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Old 03-22-2016, 05:54 PM   #1
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Default "Frozen" (stuck) calipers and brake issues

I see another poster on the Yahoo board with a "frozen" caliper, which seems like an odd description, but common. Stuck is probably more accurate. As is almost always the case, he wound up having the complete caliper replaced. I understand that it is not as desirable to rebuild at a repair shop anymore, especially with the blind bores of calipers vs the old through hole wheel cylinders, but the question is how many of the these calipers are actually stuck do to the piston in the bore? Are they really referring to the caliper not sliding on the pins and bushings properly? If this is the case, it is extremely easy, and inexpensive, to install a pin and bushing kit as you replace the brakes. Seems like a big time money maker if you replace the entire caliper every time the slides stick, as they are considered a maintenance item to either lube or replace regularly.

Our last two cars, that are now gone, both spent their entire time from new in Minnesota, so they had the typical slider issues from corrosion and required upkeep. Both, however, left here with all the factory wet parts still in the brakes. The Escort was at 210K miles and 18.5 years old when it went to the junk yard because it rusted in half (rusted frame). The Tracer was at 177K miles and 16 years old when we sold it and got my retirement wagon.

We do maintain the brake fluid better than many, changing it every couple of years, but that is all. I check the slides when I rotate tires, or have the wheels off for something else. They need to be freed up every once in a while (the Escort was worst at about once a year). The van and DW's 09 CRV have never needed maintenance yet.

One thing that I have noticed is that once a factory caliper is replaced with a remanufactured one, there seems to be a marked increase in the failure rate, which makes sense do to what they do to them to rebuild them.

What have the rest of you that do your own work on your vehicles? Are folks winding up giving the shops a lot more money than they should, without much, if any benefit? I can imagine that a van the sits out in the snowbank all winter would be a prime candidate to have the slides stuck just about every spring, especially if sees any salt.
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Old 03-22-2016, 11:02 PM   #2
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Seized should be the correct word.

Replacing a caliper is pretty darn easy. It looks daunting, but honestly it's nothing more than a tire change and loosening one or two bolts and swapping out a big hunk of metal (simplified description of course).

Aftermarket parts never lasts as long as factory parts. Lower quality builds, cheaper materials.

Maintenance is key. For those that do their own oil changes many forget that there are other things to do every few thousand kilometers/miles such as lubrication, cleaning, inspection etc.

Each spring it's a gamble with a sitting vehicle. Do the brakes work? Try and move the vehicle, a lot of times it won't move because the rotor rusted to the pads over winter. This situation needs a little more power to break the rust free and move. But be careful, you may not have brakes after that because the caliper is seized! Too many people just assume that they parked their vehicle and it worked so it will work now. Give yourself plenty of space and be prepared.
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Old 03-23-2016, 04:36 PM   #3
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[QUOTE=Bruceper;42945]Replacing a caliper is pretty darn easy. It looks daunting, but honestly it's nothing more than a tire change and loosening one or two bolts and swapping out a big hunk of metal (simplified description of course). /QUOTE]

It is easy, and I think that may be part of the problem, at least for those that take the vehicle to shop for everything. The shops can replace an expensive part that they can get big markup on (especially if they use the remanufactured "loaded calipers" with less than stellar pads included) in almost no time, and also get to charge for a brake fluid change, or at least bleeding. They also get to throw on rotor turning, which seems to always be done these days, or rotor replacement.

In the example I gave originally, it was stated that they found the seized caliper, so we don't know if the pads were even worn out. It was on the rear, I think, so they were probably not worn out. If that is the case the only thing that would have really been needed was to free up the caliper(s) that were tight, and maybe put in a pin and bushing kit or two. That is a huge difference in price.
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Old 03-23-2016, 11:01 PM   #4
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Yes that is a huge price difference.

As a note, one thing that people can try as long as they stay safe is to try hitting their stuck caliper with a hammer.

I'm not talking about your claw hammer, I'm talking about a five pound hammer that can give something a serious whack. If you're going to do this make sure the vehicle is stable and it is securely on stands and not up on a jack!

Another tip for the DIY crowd. Do not get cheap brake pads, but on the same hand do not buy the most expensive. There is usually a mid range pad that you can buy and they are all that is typically required. However if you are consistently pushing your max GVWR or GCWR then get the best.
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Old 03-23-2016, 11:21 PM   #5
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I would add a bit to the hammer fix. I have found that if you take out the pads first, a couple of hits with a dead blow hammer will tell you what's up. If the caliper breaks loose and moves easily with light taps you are done. If it doesn't move, or move easily, pull the pins or bolts and see what else you need.

Having the pads out saves other parts from seeing the impact, like the piston and even the master cylinder seeing a bit back pressure spike. With the pads in, the rotor/bearings and piston eat up most of the force of the hammer.
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Old 04-04-2016, 08:40 AM   #6
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I just changed the stuck front calipers. 2001 Coach 192tb, pulled left when I let go of the steering and pulled right when I hit the brakes. Left front brake slightly dragging ,cleaned it and seemed ok. Right pad cracked. New shoes would not go on ,caliper would not collapse enough. so /I put new calipers and pads on. Make sure bleeder screw is on top .There is a left and right caliper. Also if you had some brakes before and no brakes after the new parts are on ,it is air in the system. I finally uses a vacuum pump and still had to SLIGHTLY hold brake for it to bleed properly without help. Also new front tires, 70 mph is a bit much for the test run.
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