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Brake Caliper Sticking: What Are the Symptoms and Causes of It?

Brake Caliper Sticking: What Are the Symptoms and Causes of It?

Most car owners tend to take their braking systems for granted. They get so used to stepping on their brake pedals and having their cars come to a complete stop that they don’t appreciate all the effort that cars have to go through to make this possible. But that all changes when they experience an issue like a brake caliper sticking. Suddenly, they have a whole new appreciation for how their braking system works and what it does to slow a car down. If you have a brake caliper sticking right now, you should use this opportunity to learn more about calipers and the important role they play in your car’s braking system. Find out more about them and discover how to fix a bad brake caliper below.

What Is a Brake Caliper?

In a few moments, we’re going to talk at length about what you should do if you ever notice a brake caliper sticking when you’re driving in your car. But before we get into it, we think that it’s important for you to have a solid understanding of what a brake caliper actually is. It’ll help you to identify any braking-related issues that could be connected to your calipers.


Your car’s brake calipers are, in essence, the housings that are used to hold your brake pads in place. When you push down on your brake pedals, your calipers are the parts of your braking system that help to push your brake pads down onto your brake rotors to slow your car down. Without your calipers, your braking system wouldn’t be able to bring your car to a stop when you step on your brake pedal.


Under normal circumstances, your car’s brake calipers shouldn’t have any trouble controlling your brake pads. But if you’re experiencing a brake caliper sticking, it could wreak havoc on your car’s ability to drive normally. It’s why you shouldn’t ever ignore a brake caliper sticking at any point when you’re behind the wheel of your car.

How Does a Brake Caliper Work?

We just provided you with a basic breakdown of what a brake caliper is and how it works, but we want to dive a little bit deeper than that. You need to know how a brake caliper works normally so that you can fully appreciate what it brings to the table as far as your braking system is concerned. This is how your brake caliper works within the context of your braking system:

  1. You apply pressure to your car’s brake pedal
  2. Your brake pedal forces brake fluid through the brake lines in your braking system
  3. A piston located in your brake caliper springs into action
  4. Your brake caliper pushes your brake pad down onto your brake rotor
  5. Your car starts to slow down and eventually comes to a stop

This sounds like a simple enough process. But as you can see, there are several different parts within your braking system that have to work together to slow down your car. And if even just one of them isn’t working right, it could through the entire process off. If, for example, you have a brake caliper sticking, it’s going to stop you from being able to brake normally.

What Does It Mean When a Brake Caliper Is Sticking?

We’ve talked about how a brake caliper sticking is going to be a problem for you on several occasions now, but you might not really know exactly what we mean when we say that. So we want to be sure that you comprehend what it means when you have a brake caliper sticking in your vehicle before we go any further.


Generally speaking, when you have a brake caliper sticking in your car, it means that one of the calipers in your braking system is pushing a brake pad down onto a brake rotor when you don’t want it to. This is, in turn, causing your car to slow down even though you’re not applying any pressure to your brake pedal. As you can probably imagine, this is not a good thing since it’s going to force your car to have to work harder than it should have to in order to move forward.


When you first notice a brake caliper sticking, you might not be sure what’s going on. It can be a little bit scary when you’re behind the wheel of a vehicle with a brake caliper that’s stuck. But it is a pretty easy problem to diagnose as long as you know what the brake caliper sticking symptoms are. We’re going to talk about that next so that you know what to look out for when it comes to bad brake calipers.

What Are the Symptoms of a Brake Caliper Sticking?

As we just mentioned, you shouldn’t have a ton of trouble figuring out that there is an issue with a brake caliper in your car. When you have a brake caliper sticking, it’s only going to be a matter of time before you realize it since you’re not going to be able to drive your car like normal with it. But just in case the signs are subtle, we want you to be clear on the specific symptoms of a brake caliper sticking.


Here are some of the symptoms that you might see when you have a brake caliper sticking and causing problems within your brake system:

  • Your vehicle feels like it’s pulling to one side or the other when you’re driving down the road
  • Your vehicle seems to be slowing down on you even though you don’t have your foot on the brake pedal
  • Your vehicle appears to be getting a lot fewer miles to the gallon than it normally does in terms of fuel economy
  • Your vehicle is producing a ton of heat around one of your wheels

You might not notice something that your car producing more heat than usual in the general area of one of your wheels. But you should notice your car pulling to one side or slowing down on you when you drive it as a result of a brake caliper sticking. Don’t ever ignore these kinds of symptoms since it could develop into an even bigger problem over time if you do.

What Causes a Brake Caliper to Get Stuck?

Now that you know some of the most common symptoms of a brake caliper sticking, you might be wondering, “What causes a brake caliper to get stuck in the first place?” It’s a great question since most people want to avoid having to deal with a brake caliper sticking in the first place. And one way to ensure you’re able to do it is by learning about the causes of this particular problem.


Here are several of the common causes behind a brake caliper sticking:

  • The rubber boot on the piston in a brake caliper tears and prevents it from sliding in the way it’s supposed to
  • The brake hose that carries brake fluid to a brake caliper wears out and either cracks or breaks
  • The brake pads in a brake caliper get stuck in the caliper’s grooves due to a buildup of debris and/or corrosion
  • The bolts in a brake caliper aren’t lubricated enough and stop a caliper from moving around freely enough

Oftentimes, mechanics will be too tough with brake calipers while changing brake pads and do damage to them. This could be the case if you experience a brake caliper sticking shortly after having brake pads replaced.

Is It Safe to Drive a Car With a Sticky Brake Caliper?

In general, it’s almost always a bad idea to continue to drive around in a car with any braking problems. But it’s an especially bad idea to do it when you have a brake caliper sticking within your braking system. You could potentially put yourself and other drivers at risk by continuing to drive in a car that has an issue with one or more brake calipers.


If you have a brake caliper sticking and you keep driving your car, you could lose control of it at any point. You might not be able to stop it from pulling to one side or the other, which could result in you getting into an accident. A sticky brake caliper can also prevent your car from going fast enough when you’re out on the road. This could leave to someone rear-ending you since they’re not going to expect you to be driving at such a slow speed.


Additionally, you could do a ton of damage to your car if you continue to drive it despite having a brake caliper sticking. Your sticky brake caliper is going to put a huge strain on both your engine and your transmission if you don’t do something about it fast. It’s one more reason why it’s not a smart idea to drive a car when it has a brake caliper sticking.

What Should You Do If You Have a Brake Caliper That’s Stuck?

If you have a brake caliper sticking in your car, there is really only one thing that you should do. And that is take it directly to an auto repair shop or, better yet, a brake specialist so that they can take a look at it. They can investigate the cause of your brake caliper sticking and figure out what steps need to be taken to remedy the situation.


In some cases, you might be able to get around replacing your brake caliper. Your mechanic may be able to loosen up your brake caliper within just a few minutes. But in other cases, you’re not going to have any choice but to replace your brake caliper with a new one to get it to stop sticking. Either way, it’s important for you to take action so that you’re not driving around with a brake caliper sticking for very long.

How Much Does It Cost to Replace a Bad Brake Caliper?

More often than not, you should be able to get around replacing a brake caliper when it’s sticking if you have a car that’s on the newer side. Most brake caliper will last for well over 125,000 miles before they’ll need to be replaced. But if your mechanic tells you that you will, in fact, need a new brake caliper, you might have to pay a pretty penny for it. It’s one of the more expensive brake parts to replace.


On average, you’re likely looking at paying somewhere between $375 and $750 for new brake calipers when you’re in the market for them. That includes parts, which will run you between $250 and $600, and labor, which is going to come to about $150. But you shouldn’t let these costs scare you away if you plan on keeping your car. You aren’t going to be able to keep on driving a car with a brake caliper sticking, which is why you’ll need to be ready to fork over the money to have your bad caliper replaced.

Can You Sell a Car With a Bad Brake Caliper?

If you have an older car with a brake caliper sticking, you might not want to shell out hundreds of dollars to replace it. This is especially true for those who suspect that they might have other braking problems just on the horizon. Instead, you might decide that you want to get rid of your car, and you may be surprised to learn that it’s possible to do it without replacing your bad brake caliper.


Even if you have a brake caliper sticking in your car, the junk car buyers from Cash Cars Buyer will pay you cash for it. We’ll gladly give you top dollar for your vehicle and handle hauling it away for you. It’ll provide you with money in your pocket in exchange for your car and help you avoid having to have it repaired yourself. Contact us today to get more information on how easy it is to get an offer for your old car.