper slider can cause the vehicle to pull to one side.
- Brake fluid leaks.
- Longer braking distance.
- Uneven brake pad wear.
- Dragging sensation.
- Brake pads and rotors are overheating.
- Abnormal noise when in motion and /or when braking.
- Decrease in fuel economy.
- Grinding / rubbing noise that is constant and does not go away unless you apply the brakes.
- Squealing or metallic rubbing noise.
What you will need
- Brake caliper
- Flexible brake hose washers
- Torque wrench
- Breaker bar
- 1/2 inch socket
- wheel lug wrench
- flat-head screwdriver
- power tool (optional)
- Park the vehicle on level ground and set the parking brakes on.
- Using a lug nut wrench, loosen the lug nuts of the affected wheel by directing your torque counterclockwise. Do not remove the lug nuts completely; removing the lug nuts at this time would cause the tire to fall prematurely, which may cause an injury.
- Place the jack below the body frame and raise the car until the wheel can be turned freely by hand.
- Remove the lug nuts and use the lug nut wrench to lift the wheel while your other hand lifts the wheel from the top.
- Once the wheel is free from the studs, lift it and set it aside.
- Place a catch pan below the brake caliper to prevent brake fluid from escaping to the environment.
- With a flat-head screwdriver as a lever, create some space between the caliper and rotor.
- Loosen the retaining bolts for the caliper bracket using a breaker bar and a 1/2 inch socket.
- Remove the bracket’s lower and upper retaining bolts using a ratchet with a 16mm socket.
- Pull out the brake caliper assembly, and be wary of the flexible brake hose.
- Secure the caliper without stretching the hose.
- Test fit the new brake caliper assembly against the bracket.
- Once it fits, install the upper and lower bolt initially by hand.
- Fasten the retaining bolts using a ratchet. Torque these bolts to specification. The front brake caliper bracket typically requires to be tightened to 80 ft/lbs. The caliper bolts have a torque spec of 45 ft/lbs. Verify by contacting your dealer.
- Using a Torque wrench, torque the bolts to the manufacturer’s specifications.
- Loosen the lower caliper slider pin bolts.
- Remove the lower caliper slider bolt.
- Slide the caliper upward to make room for the brake pads.
- Install anti-rattle clips.
- Apply brake pad anti-seize grease to brake pads; avoid applying grease to parts that contact the rotor.
- Install the brake pads.
- Remove slider pin and lubricate with silicone grease.
- Re-install the guide pin and torque to specs (see below).
- Slide the caliper back into position.
- Reinstall the slider pin bolt and torque to specifications.
- Detach the flexible hose from the old caliper.
- Install new washer on the flexible hose connector.
- Install flexible hose connector bolt and torque to specifications.
- Loosen the bleeder bolt and let the fluid flow until there is no more air coming out.
- Fasten the bleeder bolt.
- Start the engine.
- Have someone press the brake pedal three times, then keep the brake pedal pressed. Next, loosen the bleeder bolt to release any air trapped inside the hydraulic line, then fasten the bleeder bolt then have the brake pedal release. You may need to do this a few times until the brake pedal feels normal.
- Fasten the bleeder bolt.
- Stop the engine.
- Re-install the wheel.
- Re-install the lug nuts.
- Remove the jack, and fasten the lug nuts, and torque it to specifications.
- Front brake caliper bracket bolts:80 ft/lbs
- Rear brake caliper bracket: 75 ft/lbs.
- Brake caliper bolts (guide pins) front: 44 ft/lbs
- Brake caliper bolts rear: 23 ft/lbs.
These are typical values. Check by contacting your dealer.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you change just one caliper?
Yes. You can change only one caliper. Although we recommend replacing both brake calipers simultaneously, it is not necessary to do so. In other words, you don’t have to replace both calipers if only one is bad. Mechanics may suggest that you replace both brake calipers simultaneously, but this is not usually necessary.
Is it hard to change a brake caliper?
Changing a brake caliper is not as hard as you would think. The hardest part is loosening the two bolts on the back of the brake caliper bracket. Large bolts require force similar to that required to remove your wheel lug nuts.
Can I change a caliper without bleeding brakes?
No. The new brake caliper will have air inside and needs to be bled. Therefore, you will need to bleed air out of the new caliper. The good news is that you don’t need to bleed all four wheels.
How much does it cost to change a brake caliper?
You can change a brake caliper for about $100-$150 in about an hour. At a repair shop, a new brake caliper will cost you between $400 and $650. The cost of replacing a brake caliper at a dealership ranges between $450 and $850. Some mechanics may insist that you simultaneously replace the caliper on the other side. While recommended, this is not required.
Can a seized brake caliper be unseized by itself?
It is possible for a caliper to unseized itself after a few hard braking applications. Most brake calipers seize because the guide pins rust due to a lack of lubrication. For such cases, remove the wheel, pull out the guide pins, sand them down with 200 grit sandpaper, then apply grease and reinstall.
How often do calipers go bad?
Disc brake calipers are resilient brake components expected to last as long as your vehicle. Your brake calipers last anywhere between 75,000 to 150,000 miles or thirteen years.
Can you drive without a brake caliper?
You can’t just remove a caliper for a couple of reasons. First, it would cause a major brake fluid leak, quickly leaving you with no brakes. Secondly, if you plugged the line off, your braking characteristics would be so messed up that driving would be entirely unsafe.
How much does it cost to replace brake calipers?
The average cost to replace your brake calipers can range from about $350 to $800. If you head to AutoZone, you’ll see those front brake calipers can cost you anywhere from about $40 to $440, depending on the vehicle.
We hope you find the Brake Caliper Replacement DIY guide helpful. Check these troubleshooting and repair guides for more help on your vehicle.