Brake problems should never be ignored. Sure, the problem could have no immediate impact on safety, but those small problems could soon become a danger to you, your family and anyone around you on the road. One such problem is a sticking brake caliper. Why is that problem dangerous and what can you do to repair it?

The Dangers of Sticking Brake Calipers

Brake calipers are the part of the brake system that compresses and releases the brake pad from the rotor. When the caliper sticks, the brake pad doesn't release from the rotor. If you continue to drive with the pad pressed onto the rotor, the pad and rotor will overheat.

The overheating pad and rotor could lead to brake fluid problems. The fluid could become so hot that it begins to boil. When this happens, you will lose your braking system and not have the ability to stop or slow. You will feel the brake pedal drop the whole way to the floor and not come back up.

Why Calipers Stick

There are four things that could be causing the caliper to stick.

  1. The Caliper Piston – The piston is trimmed with a rubber boot. This boot is meant to protect, lubricate and seal the piston. If the boot is damaged or worn, debris can built up inside the piston and prevent smooth movements, resulting in a stuck caliper.
  2. Bad Brake Hose – Brake hoses can wear out and begin to break away in little pieces. These pieces can cause the flow of brake fluid to slow and possibly prevent it from returning to the master cylinder when you release the brake pedal, resulting in a stuck caliper.
  3. Caliper Slides – The caliper holds the pads in place with small grooves known as slides. When these slides corrode or get debris stuck in them, the pad cannot slide in and out properly and will get stuck.
  4. Caliper Bolts – The bolts are covered with rubber boots to protect them from debris and to keep them lubricated. When this boot is damaged, the bolt will not allow the caliper to function the way that it should and can result in a stuck caliper.

Know When Calipers Stick

So, how do you know if your calipers are sticking?

  • You will smell burning brakes when you drive your car even a short distance.
  • You will feel the car pulling to the left or right depending on which caliper is sticking.
  • You may notice the car stopping or slowing when you don't have your foot on the brake.

Never ignore these signs. Take your vehicle in to a brake service, such as Big Mechanic, before the overheating causes more damage to your brake system than you really want to repair.