Brake calipers are an important part of your vehicle’s braking system. Calipers squeeze the brake pads against the surface of the brake rotor to either stop or slow the vehicle down. When you press on your brake pedal, the brake fluid flows from the master cylinder to each caliper. Brake fluid then applies pressure on the piston inside the caliper, pushing the brake pads against the rotors. This process works to slow your speed or completely stop your vehicle. There are two types of calipers: floating and fixed. For floating calipers, a caliper bracket is solidly mounted. The brake caliper itself within that bracket is not solidly mounted, so it can slide left and right via pins and bushings on the bracket. For fixed calipers, the entire caliper is solidly mounted and there is a piston(s) on both sides of the disc. The pistons push the two brake pads more evenly unto both sides of the disc.
Most cars today have disc brakes – at least for the front wheels, anyway. However, many cars and trucks are now using disc brakes in the rear wheels as well. In a disc-braking system, the car’s wheels are attached to metal discs called rotors that turn with the wheels. The primary function of the caliper, aside from the obvious, is to create friction with the rotors. A car can either have two or four brake calipers. If your car has rotors on all four of its tires, then it will have four calipers. If a car has two rotors and two drums, then it will come with two calipers in front.
Brake calipers can become very contaminated and rusted. They can also start to leak brake fluid. This is all because calipers absorb a high amount of heat that is generated from a vehicle’s braking system. Over time, this heat can destroy or weaken the seals found inside the calipers. As with any part of your car, it is important to keep an eye on how your caliper appears and functions. Please note that caliper servicing is usually done as part of a brake service job.
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