This page is dedicated to helping you find out why your brake caliper won’t depress. Here you’ll find a short video outlining the common causes. You’ll find some mechanics brake repair tips, and you’ll find links to brake tools to help you nail this repair like a pro.
Brake Caliper Repair
Brake calipers are under a ton of stress. After all, their job is to help convert motion into heat energy, thereby slowing your vehicle. If brake loads and heat weren’t enough, calipers must also deal with rain, road salts, grit, grime, vibration, snow, ice, etc.
It isn’t really that surprising brake repairs are the most common workshop repair.
The video above gives you a feel for what your problem likely is. These are all common causes of a brake caliper that won’t retract. That said, it is important to make certain the correct brake repair procedure is being followed.
Front calipers are straightforward, but rear calipers are a different story. Although front and rear look pretty similar, the rear calipers on most vehicles incorporate the parking brake mechanism, and that means they need to be treated differently, and that’s what I’ll cover next.
Rear Caliper Are Different
A rear caliper incorporating the parking brake mechanism means they are known as a “Wind-back calipers.” To retract Wind-back calipers, the caliper piston must be twisted (screwed) while simultaneously pushing on the piston.
Some DIY MacGyver types improvise with needle-nose pliers, but to make life easy and the job almost pleasurable, you’ll need a Wind-back tool; I’ve listed one below.
Electronic Parking Brake Needs Special Attention
If your vehicle has an EPB (Electronic Parking Brake) – press button parking brake application, then you’ll need to take some additional steps, and you’ll need a workshop-level scan tool.
The EPB must be placed in “Service mode” before removing and winding back the rear calipers. After the repair work, the EPB must be placed back in dynamic mode.
I’ve listed a very capable tool below, but it’s a little on the spendy side.
Mechanics Brake Repair Tips
- Spray brakes with water before commencing repair work
- Wear a mask when wire brushing brake components
- Use axle stands, I never trust a car jack
- Use copper grease on metal to metal brake contact points
- Use silicone grease on metal to rubber contact points
- Apply copper grease to wheel hub before fitting
- Torque wheel to spec and in a star formation
- Pump brakes before attempting to drive the vehicle
- Bed in the brakes by braking moderately eight to ten times
- Check brake fluid level after brake pad bed-in test drive
Brake Repair Tools You’ll Need
This is a great caliper piston wind back tool. It will work for a wide range of vehicles, and importantly it works on front and rear calipers. Rear calipers need to be twister and compressed simultaneously; this kit makes that look easy. Pic links to Amazon.com.
The Autel MaxiCOM is a shop-level tool. It is capable of reading, clearing fault codes, coding a new battery, placing the EPB module in service mode, and calibration after the repair. It is also capable of activating ABS modulator solenoids when performing a full brake bleed procedure. Pic links to Amazon.com.
Useful one-man vacuum brake and clutch bleeding kit that won’t hurt the pocket. It’s perfect for occasional brake maintenance chores, is easy to use, and gets the job done. Pic links to Amazon.com.
3M makes top-quality products. Brake cleaner is likely one of the most used products in a pro shop. It is used not just to clean brake components and prevent brake squeal but also to clean spilled liquids like brake fluid, and oil grease. The cleaner is an aerosol and is powerful enough to flush grit from components. Pic links to Amazon.com.
3M Silicone grease is grease compatible with both rubber and metal. Regular grease causes rubber seals, boots, etc. to swell, and swelling usually causes bigger problems later. A mechanic commonly uses silicone grease on floating brake caliper fasteners where nylon bushing and rubber seals are present. Pic links to Amazon.com.
Preston is a leading supplier of quality automotive fluids. This is DOT 3 so remember to check your reservoir cap before ordering. Amazon sells this product, and it is conveniently delivered to your door. Picture links out to Amazon.
About the Author
John Cunningham is a Red Seal Qualified automotive technician with over twenty-five years of experience in the field. When he’s not writing about car repair, you’ll find him in his happy place – restoring classic cars.
You may find the following links helpful:
- Beginner car maintenance page
- Car repair and troubleshooting index
- OBD fault code list
- Tools and parts page
- About the Author
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John Cunningham is an Automotive Technician and writer on Rustyautos.com. He’s been a mechanic for over twenty-five years and has worked for GM, Volvo, Volkswagen, Land Rover, and Jaguar dealerships.
John uses his know-how and experience to write fluff-free articles that help fellow gearheads with all aspects of vehicle ownership, including maintenance, repair, and troubleshooting.