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Understanding Disc Brake Calipers

Disc brakes possess numerous advantages over drum brakes. For that reason, virtually all automobiles on the road today use disc brakes for the front wheels, which must bear the brunt of work in stopping a vehicle. Disc brakes slow a vehicle more effectively. In addition, they have longer lifespans, are less vulnerable to water, and don't need to be adjusted as frequently.

A disc brake consists of three central components: the rotor, the brake pad, and the caliper. If you would like to learn more about the role played by the last of these components, keep reading. This article will outline the duties of a caliper, while also exploring two different styles of calipers used in today's disc brakes.

Disc Brakes

A disc brake is a fairly simple system. The rotor attaches to the wheel of your car and rotates along with it. The brake pads sit on the flat sides of the rotor, with a small gap between them and the rotor's surface. The caliper holds the brake pads. When you apply the brakes in your car, hydraulic pressure causes the calipers to pinch.

As the two sides of the caliper approach one another, the brake pads contact the rotor. The friction generated in this manner causes the rotor - and hence the wheel - to lose momentum, ultimately stopping your car.

Caliper Types

Disc brake calipers come in two main varieties, known respectively as floating and fixed calipers. Two main differences exist between the two. The first lies in the number of pistons used to close the caliper around the rotor. A floating caliper typically uses only one piston, located on the inner side of the rotor. 

As you depress the brake pedal, hydraulic fluid exerts force against this piston, causing that side of the caliper to press against the rotor. The hydraulic pressure also exerts force against the opposite side of the caliper. This force causes the caliper to shift position, or float, so that the outer brake pad also comes in contact with the rotor.

Fixed calipers take a different approach. First of all, they utilize one or more pistons on each side of the caliper. Second, a fixed caliper cannot shift the way a floating caliper can, for the simple reason that it does not need to. The pistons on either side suffice to press the brake pads against the rotor without the caliper needing to change position.

Fixed calipers offer smoother and more efficient braking performance. That said, they tend to cost much more than floating calipers. For that reason, the majority of passenger vehicles contain floating calipers. 

Caliper Problems

The most commonly encountered caliper problem involves leaking hydraulic fluid. Leaks usually stem from problems with the piston that controls the caliper. Leaking fluid will cause the brake to respond sluggishly or without its usual force. As more and more fluid escapes, your brakes may even cease to work altogether. 

In some cases, a caliper that suffers from leaks can be repaired. However, many auto technicians feel that the best solution involves simply replacing the caliper. This will reduce the chances of other caliper problems, such as cracked castings, rusty or corroded slides and bushings, and other types of general degradation.

A less common brake problem involves sticking calipers - in other words, calipers that fail to release completely when you let off the brake. This problem can cause your vehicle to pull to one side. You may also feel continued resistance from your brakes. Sticking calipers may be tied to a number of issues, with corrosion often playing a key role.

Calipers represent a key component in any disc brake system. For more information about ensuring that your calipers remain in the best possible shape, please contact the auto experts at Vans Auto Service LLC.                                                   

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