Brakes sticking while driving? Here’s what you should know

Just like an engine, the brakes are an important part of a car. They are responsible for smooth and safe stopping. It is advisable to regularly inspect and service your car’s brakes.

Faulty brakes can be disastrous and must be repaired as early as possible. One of the maladies ailing the brake system is sticking.

Brakes function through a series of metal parts that grid over each other smoothly and accurately. These parts are however subject to rusting and when that happens, the smooth grinding is affected. It is replaced by frequent jams and sticks which can be annoying. So, yes, it is possible for breaks to stick while driving.

You can tell your tires are sticking by the smell and sounds they produce. Sudden pull-ups by one side of the car are another sign.

Some of the reasons why your brakes could be sticking are low brake fluid level and worn-out brake pads.

The main culprit however is the seizing of the brake caliper. It is in fact the most common cause of sticking brakes. Sticking of the brake calipers is caused by several reasons. Identifying and dealing with these causes can help you stop your brakes from sticking while driving.

Why is my car’s brake caliper sticking?

1. The caliper pistons and caliper boot might be rusty

When you step on the brake pedal, the caliper pistons push the brake pads against the brake disc. This enables the car to stop.

They are a very important component of the brake system. A rubber boot is installed around the caliper pistons to prevent dust and other particles from getting to the brakes system.

The boot might get damaged and leave the pistons at the mercy of water and dust. The water if not controlled will cause the pistons to rust and start getting stuck. It might not be serious at first but after a while, the brake pads will get stuck and the car will stop completely.

To prevent this, you should regularly lift the boot and check for any dust or water. Replacing the caliper is not expensive and it is the recommended option if the sticking problem catches up with you.

2. The Brake Pads Might Be Rusty

Brake pads get rusty very quickly if they are exposed to a little water. After the caliper pistons, the brake pads are the most common cause of sticking the brake caliper. These pads need to be lubricated frequently to enable smooth grinding between them and the caliper bracket.

If dust finds its way into the bracket slides some sticking can be expected. The brake pads will have a hard time moving in the brake pad bracket and end up pushing on the brake disc.

To rectify such a scenario, you will have to take out the brake pads and dust off the brake pads bracket. You can use a file or sandpaper. After cleaning you will need to lubricate it with copper paste.

3. The Caliper Guide Pin Could Be Dirty

These are essential parts located at the brake caliper brackets. Their role is to smoothen the forward and backward movement when you step on the brakes. The main reason these pins stick is rusting. When they repeatedly stick the brake caliper will not function properly.

It is at this stage that your car’s brakes start to stick. This problem is not common because of some well-located rubber boots which prevent dust and water from getting to the pins.

If you suspect your car’s brakes are sticking because of rusted pins, you can take out the rubber boots and clean them. As for the guide pins, you can just lubricate them. If yours are stuck, getting them out might be a task, get a torch and someone to help you.

4. The Parking Brake Steel Cables

The parking brake is a notorious suspect, as far as caliper sticking problems are concerned. This mostly happens if the problem is coming from the car’s rear. Modern automotive engineering put the hand brake in the brake caliper and not the brake disc.

If water and dust get into the handbrake cables, the wire will rust. When you release the handbrake you will notice the brake caliper’s hesitance to let go.

If you fall victim to handbrake cable rusting, you should try to lubricate the wires and the caliper arm. You might want to move it back and forth several times to ascertain improvement. You might have to replace the cables if the situation necessitates it.

5. The Brake Hose Might Be Broken

This is through this hose that brake fluids flow to the braking system and from. It is connected to the braking system and the master cylinder.

The brake fluid flows back to the master cylinder from the braking system after serving its purpose. If a leak is made on the hose, the process will be interrupted and the brake fluid might not flow back.

When the fluid does not flow back, the calipers tend to start sticking. It is not common in modern cars but after exhausting all other options mechanics end up replacing the brake hose.

6. Dirty Brake Fluid

Experts attribute many brake problems to bad or dirty brake fluid. It is advisable to regularly replace the brake fluid.

Can Old Brake Fluid Cause Sticking Brakes?

Yes, it is a major cause of brake sticking problems in modern cars. As brake fluid stays in the system, it absorbs water from the atmosphere and if not replaced in 1-2 years, it can cause problems.

Water is a main component in the rusting process and the best way to eliminate it from the equation is to regularly replace the brake fluid.

Will A Bad Master Cylinder Cause Brakes To Stick?

The master cylinder is filled with the brake fluid which it releases to the braking system and receives back. If it releases the brake fluid to enable the braking process it must be able to take it back to allow for the release of the brakes.

If it does not, the brakes will not release. This, in other words, is sticking. You should have it replaced if you suspect it has issues.

Can You Drive With A Sticking Caliper?

A stuck brake caliper will cause the car to remain engaged in brake mode even after you have taken your foot off the brake pedal. You might choose to drive slowly with the brakes engaged but you should think about the pressure you are putting on other parts like the transmission.

How Much Does It Cost To Fix Sticking Brakes?

This will depend on the cause of the sticking but since the main cause is a sticking caliper, we will discuss the costs of repairing it. It can cost anywhere from $70-%120. The cost will rise and fall depending on the car’s make and model.

Can a caliper unseize itself?

If the problem is mild, you will notice that after seizing the caliper unsiezes itself but if the rusting is severe you will have to repair it.

How Do Sticking Brakes Sound Like?

You should expect some grinding and squeaking from areas around the wheels.

Bottom line

Spotting and dealing with brake problems early can be challenging for a new car owner but not for the veterans. The main point to note however is that rusting can cause more damage to the braking system than you can imagine. Keep dust and water away from the brake pads and caliper.

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