How to maintain brake calipers

Updated July 20, 2017

The brake calipers are the main components that house the brake pads. When the brake pedal is applied, the brake caliper cylinder compresses the brake pads to the brake rotor. This is the process that stops the wheels from turning. The main components of the brake caliper are the slide bolts and the caliper cylinder. Each of these components play a vital role in making sure that the brake caliper performs properly. Service the caliper every time the brake pads are changed to keep the caliper working properly.

Pull the vehicle onto a level surface and apply the parking brake. Shut the engine off.

Loosen the lug nuts on the front wheels about one-quarter of a turn with a tire tool.

Jack the front end of the vehicle up and place the jack stands under the proper front jacking points. Lower the vehicle safely on top of the stands and leave the jack sitting in the upright position.

Finish removing the lug nuts from the front wheels. Pull the wheels off and set them down flat. Begin the brake caliper servicing on the front driver side of the vehicle.

Locate the upper and lower slide bolts on the back of the brake caliper. Loosen and remove the bolts from the caliper with a ratchet and a metric socket. Pull the bolts completely out of the caliper.

Slide a flathead screwdriver between the outboard brake pad and the brake rotor. Pry the brake pad toward the caliper cylinder to loosen the caliper from the rotor.

Pull the brake caliper off the rotor and hang it to one of the suspension components behind the wheel hub assembly. Remove the brake pads from the inside of the brake caliper.

Spray the inside of the brake caliper with the brake cleaner spray. Wipe away any excess brake pad build-up around the caliper cylinder and the rubber boot that surrounds the caliper cylinder. Also spray the caliper slide bolts with the brake cleaner spray and wipe with a clean rag.

Wipe the inside of the brake caliper clean with a clean rag. Inspect the rubber boot that the caliper piston slides in and out of for cracks or tears. Apply a thin layer of synthetic or silicone grease onto the caliper piston where it slides in and out of the rubber boot. Also, coat the slide bolts and the threads of the slide bolts with the grease. Inspect the inside and the outside of the caliper for cracks or any other types of damage.

Remove the rope from the caliper and slide it back over the rotor. Screw the slide bolts back into the back of the caliper and tighten the bolts with the ratchet and socket. Slide the wheel back on along with the lug nuts. Tighten the lug nuts until the wheel begins to turn.

Move to the other brake calipers on the vehicle and repeat the process. Jack the vehicle back up and remove the jack stands. Lower the vehicle to the ground and remove the jack.

Finish tightening the lug nuts down tight with the tire tool. Crank the engine and push the brake pedal in and out five or six times. This will cause the caliper piston to retract in and out of the caliper housing. This will also allow the grease to spread throughout the inside of the rubber boot around the caliper piston. Turn the engine off.


The synthetic or the silicone grease can be found at most auto parts stores.


Be sure to use the silicone or the synthetic grease to prevent damaging the rubber boot around the caliper cylinder.

Things You'll Need

  • Tire tool
  • Jack
  • Jack stands
  • 1/2-inch drive ratchet
  • 1/2-inch drive socket set (Metric)
  • Flathead screwdriver
  • Rope
  • Brake cleaner spray
  • Clean rags
  • Silicone or synthetic base caliper grease
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About the Author

Kevin Mclain has more than 20 years of automotive, home improvement and landscaping experience. He has been writing for various online publications since 2002. Mclain has U.S. Army certification in automotive maintenance and repair, among more than 15 additional certifications related to the automotive field.