A brake caliper is a hydraulic actuator mounted on the wheel’s suspension. It sits like a kind of clamp around the wheel’s brake disc, and on the inside of the caliper, the brake pads are fitted.
So how do brake calipers work? When you apply pressure on the brake, brake fluid is transmitted via hoses into the caliper, which creates a hydraulic pressure. This pressure squeezes a piston in the caliper causing the brake pads to press on the brake disc from each side, causing the wheel to slow down and stop.
In addition, in order to be able to press on the brake disc from each side, a set of sliding bushings are located next to the piston. They ensure that the brake pads maintain the pressure on each side of the brake disc.
It can be a little difficult to visualise, but the pressure from the piston and the two sliding bushings make sure that both brake pads make contact with the brake disc on each side, which causes the wheel to stop.
There may be various problems with the brake caliper, and one of them is a sticking brake caliper. It is usually the two sliding bushings that have stuck. This means that when you release the pressure from the brake, the brake pads are still pressing slightly on the brake disc because they are not removed with the piston.
Firstly, it wears one of the brake pads down much faster than the other, and second, it sometimes gives a lopsided maneuver when you brake. That's what happens when you have a seized brake caliper.
The older your car gets, the more dirt and debris gets into the bearings for the sliding bushings - and rust may appear. A brake caliper refurbishment is therefore most often a cleaning of the sliding bushings that help enable the brake pads to press against the brake disc.
If you are interested in painting brake calipers, you can either do it yourself or have the mechanic do it for you.
You can read how to do it here, or jump to a more detailed blog post on how to paint the brake caliper.
If you want to do it yourself, it is a good idea to start by dismounting the brake caliper but preferably leaving the caliper connected to the brake hose. From there, you can put the caliper on a surface that you don't mind being painted. The next step is to grind the caliper until it gets a nice and smooth surface. Then it can possibly be degreased with a brake cleaner.
From here, if you know how to paint brake calipers with a brush, cover the rubber parts of the caliper with e.g. paint tape, as well as the vent screw and piston so that they are not painted, and also cover all other parts close to the caliper, such as the brake disc, control arm or tie rod end. You can do this with newspapers taped up with paint tape.
Then you start painting, preferably with a heat-resistant primer (two coatings), and then paint the caliper with the "right" brake caliper paint, fx if you want to have red brake calipers. Finally, you can choose to give the caliper one or two coats of heat-resistant clear coating, as this gives a nice finish and a longer durability.
The drying time between the layers and the products is based on the product you are using. In addition, it is recommended to paint at indoor temperatures between 18 and 25 degrees and not in direct sunlight.
If you let the mechanic do the work, you should expect a price around £80-£100 per brake caliper, including paint.
You should expect a brake caliper repair to be done in pairs, ie. either on the front brake caliper or rear brake caliper - or on all four tyres.
It takes about 1.5 hours for the mechanic to clean the brake caliper, so you have to expect a bill of £200 for the working time. For that, he will need a brake caliper rewind tool, where the bolts are screwed off one by one. Often, you will have to vent the braking system as well, to get rid of dirt and other debris.
It is rare to get a full brake caliper replacement. It’s only if it is completely worn and equipped, that you change the caliper.
If you know how to clean brake calipers yourself, you basically have to investigate how to lubricate brake caliper piston, specifically the system in which the sliding bushings are placed. In this way, they become flexible and cause the brake pads to press correctly on the brake disc again.
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