How Do Brake Calipers Work? A Complete Guide

Recent polls show that nearly 40% of tractor-trailer owners use disc brakes in their vehicles. Brake calipers are an essential part of a vehicle’s disc braking system, and a vehicle would be unable to stop without them in place. But how do they work, and what do they do?

Read this brake calipers guide for an overview of how brake calipers work and some brake calipers tips to get you started!

How Do Brake Calipers Work? 

What are brake calipers? Industrial brake calipers are a vital part of a disc brake system. Disc brakes are frequently used in machines and industrial vehicles but are not always as common as other types of braking systems.

These little calipers are usually attached to the front wheels of trucks and other vehicles, although many manufacturers have begun installing disc brakes on the rear wheels as well. This means that each rear wheel will also have a rear brake caliper to go along with it.

But how does it work? As you press on a brake pedal, hydraulic fluid passes through the lines and pushes a piston. This piston, in turn, closes the brake calipers. 

The brake calipers are attached to brake pads, which are the braking parts. As the calipers close, the brake pads press against the wheel’s rotor and apply friction. This friction slows the wheels down, slowing and eventually stopping the vehicle.

Disc brake systems are typically external and vented, allowing air to cool the system from all the heat generated by the friction. This keeps the system functioning far longer without wearing out, which is one of the many reasons disc brakes are the better choice.

Brake calipers need to be properly set to squeeze at the right time and apply the right amount of pressure with the brake pads. Thankfully, you can adjust the calipers and caliper piston with a brake caliper tool, no matter which type of industrial vehicle you’re working on.

Two Types of Calipers

Calipers for disc brakes are either fixed calipers or floating calipers. As a result, they perform differently, although the underlying braking concept is still the same.

Floating calipers move closer or farther away from the rotor. When hydraulic fluid presses the piston, the entire caliper moves with it, pushing the brake pads against the rotor.

As you might guess, fixed calipers don’t move. Instead, pistons push them closed, pressing the brake pads against both sides of the rotor. These brake calipers are generally the better, higher-quality option, but they are also more expensive.

What About Other Brakes?

There are other braking systems found in trucks and other industrial vehicles. However, these systems don’t use calipers to press brake pads against rotors as disc brake systems do. 

Drum brakes are common braking systems and have been in use for quite a few decades. Although they aren’t as good as disc brakes, they still see quite a lot of use. 

The “S” cam brake is a drum brake system that is extremely common in trucks and larger industrial vehicles. It functions well, but it isn’t as good as a disc brake system at stopping a vehicle quickly. 

Learn More About Brake Parts!

While this is a general overview of brake calipers, there’s still a lot more to brakes and braking systems! We want you to feel confident in all your knowledge and materials regarding industrial brakes.

So feel free to contact us with questions or concerns! Our goal is to provide you with the best materials, knowledge, and advice possible, whether for brakes or other industrial products.

The better you feel about your equipment, the happier we are!


Posted in Industrial Brakes and Clutches.