WHAT THE HECK IS A…Caliper?

To know what the heck a caliper IS, we must first explore what the heck a caliper IS NOT. A caliper is not:

  1. An insect that spins a cocoon and undergoes metamorphosis to turn into a butterfly
  2. A purring orange cat
  3. The phrase that a lumberjack yells out when a tree is about to fall
  4. A type of aircraft that derives both lift and propulsion from one or more sets of horizontally revolving overhead rotors
This was not once a caliper, unless it was in a previous life.

This was not once a caliper, unless it was in a previous life.

So…what the heck is it, then?

A caliper is an essential part of a disc braking system, which is in most vehicles today. It houses the brake pads, and slows down the vehicle.

Casa de brake pads. Muy importante.

Casa de brake pads. Muy importante.

How Does It Work?

 

When the brake is engaged, the caliper uses hydraulic pressure to push the brake pads against the rotors to create friction and slow the vehicle down. In other words:

  1. You push the brake pedal
  2. The brake pedal pushes brake fluid
  3. The brake fluid pushes pistons inside the caliper
  4. The pistons push the brake pads against the rotors
  5. Your vehicle slows down
This is what happens when you interrupt a cylinder/brake pad dance party by pouring brake fluid on the cylinders. It makes them think that the brake pads did it, so they get angry and push the brake pads against the rotor.

This is what happens when you interrupt a cylinder/brake pad dance party by pouring brake fluid on the cylinders. It makes them think that the brake pads did it, so they get angry and push the brake pads against the rotor.

Common Problems

  • One of the most common problems with calipers is binding or freezing. Dust/dirt can clog up the cylinders, which can cause them to stick. That can make your vehicle pull to one side while braking and will wear your brake pads much faster than normal.
  • Another common and dangerous problem with calipers is leaking brake fluid. If a seal is worn or loose and brake fluid is leaking out, it reduces the hydraulic pressure against the pistons, which means the brake pads won’t be pushed as tightly against the rotor to slow the vehicle. One way to identify that issue is if the brake pedal feels soft/squishy when you engage it (that could also indicate a leak in the master cylinder).

The best thing to do if you’re experiencing ANY brake issues is to take it to your local, friendly Chad Miller Auto Care as soon as possible.

brakes-fail-bulldog

So, there you have it. Now you know what a caliper is NOT, what it IS, and how it works. Don’t be like our bulldog friend and wait for the brakes to fail completely before having your trusted mechanic look at them. It could save your life!

 

Tell me what other automotive parts baffle you. I’ll tell you what the heck they are!

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Written by Ben Scharff

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