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Brake calipers, found only on disc brake systems, house pistons which use the force of hydraulic brake fluid to stop the vehicle. More specifically, those pistons squeeze brake pads against rotating disc brake rotors - creating the friction necessary for scrubbing off speed.
Calipers can contain a varying number of pistons, and come with either a "fixed" or "floating" mount design. Fixed disc brake calipers have pistons on BOTH sides of the caliper housing. They remain stationary because they're fixed in place over the center of the brake rotor. In contrast, a floating caliper housing, with a piston or pistons on only one side, will slide from side to side so that the piston(s) can apply pad pressure from both directions.
Generally, disc brake calipers are tough and durable. They have to be, because they endure grueling conditions whenever the wheels are turning. On modern vehicles, it's not uncommon for calipers to last at least 100,000 miles or 10 years. Because caliper life can vary significantly depending on how you drive, the climate you live in, and the humidity level in the air, automakers have always avoided making replacement recommendations at specific intervals. Instead, they advise checking the condition of calipers along with pads and rotors during routine maintenance checks.
The clear question is how do you recognize when new calipers are actually needed? It's good knowledge to have - considering new caliper parts can cost a few bucks, even if the labor isn't extensive. In this article, we'll look at what causes brake caliper wear, and we'll help you spot the signs of trouble.
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