How to Adjust Rear Brake Calipers

Written by elizabeth falwell
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How to Adjust Rear Brake Calipers
Brake calipers in the front and back of your vehicle play a crucial role in bringing your vehicle to a stop. (brake calipers image by Tom Oliveira from Fotolia.com)

A brake caliper is the unit that contains a vehicle's brake pads and pistons. Calipers do not come into direct contact with a vehicle's brakes; however, they put pressure on your car's brake pads, which in turn prevent the vehicle's rotors from rotating, bringing it to a stop. If your rear brake calipers are on too tightly, they may exert too much pressure on the brake pads, causing your brakes to wear more quickly.

Skill level:
Moderate

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Things you need

  • Socket wrench
  • Lubricant
  • Caliper mounting bolts
  • Brake pads
  • C-clamp
  • Rear brake caliper reset tool
  • Jack
  • Wheel blocks

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Locate the calipers on your vehicle. The exact location will vary depending on your vehicle's make and model; check with your vehicle's owner's manual for specific information. Rear brake calipers will be near the vehicle's back wheels.

  2. 2

    Use a socket wrench to remove the caliper mounting bolts. These are the bolts which secure the caliper to the rest of the braking system. Check to make sure the bolts are in good condition; if they are worn down or rusted, they could cause the wrong amount of pressure to be exerted upon the brake pads. Discard any worn caliper mounting bolts and replace with new ones by screwing them into place in a clockwise direction.

  3. 3

    Check to see if the flex hose -- which is attached to the rear caliper -- is twisted or bent. According to the website "2 Car Pros," this hose transfers "hydraulic force from the car frame to the brake caliper." If the hose is bent or twisted, it could cause the brakes to malfunction. Once you have removed the caliper mounting bolts, you will be able to rotate or move the caliper so that the flex hose is no longer out of shape.

  4. 4

    Examine the surface of the rear brake caliper for any cracks, scratches or dents. Any of these issues could cause the caliper to exert the inappropriate amount of pressure on the brake pads, causing them to wear more quickly. Remove any worn-out or damaged calipers and replace with new ones (check your vehicle's owner's manual for brand suggestions, as not all vehicles require the same size and style).

  5. 5

    Look at the inside surface of the rear brake caliper; this is the part of the caliper which holds the brake pads and keeps them in place. Depending on the style of caliper in your vehicle, the pads will either have bolts or clips securing them. Make sure these bolts or clips are intact. Any damaged parts could cause problems in the braking system, so set them aside and replace them with new parts (again, check your vehicle's owner's manual for brand suggestions).

  6. 6

    Reset the rear brake caliper. Using a rear brake caliper reset tool, gently twist the piston back so the brake pads will fit inside the caliper. The caliper piston can also reset by you exerting pressure on it using a C-clamp. The decision to use a specific tool or a C-clamp varies by your vehicle's make and model, so check with your owner's manual for specific instructions on which tool is right for your car.

  7. 7

    Lubricate your vehicle's rear brake pads. Apply a thin layer of the grease to the part of the pad that comes into contact with the caliper; avoid putting any lubricant on the side of the pad that touches the brake rotor, as this will lead to ineffectual brakes.

  8. 8

    Re-install the caliper mounting bolts once you have examined the interior parts of the caliper and made any necessary adjustments. Make sure you do not screw in the bolts too tightly; this will exert too much pressure on the brake pads, causing them to wear more quickly. Do a visual check to make sure the caliper (and the brake pads) are not coming into direct contact with the brake rotor. You can also test this by driving your car; if you hear any screeching sounds, the caliper is most likely applying too much pressure to the brake pads and rotor. Use a socket wrench to loosen the bolts slightly.

Tips and warnings

  • Some rear brake calipers also house a screw-style actuator connected to your vehicle's emergency brake. This actuator causes the brake pads to compress the brake rotor, keeping your vehicle's rear tires from moving while the emergency brake is on. If your vehicle has this type of rear brake caliper, make sure the screw-style actuator is free from any dirt or debris that could compromise its effectiveness.
  • The auto industry website Edmunds reports a vehicle's front brake pads will need changing every 20,000 to 40,000 miles; however, most cars rely on the front wheels to do most of the braking. For this reason, Edmunds says 90 per cent of brake pad changes are to the front brakes rather than the rear brakes.
  • Make sure your vehicle is on a flat surface before taking on this task. You may also want to place blocks by your wheels to keep them from rolling. A jack can help you gain better access to the underside of your vehicle.

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