Stopping Power: Is Your Caliper Brake Seized or Sticking?

Heavy machinery causes up to 63 percent of heavy equipment operator deaths. ┬áSometimes the causes are easily preventable, sometimes freak accidents happen, and sometimes they’re caused by things we commonly overlook.

Today, we want to talk about the commonly overlooked. Too many operators take their braking system for granted. For those using pad-driven systems, the humble caliper often gets overlooked.

When caliper systems become seized or stuck, operators and those on the construction site are all at risk. Seized or stuck calipers drastically, and sometimes all together, reduce stopping power.

So to help keep you safe, we’re breaking down how to tell if your caliper brake is seized or stuck.

What are Calipers and How Do They Work?

Caliper brakes work in tandem with your brake pads to engage the rotors and stop your machine. Think of a brake system in three parts. First, you have the brake pads. They’re small, abrasive components that help stop the machine.

Next, you have the rotors. The rotors are circular metal components that the brake pads rub against to create friction thus stopping the machine. The calipers are the component that forces the brake pads against the rotors.

Your brake fluid creates hydraulic pressure within the brake caliper that then causes the pads to pinch against the rotor. The resulting friction stops your machine.

When you calipers seize or stick, they can no longer push the brake pads against the rotors. When the pads can’t rub against the rotors, your machine can’t stop.

What Causes them to Seize or Stick?

To understand why calipers seize or stick we have to know how calipers push the brake pads against the rotors. When you apply the brake pedal, hydraulic fluid builds pressure in the caliper which forces a piston to pinch the caliper together and engage the brake pads on the rotors.

Calipers frequently become stuck when that piston no longer moves. This usually happens because of corrosion. When your machine sits for too long, the piston rusts and the caliper becomes stuck.

Lack of brake fluid is another cause. If you’re low on brake fluid, the hydraulic pressure won’t build, and the piston won’t cause the caliper to pinch shut.

Symptoms of a Stuck or Seized Caliper

Stuck or seized calipers make driving impossible. Partially stuck or seized calipers make driving extremely dangerous. Depending on the issue, you’ll know that you have a problem based on how your machine reacts.

Calipers stuck closed will make a very loud grinding noise. You might also feel a “flimsy” brake pedal that depresses without much effort. Machines without any brake fluid won’t stop at all. The brake pedal will have zero resistance.

Repair or Replace?

Repairing a caliper is the cheapest (upfront) solution to your woes. Someone with a little bit of mechanical know-how can probably fix their own caliper. That said, like any mechanical part, calipers wear down over time. Every time your caliper gets stuck its lifespan significantly decreases.

Replacing your caliper will cost more upfront but could save you money in the long run. While repair is technically free, it does cost your time. And if you take it to the mechanic, you’re looking at a costly bill. If you replace your caliper, you’re ensuring that the piston won’t stick ever again.

Buying a Caliper Brake

Buying a new caliper brake is fairly daunting. Your local dealer will want to upsell you; the mechanic probably wants to upsell you as well, while third-party manufacturers don’t offer high-quality products.

That’s where we come into play. We offer top-quality industrial calipers for a variety of different applications. If you need help navigating our catalog, feel free to contact us. We’ll help ensure your machines are running smoothly.

Posted in Industrial Brakes and Clutches.