Can You Replace Just One Brake Caliper? | Brake Experts (2023)

When it comes to car maintenance, many people thinkthings are either simpler or more complicated than they are. It’s one thing tolearn how to drive the car, but it’s entirely another to understand all themachinery that allows it to operate. Sometimes, however, an understanding ofthis machinery is crucial to the upkeep of the car.

Can you replace just one brake caliper? You can, but you probably shouldn’t. In some cases, you can replace just one brake caliper, but if possible, it is always best to replace brake calipers in pairs.

Brake calipers are crucial to the functioningof your car. If something goes wrong with your calipers, it is a safety hazard.Therefore, you should have a little bit of knowledge on how to go aboutreplacing brake calipers if you plan to do it yourself.

What Are Brake Calipers?

Brake calipers are a very important part ofyour car. You need them for your car to be capable of stopping. Essentially,what they do is slow your wheels down by creating friction between the brakepads and the rotors.

The brake pads are located inside the brakecalipers, which fit right over the rotors. There are brake pads on the outsidesand the insides of the rotors. When you step on the brake pedal in your car,brake fluid from the master cylinder will generate hydraulic pressure on thepistons of the brake calipers and push the brake pads against the rotors.

This force and pressure push the brake padsstrongly against the rotors, which creates the necessary friction to slow themdown and stop. Since the rotors and wheels are connected, when the rotor slowsdown and stops, the wheel will do the same.

If you would like to watch a demonstration ofhow brake calipers work, check out this video, whichprovides a simplified explanation. Wantsomething more detailed? Then watch this video.

Can You Replace Just One Brake Caliper?

It is usually better to replace your calipersin pairs. If just one caliper is not working, you do not have to replace thecalipers for all four wheels. However, you should replace the right and theleft one in either the front or the back.

There are some situations where this is not necessary. If the unaffected caliper is new anyway, it might not be worth the expense to replace both calipers. However, if they have both been on the car for a long time, it’s likely that both have a fair amount of wear and tear, even if one of them is still working well.

The other caliper will likely need to be replaced soon anyway. Having one brand new caliper and one old one could lead to problems in driving performance.

Even if the unaffected caliper on the other side is in good condition, you need to make sure that you find an exact match of that caliper make and model to put on the side that you are replacing.

It needs to have the exact same number of pistons, contain identical brake pads, and exert the same amount of force on the rotors. In this case, you can replace just one caliper, but you do have to be careful about it.

The reason why it’s usually important to replace calipers in pairs is that you want the calipers to be working as identically as possible on both sides of your car.

If this is the case, the performance of your vehicle will be more predictable and reliable. It will be more likely to track straight, and you will be less likely to have problems whenever you try to bring the vehicle to a hard stop.

When Do Brake Calipers Need to BeReplaced?

Previously, when calipers wore out, peoplewould just have them repaired and rebuilt. However, people generally don’t dothis now because it’s more economical just to replace them.

Brake calipers can accumulate quite a bit ofwear and tear over time. When they are functioning with your vehicle, they arein the presence of an enormous amount of heat. The brake pads and rotorsgenerate heat that exposes the calipers to temperatures that can be more than300 degrees Fahrenheit.

As the calipers are used, they go through so many cycles of heating and cooling. This, in combination with the moisture to which the calipers are often exposed, can lead to corrosion on the interior and exterior of the brake caliper.

This moisture can come from either humidity or precipitation in the air or any moisture that may be absorbed by the brake fluid. The water that gets into the brake fluid will boil and condense with each of the heating and cooling cycles that take place, and this leads to corrosion when it happens repeatedly.

This corrosion will create rough surfaces onthe interiors and exteriors of the calipers. This can cause surfaces to beabrasive and cause undue wear and tear on the seals when the pistons aremoving. The piston seals start to leak when too much scraping has taken place.

Brake calipers can get to the point where theydon’t move at all if the pistons are stuck inside their chambers after too muchcorrosion has taken place.

When Should You Replace BrakeCalipers?

Some people may want to be proactive and replace brake calipers before they start having problems with them. There are some instances when it would be particularly convenient and make a lot of sense to replace your pair of brake calipers in either the front or the back.

If you have had the calipers on your vehicle for a long time, you can have them checked whenever you have brake work done on your car.

If you are having any work done on your brake pads or rotors, you should have your mechanic inspect the calipers as well. This would be a great time for the mechanic to check for leaks, corrosion, and any other types of damage that could be present.

Also, if you are replacing either the brake pads or the rotors, it might be a good time to replace the calipers as well.

If the mechanic is removing the brake rotors to work on components of the vehicle that are in the immediate posterior, this might be a good time to replace the brake fluid. Typically, the brake fluid can be flushed, and the calipers can be replaced all in the same process.

The brake system will need to be flushed with new fluid to get rid of air that comes into the lines when the calipers are being changed anyway.


It may be tempting to only replace one brake caliper if only one is giving you problems. After all, this will be easier on your wallet. However, it could end up being harder on your wallet in the long run if you end up having issues with your vehicle because of the uneven functioning on the two sides of your car.

As mentioned, there are some situations where it could make sense to only replace one caliper, but this is generally only the case when the caliper on the unaffected side is new, and you can be sure to match it with an identical caliper on the side that you are replacing.

What you need to keep in mind here is that symmetry is very important when you are looking at the left and right sides of the braking system of a car. If you have two calipers that are not similar enough to each other, you can end up compromising your braking performance.

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