The Ultimate Brake Calipers Buying Guide
A Guide For Buying Brake Calipers
The brake calipers are the components that facilitate the braking action on the wheels when the brake pedal is depressed. Any fault in it and you would find yourself in a very dangerous position of not being able to stop the vehicle. Forming a critical part of most modern braking systems, brake calipers don't just add to the aesthetics of the vehicle, they also impact the braking performance you get from your ride. This guide helps you buy the best brake calipers for your vehicle to enhance the performance and looks of your car.
What Is A Brake Caliper?
A caliper is part of the disc brake system, the type most cars have in their front brakes. The brake caliper houses your car’s brake pads and pistons. Its job is to slow the car’s wheels by creating friction with the brake rotors.
A crucial part of a disc braking system, the brake caliper is the component that suspends the brake pads on either side of the spinning rotor (Disc). When the brake pedal is depressed, the hydraulic pressure is exerted through brake lines to the piston (or pistons) housed in the caliper which in turn presses the brake pads against the rotor causing the braking effect. On releasing the brake pedal, the caliper allows the pads to pull away from the rotor allowing the wheels to spin normally again.
What Are The Types Of Brake Calipers
Based On Mounting
The floating type calipers are light in weight, compact, and usually find a place in normal passenger vehicles where high braking performance isn’t a necessity. These calipers aren’t rigidly mounted, instead, they slide on pins and bushings. The floating calipers typically house one or two pistons located on the inboard side of the rotor.
On pressing the brake pedal, the hydraulic pressure pushes the piston(s) which squeezes the inboard side brake pad onto the rotor. Since the rotor is fixed and the caliper is free to move, the action of the piston moving ahead causes the caliper to slide forward, thereby clamping the brake pad on the other side onto the disc which causes the braking effect.
On contrary to the floating ones, the fixed calipers are heavy, large, and powerful. As the name suggests they do not move and are mounted rigidly to the caliper bracket. Here, the pistons are located on both sides and clamp the rotor with equal force. The pistons on the opposing sides are the moving parts forcing the brake pads onto the rotor on depressing the brake pedal. Fixed calipers are known to offer more braking performance but also are slightly more expensive than floating ones. They are typically employed in high-speed or heavy vehicles.
3. Two-piece Calipers
Unlike the monoblocks, these calipers are manufactured in two different parts and then bolted together. This eases out the manufacturing process, bringing down the cost and therefore being cheaper than the monoblocks. Most general-purpose calipers are two-piece calipers.
Based On Construction
Based On The Number Of Pistons
2. Multi Piston
Found in both fixed and floating type calipers, these are employed when higher braking performance is required. The more the number of pistons, the better is the braking performance offered. Based on precise calculations the number of pistons is decided and it can vary from car to car. The number can be as low as 2 and could go up to 10 on high-speed or heavy vehicles.
What Are The Things I Should Consider While Buying A Brake Caliper?
It is always wise to choose the materials that suit your requirements the best. Cast iron and Aluminum are the most commonly used materials out of which cast iron is sturdier and better at heat dissipation whereas Aluminium ones are much appreciated for being lightweight. Most older vehicles used iron ones but modern-day automobiles are moving towards Aluminium brake calipers.
Since brakes are put under a lot of stress, it becomes important for you to choose the ones that can withstand the beating from excessive braking. Though the lifespan depends on a lot of factors such as driving habits, driving conditions, the internal components of the calipers tend to fail after some time. Thick metallic pistons and a powder coat layer help in boosting the lifespan of the calipers while saving them from constant exposure to dust, grime, or debris which are one of the primary causes of damage to the calipers.
It is a very common misconception that any caliper could be a fit as long as it can be bolted. However, this is not the case, the calipers for a vehicle are decided on many precise calculations such as the brake piston area, rotor thickness, and braking torque required. The manufacturers provide details of the brake calipers’ compatibility with a specific vehicle or a range of vehicles from various companies. You have to make sure that your vehicle is one of them. Changing the caliper could literally translate to a recipe for disaster and hence a good compatibility check is necessary before making your purchase.
D. Rebuilt Calipers Or All-new Ones
Rebuilt calipers are the ones that use the body of an old caliper but with all the internal components such as seals and pistons replaced with new ones. On the other hand, the brand new calipers fully consist of parts that have never been used previously. If you want to save money, the rebuilt ones are the best choice for you since the braking performance is just as good as the new ones reason being the caliper body isn’t something that deteriorates over time unless it faces damage caused by any accident.
Which Top Brand’s Brake Calipers Should I Choose?
Raybestos Brake Calipers
Founded in 1902, Raybestos is an automotive brakes brand pioneering in manufacturing all the automotive brake components since its very beginning.
Features & Benefits:
- The calipers are extensively tested to ensure they meet the strictest physical, performance, and safety requirements
- Each caliper is friction-ready, giving you the freedom to customize the brake pads you load into each caliper.
- Zinc plating on cast iron housings and brackets gives Element3 calipers the edge in corrosion protection.
For more, you can visit our Raybestos Brake Calipers section.
Cardone Brake Calipers
Established in 1970, Cardone Industries began in a humble storefront in North Philadelphia, United States. Ever since its inception, the company has built new and remanufactured vehicle parts that meet or exceed O.E standards. Keeping its motto “We Build It Better” high, the company has pioneered the first 50 years of its operations and aims to do so in the coming years ahead as well.
Features & Benefits:
- The calipers are remanufactured to meet or exceed OEM performance
- The construction allows quick and easy installation
- All the necessary installation hardware required is provided in the box
For more, you can visit our Cardone Brake Calipers section.
Armature DNS Brake Calipers
Established in 1977, the company has proven itself to be a leader in the remanufactured parts industry. They are majorly involved in the production of alternators, starters, brake calipers, and water pumps finding applications in automotive, industrial, marine, heavy-duty, agriculture.
Features & Benefits:
- The calipers have high-quality pistons, boots, seals, sleeves, and rubber bushings.
- They are supplied with brackets and new mounting hardware
- All finished products are also pressure tested before leaving DNS to ensure the best quality and functionality.
For more, you can visit our Armature DNS Brake Calipers section.
What Are The Symptoms That My Brake Caliper Is Bad?
Over time, the brake calipers are exposed to the elements, and repeated heating is caused due to friction while braking. This can eventually cause the calipers to fail, affecting the vehicle’s braking and introducing new safety and handling concerns that are highly undesirable while driving.
Here are the symptoms that you may observe that indicate a possible brake caliper failure.
Brake Fluid Leaks
This is one of the most commonly found symptoms. The calipers work on the basis of the brake fluid pressure from the master cylinder and the pedal to slow down the vehicle. The boots and rubber seals keep the brake fluid contained. However, they wear out on constant exposure to dust and heat causing a loss in brake fluid pressure which compromises the ability to stop the vehicle. You may find a puddle underneath the vehicle and also smell the burnt rubber from the leaking fluid.
Unusual Sounds While Braking
Unusual sounds while braking is another possible brake caliper failure. Any high-pitch, thudding, or any such noises indicate a loose, binding, or stuck caliper. Such conditions could cause unanticipated brake pad wear also, forcing you to replace them earlier than usual.
The pistons housed inside the calipers can get seized up due to the heat they are exposed to, over a long period of time. This takes away their ability to retract causing a constant drag on that wheel (also known as brake drag). This causes the vehicle to move towards the side with the bad caliper since the wheel on which it is mounted, is moving relatively slower than the other wheels.
Soft / Spongy Brake pedal
This is another clear indication of the caliper leaking the brake fluid. Insufficient brake fluid causes the brake pedal to be “spongy”, the pedal tends to go all the way down to the floor which translates to ineffective braking causing a major safety concern and should be addressed as soon as possible.
Braking Stays On
You may feel that the vehicle struggles to move forward or the speed goes down more rapidly than usual. This is a sign of a stuck caliper failing to retract the brake pads from the rotors causing the continuing braking effect. It may feel as if the vehicle is being dragged and also the constant heat produced could damage several other brake components.
Uneven Brake Pad Wear
Under usual circumstances, the brake pads should wear uniformly. Any deviation from that suggests that the caliper might have failed to cause one side to be thinner than the other. Though uneven brake pad wear can be caused due to a few other factors, faulty calipers are one of the major reasons. You may need some professional assistance to diagnose this issue unless you are well versed with it.
How Much Will It Cost Me For A New Brake Caliper?
A. Under $40:
This is the most common price bracket for a general-purpose brake caliper. You would find both the front as well as the rear calipers with the rear ones being much more expensive.
B. Upto $100 and above:
At this price point, you would find the calipers designed for enhanced performance constructed with sturdier and longer-lasting materials. They are designed to withstand a more aggressive driving style such as racing.