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How to Replace a Brake Caliper

DIY Cost: $150-$450
Est. Time: 1-2 hr
Difficulty: Intermediate

Summary

This guide provides instructions on how to replace a brake caliper on a vehicle. If you hear squealing or metallic rubbing noise from a wheel, you may have a seized brake caliper. Most calipers size because the caliper guide pins rust to lack of lubrification or the piston sized due to rust build-up. 

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. 

Symptoms

Common symptoms of a bad brake caliper include

  • Pulling to one side. A seized brake caliper or caliper sliders 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

Parts

Tools

Procedure 

  1.  Park the vehicle on level ground and set the parking brakes on.
  2.  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.
  3. Place the jack below the body frame and raise the car until the wheel can be turned freely by hand.
  4. Remove the lug nuts and use the lug nut wrench to lift the wheel while your other hand is lifting the wheel from the top.
  5. Once the wheel is free from the studs, lift the wheel and set it aside.
  6. Place a catch pan below the brake caliper witch would prevent brake fluid from escaping to the environment.place-catch-pan
  7. With a flat-head screwdriver as a lever, create some space between the caliper and rotor.create-space
  8. Using a breaker bar and a 1/2 inch socket, loosen the retaining bolts for the caliper bracket.
  9. Remove the bracket's lower and upper retaining bolts by using a ratchet with a 16mm socket.remove-all-bolt
  10. Pull out the brake caliper assembly, be wary of the flexible brake hose.pull-out-caliper

     

  11. Secure the caliper without stretching the hose.secure-hose
  12. Test fit the new brake caliper assembly against the bracket.test-fit
  13. Once it fits, install the upper and lower bolt initially by hand.install-bolts
  14. 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. fasten-retaining-bolts
  15. Using a Torque wrench, torque the bolts to the manufacturer's specifications. 
  16. Loosen the lower caliper slider pin bolts.loosen-slider-pin
  17. Remove the lower caliper slider bolt.remove-slider-bolt
  18. Slide the caliper upward to make room for the brake pads.slide-caliper-up
  19. Install anti-rattle clips.install-anti-rattle-pin
  20. Apply brake pad anti-seize grease to brake pads; avoid applying grease to parts that contact the rotor.apply-grease
  21. Install the brake pads. install-break-pads
  22. Remove slider pin and lubricate with silicone grease.lubricate-pin
  23. Re-install the guide pin and torque to specs (see below).
  24. Slide the caliper back into position.slide-caliper-to-position
  25. Reinstall the slider pin bolt and torque to specifications.
  26. Detach the flexible hose from the old caliper.disconnect-hose
  27. Install new washer on the flexible hose connector.install-washer
  28. Install flexible hose connector bolt and torque to specifications.install-connector-bolt
  29. Loosen the bleeder bolt and let the fluid flow until there is no more air coming out.looser-bleeder-bolt
  30. Fasten the bleeder bolt.
  31. Start the engine.
  32. 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.
  33. Fasten the bleeder bolt.
  34. Stop the engine.
  35. Re-install the wheel.
  36. Re-install the lug nuts.
  37. Remove the jack, and fasten the lug nuts, and torque it to specifications.

Torque 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. They are large bolts that 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 yourself 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 replace the caliper on the other side at the same time. 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 and are expected to last as long as your vehicle. Your brake calipers realistically 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 off, it would cause a major brake fluid leak, which would quickly leave you with no brakes at all. Secondly, if you plugged the line off, somehow, your braking characteristics would be so messed up that it would be entirely unsafe to drive.

How much does it cost to replace brake calipers?

  • The average cost to get your brake calipers replaced can range greatly from about $350 all the way up to $800. If you head to AutoZone, you'll see those front brakes calipers can cost you anywhere from about $40 up to $440, depending on the vehicle.
How to Replace a Brake Caliper 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.  Symptoms Common symptoms of a bad brake caliper include