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What are the Signs of a Bad Caliper? – Everything You Need To Know!

What are the Signs of a Bad Caliper

If your car seems to want to change lanes all by itself or if you hear a squealing as you drive down the road, you may have a bad brake caliper. Bad calipers can also result in brake fluid leaking from your car. 

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Brake calipers are mechanisms that contain the brake pads and pistons. The caliper is a hydraulic component that suspends the brake pad around the revolving rotor. When a driver pushes down on the brake pedal, hydraulic pressure is applied. It travels through the brake lines and goes into the caliper. Pistons that are located inside the caliper press the brake pads to the rotor. When the driver lets up on the brake pedal, the caliper lets the brake pads pull away from the rotor. The wheel will then begin to move again. The caliper fits over your brake rotor in the fashion of a clamp.


Brake calipers are very important to your car’s internal workings and if they go bad they can through off the balance of your car and do serious damage to the body and the engine of the vehicle. If your car shows signs of a damaged caliper,  you should have a mechanic look it over right away. 

Signs that your Calipers Need to Be Replaced

Most drivers know that their brake pads are going to have to be replaced eventually. Anxious drivers who ride the brake pedal and aggressive drivers who make sudden stops will wear out their brake pads more quickly. Brake pads will also become worn when the caliper is not working properly.


Your Car is Clunking 

The Caliper has a bracket that holds it in place. If you have had a recent collision that bracket may have fallen out. If this happens the car really should not drive at all. If you are driving and you do hear this sound, it is important to get to a mechanic right away.


A Squealing Noise

If the car is squealing rather than clunking it may also be the sign of a bad caliper. Most people know that a car needs new brake pads if their car makes a noise when the brakes are applied. However, if something is wrong with the caliper, you will hear this noise when you are not using the brakes. Over time this can cause the brakes to lock up completely. If this happens that particular wheel will not be able to turn.

You Feel like the Car is Dragging 

Sometimes the brake caliper can get stuck, causing the pads to be pushed up against the rotor while driving. If this happens, you may experience a dragging sensation. This happens because the brakes are basically constantly being depressed. 

The Brake Pedal Feels Soft

When the caliper leaks, it can cause the brake pedal to feel soft or sponge-like. If one of the pistons seizes up that can cause there to be too much space between the pad and rotor. This can cause the brake pedal to feel soft.

The Car is Pulling to One Side


The brake caliper contains one or more pistons. These pistons move in and out because of hydraulic pressure from a master cylinder that is activated when you step on your brake. A piston can freeze up because of corrosion or debris. This will cause the brake pads to fail. They will come in contact with the rotor or they won’t release the rotor. If the car comes in contact with the rotor, The automobile will pull away from the worn side when you apply the brakes. If the rotor is not released, the vehicle may lean toward the bad side if you depress the brakes.

The Brake Fluid is Leaking

Hydraulic pressure is what causes brake pads to work. If there is a failure in the system it can cause brake fluid to leak. Leaking brake fluid is one of the clearest indicators that something is wrong with the calipers. You will see a grease spot next to the inside of the tires.


The Brake Pads are Uneven


When brake pads are uneven, there is a good chance it is due to a bad caliper. Generally, the brake pads will be thinner on one side of the car than the other. In many cases, a mechanic will discover this when they are working on your vehicle. You can also check your brake pads for yourself without ever removing the wheel.


How to Check Your Brake Pads

There are a few ways to tell if your brake pads are wearing down without ever taking your car apart. If you hear noises such as grinding or squealing when your press the brake pad, it is a good indicator that the brake pads have worn out and are grating against the metal. If the steering wheel or the brake pedal are vibrating it may be a sign of worn brake pads. It is a good idea to take the car into a mechanic. If you have the proper equipment, you can check the brake pads yourself.

  1. Jack up the vehicle with two evenly placed jacks and remove one of the front wheels.
  2. Examine the rotor but do not remove it. You will want to look for rust or uneven wear. If the rotor is uneven you should take the car to a mechanic and see if they can repair or replace the pad.
  3. Check the caliper itself. You should only touch the caliper when the vehicle is cold. You will want to shake it back and forth. If it wobbles there is a good chance that it's mounting is loose. 
  4. Look at the brake pads by looking through the inspection hole that is located in the dust shield of the caliper. If the lining of the brake pads looks very thin, they should be replaced. If you see exposed metal, there is a good chance the disks need to be replaced.



The brake calipers are an essential component of your car’s operating system. There is no way to operate your car safely without them. New calipers cost about $130 each. Replacing them is intrinsic work and should be performed by a professional mechanic. Labor will not be inexpensive no matter where you go. You are likely to need new brake pads if your caliper is shot. Labor can cost up to $1000. You will have a few options when selecting someone to work on your car. You may be tempted to save money and go to an independent mechanic who works out of their garage. Although this may save a few dollars in the short term, it is not a good idea in the long run. If they do shoddy work, you may end up taking your car to a shop anyway.


Getting Repairs at an Auto Body Shop

Independent auto body shops are the best option for repairs. They are less expensive and you can talk to a mechanic directly.


Make sure to go to the AAA website before you hire a mechanic. They maintain a list of recommended mechanics throughout the U.S. You may also want to check the mechanic’s reviews on Angie’s List.

There are a lot of fake reviews on the internet. It is best to ask a mechanic for references.

You should look for a mechanic who is trained in repairing the make and model of your car.


Getting Repairs at the Dealership

Taking your car to the dealership is much more expensive than going to a shop. However, there are some valid reasons to go to the dealership.


A dealership will employ mechanics who are trained and certified in your brand of car. The make and the model of the car are important when replacing brakes because cars are shaped differently and use different types of calipers and pads.


A mechanic who is well trained in the make and model of a specific engine will be well-schooled in that car’s brake system.


The dealership will charge you by the job and not the hour. The mechanic who works on your car will have no motivation to drag their feet. You should get back on the road in a hurry.



If your car is old or if it is worth less than the cost of repairs, you may want to consider getting a new car. Although your old car has bad breaks, you will still have a few options for getting money for it. You should not only consider the price you will get for the car but the convenience of the method of sales.

Take an Insurance Companies Offer

If your caliper was totaled in an accident that was not your fault, your insurance may pay for repairs.  If your car does not run as a result of an accident, it will be considered totaled. a vehicle is totaled if the amount of the repairs would be more than the value of the car.


Insurance companies must pay you the value of what your old car was worth the second before the accident. They do not have a set means of deciding a car’s value, they decide how much the car is worth. Insurance companies are notorious for undervaluing cars. They also take their time to pay out the money.


Use the Car as a Trade-In 

When you buy a new car, the dealership will give you a certain amount of money for your old ride. Be sure to look over the offer they give you carefully before you sign on the dotted line.


A dealership may offer you less than your vehicle is worth because they think you will be too lazy to explore other options. You should get a few offers from other buyers before going into the dealership.


Sell The Car Yourself

You can try selling the car yourself. You can put up flyers on community bulletin boards or list your car in the newspaper or an auto shopper.  A lot of people use the internet to sell used automobiles. You can use a car sales website or a classified ad site such as Craigslist.


If you put up signs, you only have a very small chance of getting the attention of a potential buyer. You may not get any calls. Another person with a car to sell could also take down your sign to put up their own. 


If you list your car on a website, you will have to pay a monthly fee. Some sites will require you to purchase more than just one month. You will be competing against many other sellers. If you do get a potential buyer, you will have to take the time to show them the vehicle. There is no guarantee that they will buy it. 


If you use an online bulletin board, you may end up showing it to a few prospective buyers. This is not only time consuming, but dangerous. There have been several people who have been murdered by people they met when selling items on such sites.


Sell Your Car to us

Cash Cars Buyers has an easy system for selling your car. Just fill out our online form and send it to us. The form asks for your email address, phone number, and name. We also want to know the make, model, year, and VIN number of the car. We are primarily interested in cars manufactured in the last 15 years or so, but you can inquire no matter what.


Once we receive the information, we will call you back with an offer. If you accept we will come to your home, pick up your car, pay you and tow the old wreck away for free. Click below to get started today.

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