glowing brake pads on a race car

Putting The Squeeze On Speed

Brake calipers are one of the most critical components in a disc-fitted auto brake system. Calipers are the middlemen between a pushed-down brake pedal and the rest of the brake system activating. Without calipers, no disc brake system works properly or safely.

Within the brake caliper housing, you’ll find piston and inner and outboard brake pads. These sub-components act on hydraulic principles to create friction on the brake rotor to slow or stop a car. (More about hydraulics here.)

What Are Brake Calipers?

Brake calipers are a U-shaped clamping mechanism that fit over the top of a brake rotor. When pedal pressure is applied, brake fluid is pulled from the master cylinder’s storage vessel and delivered to the brake caliper through a secondary component called a slave cylinder. (More on brake fluid here.) From here, hydraulic pistons within the caliper housing drive both inner and outbound brake pads simultaneously. The piston stroke process applies friction to the brake rotor surface based on the level of pedal intensity.

How Complicated Is It To Ensure Calipers Produce Even braking?

Laying a set of brake pads equally on all four discs simultaneously requires a fair amount of engineering. Without it, a car is likely to slew and skew all over the road, sometimes referred to as “uneven braking.”

Manufacturers build in structures to create baseline piston behaviors. While calipers are largely sealed, there are other components like oversized rotors, enhanced master/slave cylinder packages, and metalized lines that reduce or eliminate line over-pressurization among other things.

What Types Of Calipers Apply To Performance Auto Brake Systems?

There are two principal variants. The first design is a “fixed caliper” configuration. In this design, the caliper houses pistons that trigger pad contact from both sides to the rotor surface simultaneously. The second design is called a “floating caliper” system. Here, only a single-set of pistons push a single set of pads against the rotating surface, while a fixed set of pads support the process from the other side, thereby forming a vise-like construct.

What Brake Caliper Maintenance Is Necessary?

Yes. Like any other component, brake calipers fail over time. To ensure problems are caught early enough, do periodic visual inspections. Look for leaks, cracks, and abnormalities.

Do I Need To Maintain The Calipers?

A fully-equipped shop is typically required to maintain a caliper set. It is best to have an experienced mechanic deal with this kind of issue.

What Types Of Brake Calipers Apply To Performance Cars?

Most consumer cards rely on a fixed caliper system. In the case of performance driving, it is best to use floating caliper configurations. This can produce maximum frictional power on demand.