Stuck brake caliper

Discussion in 'Lounge' started by Branth, Apr 19, 2015.

  1. Branth

    Branth Member

    So, I've got a bit of an issue that I was hoping some of the car guys here could help me with. Awhile ago, my left rear brake caliper started sticking. At first I didn't know what it was, but I first noticed it right after I got my car serviced - There was a pretty strong burning smell, and I figured they must have just spilled some oil on something hot in the engine. The next time I noticed it, I also noticed my car was handling kinda sluggishly, so I got out to check and see if I maybe had a flat tire, and a fine wisp of smoke was coming from one of the wheels. The whole rim was hot to the touch, and the rotor was hot enough to feel from several inches away, so I immediately stopped driving and called my uncle. He came in, and we took the wheel off and got a look at it - The pads were scorched, but the hinge pins were fine - I did some reading and found out that could be a problem. He said it was probably just a rust ring on the cylinder, so we sprayed a little penetrating oil around the cylinder, got a C-clamp and compressed the cylinder then pumped the brakes to push it out a few times. After we had worked it in and out a bit, we put brand new brake pads on both rear wheels, and called it a day. A quick run around the block showed everything felt fine, and the wheel was dragging a little, but it was a lot better.

    I get back from a brief (5 mile) errand today, and my tire is hot again and I can still smell a little bit of burning.

    I really don't wanna shell out $200+ to get all new calipers on both rear wheels. Is there anything else I can try to maybe fix this?
  2. papataylor

    papataylor Member

    When was the last time you changed your brake fluid?

  3. Branth

    Branth Member

    It's never been changed, unless it was done with the regular services that I've had so far. It's not low, but it's still the original fluid. I'm at 80k miles, if that makes any difference.

    It's also worth noting that all the other brakes are working great, and I drive so conservatively that I'm still on my original pads at 80k and they have plenty of life left. I do a lot of downshifting, coast whenever possible, and make a sport of trying to time it to hit consecutive stoplights without having to brake at all.
  4. shane73

    shane73 Member

    Change the fluid. Also bleed the brakes. If neither one works. You'll have to buy new cylinders.

    TNTRAILERTRASH Supporting Member

    Some cars have a problem with them hanging up. I know the Lumina had a recall as the pin was a fuzz to large. I would search for recalls and problems with your particular model car. Maybe even a forum like this for that car?
  6. budman70

    budman70 Supporting Member

    Try changing the 2 pins that mount the caliper. If it isn't sliding free it will keep pressure against the rotor and cause the pads to drag.
  7. When I do brake jobs on anything, I always use never size on any sliding pins or surfaces.
  8. Dane

    Dane Supporting Member

    Have you checked your parking brake to make sure it isn't on any?

    What is this vehicle BTW? They didn't over fill the brake fluid did they?
  9. MXGreg

    MXGreg Supporting Member

    If you live in a northern state, one that salts the roads in the winter, and you use your parking brake, you may need a new cable. They get rust on the inside and don't always release. If you have a vehicle with an automatic, and don't use the parking brake on a regular basis, then don't use it ever. After years of non-use it won't release.
  10. Branth

    Branth Member

    Already checked those - They're clean and the calipers slide freely on them.

    Now there's an idea! I drive a manual - It's an '09 Mitsubishi Lancer. I do live in a state that salts the roads in winter, and I use the parking brake all the time. Would that only affect one of the rear wheels, or would it affect both? How can I check to see if that's the issue?

    Also, how can bad brake fluid cause this issue? I did a little reading, and I probably need new brake fluid anyway - I think it's pretty dark, but I'd have to go check. I'll plan on getting that replaced either way.
  11. what_now

    what_now Member

    If you are up to it you can rebuild the calipers with a rebuild kit. The kit only cost a few dollars at O'Reilly's and they have a video on how to do it. If you do a rebuild and still have the problem, it's not the caliper or the fluid because you will need to bleed brake line after doing the rebuild.
    I rebuilt a caliper when I was 17 because I couldn't afford a new caliper.

    TNTRAILERTRASH Supporting Member

    If the fluid isn't DOT5 it absorbs water. Some people when doing brakes just shove the piston back in with a C clamp and force that old dirty fluid into the ABS valving and master cylinder. That can cause problems, and cost $$$ I open the bleeder and let it squirt out the back. Do not use DOT5 unless you flush everything out, and your ABS system will work with it. Use what the factory has listed.

    TNTRAILERTRASH Supporting Member

    The parking brake on rear disc is usually a small drum brake inside the back of the rotor.
  14. Branth

    Branth Member

    I've got disc brakes on the rear. Would the parking brake use that same cylinder, or is it a totally separate system?
  15. FYI, on some vehicles the rear disc/parking brake is electronic and the cylinder needs to be reset with a special tool, not just 'pushed back in' with a c-clamp.
  16. Bull

    Bull Just a Man Supporting Member

    Hell, just apply a liberal cost of grease to your rear rotors.... That'll stop the drag....

    TNTRAILERTRASH Supporting Member

    parking brake could be cable operated
  18. ajole

    ajole Supporting Member

    NE Utah
    Last edited: Apr 20, 2015
  19. Rachgier

    Rachgier Administrator Staff Member


    I was just about to mention the rear disc/drum brakes. Mine are the same way. 4-wheel disc with rear drums for the e-brake.

    My problem with the driver rear brake hanging up was that the dust boot on the piston had a small pinhole leak in it and when my brakes wore to a certain point it exposed the hole allowing air to enter the caliper which prevented the piston from retracting properly causing the pads to stay partially engaged on the rotor. I rebuilt the calipers with a cheap kit from Advance and the problem stopped. I also took the time to do a full bleed and fluid change.

    TNTRAILERTRASH Supporting Member

    If it's the caliper I would buy a Vatazone or other rebuilt one and call it a day. I have rebuilt wheel cylinders, and master cylinders. Not worth my time.