What Happens When Front Brake Calipers Stick?

Written by paul king
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Sticky front brake calipers are much more than an inconvenience. At the least they are wearing your vehicle's brake system and racking up a hefty future repair bill. At its worst, a sticky front brake caliper can be the first step in a tragic catastrophic system failure that can potentially cost lives and/or major vehicle repairs. A vehicle's brakes are its most important safety feature. Any indication of possible malfunction should be taken seriously.

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During the early stages of caliper problems symptoms can be slight and difficult to notice. One of the first symptoms to develop is a tendency for the vehicle to pull in the direction of the sticking caliper. However, this symptom is fairly common and is often attributed to tire wear and alignment problems. Look for this pulling to become stronger when the brakes are applied. Pulling during braking is a strong indication that a caliper problem may exist. As problems with a sticking caliper develop noises may occur. Listen for brake squeal, scraping or grinding sounds.


Some common causes for sticky brake calipers include a build-up of mud and dirt on, or around, the caliper. This is sometimes seen on vehicles used for off-road or work purposes. Brake fluid leaks can also cause brake dust, worn bits of the brake pads, to build up on the caliper and impede proper function. Leaky brake lines can also cause improper caliper operation. Finally, calipers contain moving parts that can simply become defective.

Potential Damage

Any sign of brake trouble should be diagnosed and repaired as soon as possible. Brake systems, including calipers, will not get better on their own. A simple build-up of dirt can cause a caliper to start sticking. The sticking caliper will cause accelerated brake pad wear, brake rotor wear and lead to brake system overheating. Over heated brakes can cause complete brake system failure, seriously endangering life and property.


The best remedy for a suspected sticky caliper, or any brake issue, is to have the vehicle seen by a qualified service professional. It is inadvisable to try and remedy brake problems personally unless you posses the necessary tools and skill set to do so. Caught early enough the vehicle's caliper issue may be solved by a simple cleaning and lubrication. More advanced damage may require replacement of brake pads and resurfacing of the brake rotor. Advanced damage will call for replacement of the brake pads, rotor and caliper.

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