How to remove a brake caliper that won’t come off

Sometimes, a caliper can fail to come off, which could be challenging. Removing these stubborn calipers can be a real heck, especially when there is a lot of rust and corrosion.

There are various reasons why the brakes bind or drag, but mostly because of a stuck or seized item in the system. The brake pads can seize or get skewed or slide pin seized in the case of single-piston calipers.

When a brake gets stuck when the car is unused for long, the symptoms will be obvious; it will feel like the brakes are on when you try to drive.

Moreover, the brake caliper can seize to come off if a vehicle sits in a damp environment, making the pads get stuck on the disc. In some cases, the issue can be so bad that the car might fail to move at all.

When the caliper slide pins are seized, the vehicle will seem to drive normally, but the pads wi; be pushed to the disc from the side of the piston.

Therefore, one wheel will receive a low braking ability, and the piston side pad will wear faster. The car might pull in the opposite direction once the brakes are applied in such cases.

When the piston gets stuck within the caliper or the pad gets stuck, the vehicle feels down on power.

Moreover, you might also notice that the vehicle pulls to the single side with the steering wheel pointed straight while cruising and not applying the brake.

While driving, the stuck brake might get hot, and there will be a smell of overheated brakes alongside smoke coming out of them. Once you notice this while driving, it is advisable to stop and remove the stuck brake caliper.

What causes the brake caliper to get jammed?

Sticking brake calipers is not a common issue, but once they happen, it means there are a few things that might be causing the problem.

1. Brake hose and brake caliper piston

The most common cause of a jammed caliper is the brake hose and caliper piston. The piston rubber contains a rubber boot that lubricates and protects its papers.

If this rubber wears off, it will lead to the accumulation of debris, leading to rusting of the piston. This, therefore, means that the sliding abilities of the piston will be reduced.

The hose, on the other hand, wears with time, and once it breaks or cracks, the brake fluid will find its way to the pistons hence sliding down the car

2. Brake caliper slides

Brake caliper slides are another cause of sticking brake calipers. This happens when debris builds up on the brake pads or grove, resulting in the grooving sticking.

3. Brake caliper bolts

The caliper bolts could also result in frozen caliper bolts. The bolts are built to slide easily and become sticky when not lubed regularly or when they become too dry.

How to remove a jammed caliper

When a caliper won’t come off, you can remove it differently depending on where the issue is located. When the problem is with the skewed pad or the brake pads jamming, the system will only need maintenance some cleaning, and proper lubrication, and the caliper will be okay.

You will have to lubricate the brake system or remove the slides or brake pads and grease the edges to fix the issue. But the ideal way to fix stuck pads is to resurface them and replace the brake pads. Moreover, you can also buy remanufactured brake calipers.

The other way is to retract the pad with a special tool if the problem appears due to a seized caliper piston. If you lack the special tool, you can use a simple c-clamp.

You can also remove the caliper piston by using the pressure of the brake’s hydraulic system. Simply remove the caliper from the disc and pump to move the piston beyond the corroded area.

In case your caliper is stuck while driving try the following method:

  • install the jack and remove the wheel;
  • to accelerate the cooling process you can use cold water, but make sure to add it on a partially cooled surface, avoiding extreme temperature drops that can bend the discs
  • if the handbrake cable is jammed, you need to clean its elements from rust, WD-40 will work;
  • it is recommended to knock with a hammer on the return bracket to return it to its original position; note that after that it will be impossible to use the handbrake until the final repair;
  • In the case of a jammed piston itself, you must use a wood block to tap the entire mechanism; to unjam the pads, you can insert a screwdriver between the pad and the disc and bend these elements.

Can a stuck caliper fix itself?

No, a stuck hydraulic system cannot fix itself because there is a lot of hydraulic pressure acting on it when brakes are applied, which needs intervention.

Can I drive with a stuck caliper?

Yes, you can drive but stress the transmission, failing earlier. If you have a stuck caliper, the brake pad won’t disengage completely from the brake rotor surface.

Prevention measures

To prevent caliper problems, be sure to lubricate it at least 2 times a year for preventive purposes. It is optimal to use professional special lubricants designed specifically for this part. But regular WD40 is also an alternative. It will protect against corrosion.

Plus, visually inspect the condition once a year. Keep the caliper free of damage, dirt, and corrosion. Make sure that the boot has not torn during operation. Otherwise, the caliper will not live long after that.

You need to monitor the entire brake system, including periodic adjustments of the hand brake. After all, it is also an integral part of vehicle safety.


Stuck brake calipers are not a common issue, but it is likely to happen at any time. Once the problem happens, there are ways you can fix it, including lubricating the brake system resurfacing the disc and replacing the pad.

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