How to service brake calipers

Updated July 20, 2017

Servicing your vehicle's disc brake caliper now will help prevent caliper failure and replacement later, ultimately saving you time and money. The caliper transfers the fluid pressure from the brake system into mechanical energy against the wheel rotor by compressing the brake pads around the rotor. The safety of the vehicle's occupants heavily relies on properly functioning calipers, whether the vehicle has all-wheel disc brakes or disc brakes only on the front wheels. Caliper service may be performed when the disc brake pads are replaced as part of a well-rounded brake system preventive maintenance and service program.

Loosen the wheel lug nuts on each wheel being removed approximately one-quarter of a turn with a tire iron. Jack the vehicle, place the vehicle on jack stands and remove the wheels.

Clamp the brake line going to the caliper to prevent fluid loss. Clamp it just enough to prevent loss, but do not go as tight as to damage the hose. Remove the fitting attaching the hose to the caliper.

Remove the two or three bolts on the back of the brake calipers holding it to the vehicle. You may need to use a breaker bar or penetrating catalyst to free them. Move the caliper away from the rotor and remove the brake pads.

Take out the slide pins or bolts holding the caliper housing over the rotor. Now that all attaching hardware is removed, place the entire caliper assembly on a work bench.

Clean the caliper and housing with brake cleaner, a wire brush and shop rags. Do not use the wire brush on any rubber grommets or seals. Clean it thoroughly, removing all rust and road grime from all crevices and grooves.

Manipulate the caliper piston in and out slowly; it should move without catching at any point throughout its travel. Inspect the rubber dust seal retaining the piston. Any discrepancies call for a more intensive rebuild of the caliper.

Coat the slide pins with lubricant. Slide them in and out of the slide pin boots on the housing slowly. Reinstall the caliper housing over the rotor on the vehicle.

Reinstall the brake pads, place the caliper in place on the vehicle and attach the mounting hardware. The piston must be fully compressed to fit onto the housing with the pads.

Reconnect the brake hose to the caliper and remove the clamp holding the fluid in the line. Remove the cap from and loosen the bleeder valve. Fluid will exit the valve after a moment; tighten the valve when the fluid is steadily flowing.

Put the wheels back on the vehicle and tighten lug nuts with the tire iron. Take the vehicle off of the jack stands and torque the lug nuts to the manufacturer's specification.


Clean up all spills immediately to prevent slips and falls. Do not remove the piston dust cover.

Things You'll Need

  • Jack
  • Jack stand
  • Socket set
  • Ratchet set
  • Wrench set
  • Foot-pound torque wrench
  • Tire iron
  • Wire brush
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About the Author

Justin Chacos is a professional mechanic with experience on all vehicle types, from cars to boats to airplanes. He has been writing since 2006 and has been published in multiple maintenance manuals and journals. He holds a Master of Science from the University of Arkansas.