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How to Detect Bad Caliper Symptoms

Do you feel like something’s wrong with your brakes, but you can’t seem to point it out? Are you trying to diagnose your vehicle’s calipers, but you aren’t sure whether they’re the problem or not? Fear not, because listed below are some of the symptoms that you should be looking out for if your caliper’s gone bad. 

What is a brake caliper?

A caliper is one of the components in a disc brake system. If you look closely at your brake system, you’ll see that the brake rotor is sandwiched around a pair of brake pads. These brake pads are suspended through a clamping mechanism called the calipers.

Whenever you step on the brake pedal, what squeezes the brake pads against the rotor is the caliper. A simplified example of how this visually works is a disc brake on a bicycle. A hydraulic cable pulls on the calipers and this actuates the brake system, having the pads clamp onto the rotor to stop the vehicle. 

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What are the symptoms of a bad caliper?

You might be having trouble with your vehicle, and if any or all of these symptoms are present, then you’re one step closer to narrowing the problem down to the caliper.

Your vehicle pulls to one side while driving

Your brake pads shouldn’t always be touching the rotors. However, if and when you experience your vehicle pulling to one side, then that might mean that one or more calipers are stuck in a certain position. 

If you take your hands off of the steering wheel, you will notice that the car moves toward one direction. This direction is often the side where the caliper will not release. Thus making it easier for you to identify which caliper might be causing the problem.

You see fluid leaking from the brakes

Your brake calipers are pulled together by a hydraulic cable, as mentioned above. These cables have hydraulic fluids inside that may sometimes leak out. This is an abnormal occurrence, as there should be no leaks. So if you find liquid puddles around your tires even when it hasn’t rained, then it might be time to have your calipers checked.

Grinding or screeching sounds

You might know that these sounds are often caused by worn down brake pads, however, what you might not know is that bad brake calipers may sometimes be the cause. This happens because the brake pads get worn down due to bad calipers.

What to do after diagnosing a bad caliper

The best thing to do after finding out that you have the symptoms of a bad caliper is to have your brakes checked by a professional mechanic. This is because while the symptoms are clear enough, these are often mimics of other problems that might be present with your vehicle. For example, pulling to one side often means that your tire pressure is low.

Screeching sounds, on the other hand, is often a signifier for worn down brake pads. It’s these ambiguous problems that could often lead to an error of judgement. You wouldn’t want to purchase the wrong parts only to find out that your problems are caused by a different part altogether.


The brake caliper is an important part of your brake system. You shouldn’t neglect it, but it’s often hard to diagnose, so knowing the symptoms mentioned above is key to pinpointing whether the problem lies with them or not. 

However, knowing the symptoms is not enough due to the mimicry in the symptoms. Sometimes, you’ll really need the help of a licensed professional. Don’t be afraid to have your car checked when you’re not 100% sure of your diagnosis.

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