Ideally, the brake calipers on your car should last the lifetime of your car. However, on average, you’ll have to replace them about every 10 years or every 75,000-100,000 miles.
If you’ve been in an accident, had brake issues, or otherwise had unusual damage to your brakes, the calipers might have to be replaced.
When you do, the average cost of brake caliper replacement is $200-$600 per wheel. Here, the part normally costs $25-$500. You’ll also pay for about an hour of labor per affected wheel – although some cars can take longer.
The table below shows a quick price comparison of brake caliper replacement cost estimates from reputable suppliers:
|Supplier||Brake Caliper Cost||Labor|
How Much Does Brake Caliper Replacement Cost?*
The cost of replacing brake calipers varies by vehicle, by caliper type, and by the number of calipers.
For example, most mechanics recommend replacing brake calipers in pairs. That ensures both wheels respond with the same braking friction.
Other factors like whether you have single piston or dual piston, cost of labor, and the cost of parts for your specific vehicle are also important.
|Vehicle||Brake Caliper Cost||Labor Cost|
*Note: Prices are estimates and were correct at the time of writing (June 2022). Cost estimates may have changed since, our figures should be used as a starting point for your own research.
Brake Caliper Replacement Pricing Factors
Normally the make and model of your car, compatible parts, and the number of calipers you’re replacing are the most influential cost factors when replacing your calipers.
In addition, you’ll have to consider how many brake calipers you’re replacing at once.
Number of Brake Calipers
Normally, it’s best practice to replace your brake calipers in pairs. However, with costs averaging $200-$600 per affected wheel, you might choose to skip upgrading the other caliper if it’s otherwise fine.
However, that can impact driving and braking, because the new caliper may place more friction on the wheel.
How can you decide? If you really don’t want to replace both, inspect the caliper, make sure it’s not damaged, and make sure you can still bleed the brakes.
Other Parts Needed
It’s very common to replace the brake pads when replacing the brake calipers.
In addition, you might want to resurface the brake rotors. Having everything done at once will save you from overdoing these jobs individually.
However, if you do have everything done at once, you can normally expect to pay $400-$600 per wheel for most vehicles.
On the other hand, if you’d have to do the work anyway, doing it when the wheel and caliper are already off will save you a significant amount of time.
Finally, you’ll also have to pay for new brake fluid. Changing the calipers means bleeding the brakes, so expect to top up the brake fluid as well.
Cost of Parts
The cost of new brake calipers can range significantly, with parts running between about $30 and upwards of $600.
Here, the largest cost factor is the brand making them. For example, if you buy original equipment manufacturer Volkswagen brake calipers, you can expect them to cost over $500 each.
On the other hand, if you purchase an aftermarket brand that’s made to fit your vehicle, costs are normally under $100 per caliper.
You can also choose remanufactured calipers, although they aren’t as common as many other remanufactured parts.
In addition, brake calipers vary a lot. Normally, the number of pistons impacts costs significantly. The higher the performance of the caliper or the vehicle, the more pistons you’ll have.
And, while the difference between a single piston and dual piston caliper is already significant when you go to pay the bill, some performance calipers have 6 or more.
Cost of Labor
Replacing brake calipers involves taking the wheel off, removing the caliper, removing the brake pads, and then inserting a new caliper.
Normally, this will take 30-60 minutes per wheel, including putting everything back together and bleeding the brakes.
In most cases, mechanics will charge around $80-$120 per hour. Nationally, the rate runs between $15 and $215, or even more.
You’ll also have to pay shop fees. And, many mechanics don’t bill for anything less than an hour.
So, even if you’re just replacing one caliper, you can expect the rate to be at least an hour of work, or roughly $100+.
7 Symptoms of Bad Brake Calipers
If your brake calipers are going bad, you’ll usually notice the brakes are making noise, the brakes smell, or that the pedal has gone spongy.
Unfortunately, most of the symptoms of a bad brake caliper are similar to other problems with your brakes.
Therefore, it’s always important to inspect the brakes thoroughly to properly isolate problems.
For example, most of these symptoms can indicate low brake fluid, brake fluid leaks, worn brake pads, seized brake pads, and bad calipers.
1. Vehicle is Pulling
If your vehicle is pulling after slowing or starting, it usually means one of the brakes is staying engaged.
While a pulling vehicle can also indicate issues with the suspension or the steering, it’s always a good idea to inspect the brakes as well.
2. Burning Smells
If you’re smelling burning or burnt smells from around one wheel, it’s very likely the caliper hasn’t disengaged. This means the brake pad may be burning or the metal itself may be overheating.
Normally, you can use burning smells as an indication to inspect the brakes as well as the rest of the wheel.
3. Seized Calipers
If your calipers aren’t moving when you engage the brakes, they likely need to be replaced.
Here, you’ll probably notice because the brakes don’t’ work, don’t work on one side, or because they barely work.
4. Leaking Brake Fluid
If your brakes are leaking fluid, especially around the pistons, it’s a good sign the calipers have issues. In fact, if the pistons are leaking brake fluid, you’ll almost always have to replace the calipers.
However, leaking brake fluid can also indicate line and connection issues, so you’ll want to inspect the brake lines and the connections as well.
5. Physical Damage to the Caliper
If the brake calipers are rusted, pitted, cracked, or otherwise physically damaged, it’s a good time to replace them.
Light rust and pitting won’t normally affect performance, however, they may. Once that damage gets more severe, it could interfere with braking friction.
6. Loud Noises Coming from the Wheels
If your brakes are whining, squealing, or grinding, the calipers or the shoes are the culprits. You may want to inspect the brakes to see where there’s unusual wear before deciding the issue is the calipers.
However, if the calipers stay engaged or engage too far, the friction pad will wear away. Then, you’ll get metal on metal grinding every time you engage the brakes.
7. Soft Brake Pedal
A soft or spongy brake pedal is a big sign that your brake fluid is low or has air in it.
However, it’s also a common symptom of a seized caliper. Therefore, you should first check the brake fluid and then check the calipers.
How Do You Replace Brake Calipers? (12 Steps)
You can normally replace bad brake calipers yourself.
However, you should always have a second person on hand to bleed the brakes, as you need two people to do the job.
Things you’ll need:
- Replacement brake calipers (two are recommended)
- Ratchet and socket set
- Flange wrenches
- Small hand pump or hand vacuum
- Floor jack + Jack stands
- Lug wrench
- Brake cleaner
- Brake fluid (meeting the specifications of your vehicle)
- Large flat screwdriver
- Disposable gloves
- Shop towels
Replacing the Calipers
- Park your vehicle on a flat and level surface. Chock the wheels on the opposite side. Then, use a floor jack to lift the side of the vehicle you’re working on. Use jack stands to stabilize the vehicle.
- Loosen and remove the lugs on the wheel. Then, pull the wheel and hub off the bolts. Set the wheel aside. You may prefer to loosen the lugs before jacking up the car, as the weight of the car will prevent the wheel from spinning.
- Find the two bolts on the back of the caliper and loosen them. You may need a breaker bar to fully loosen these. You might also want to spray the caliper bolts with penetrating fluid and allow that to set in for 20 minutes to 2+ hours.
- Use a small pry bar or a large flat screwdriver to flip the caliper up away from the wheel hub.
- Pull the brake pads out of the housing on the caliper. This is a good time to inspect the pads to decide if you need new ones.
- Remove the caliper bracket bolts. Use your hand to keep the caliper from falling, as the brake lines are still attached. If the new caliper has bracket bolts, you’ll want to remove the additional two bolts holding the bracket in place.
- Use a ratchet, flange wrench, or banjo wrench to detach the brake lines. Use a pan to catch any drip.
- Install your new calipers, either by attaching the new caliper to the old bracket or by simply bolting the new bracket in place.
- Re-attach the brake lines.
- Slide the new or old brake pads back into the caliper.
- Bolt the caliper back into place.
- Replace the wheel.
Finally, you’ll want to bleed the brakes. You’ll need someone to help you by depressing the brake pedal while you hold the bleeder valve open.
However, you can start out on your own, using a small hand pump to suction air out of the system.
If you still have questions, this FAQ should help.
Can I replace just one brake caliper?
You can get away with replacing just one brake caliper.
However, it’s important to note that this may negatively impact your braking if the friction applied is uneven on each side.
Can you drive with a broken brake caliper?
It is very unsafe to drive with a broken brake caliper.
Broken calipers can fail, meaning you won’t be able to stop your vehicle. Or, you could spin out of control if only one caliper engages while braking from high speeds.
How many calipers are on a car?
Most vehicles have 2 or 4 brake calipers.
If you have disc brakes on the back, you normally only have two calipers.
Replacing brake calipers is a relatively simple job. However, it usually costs anywhere from $150-$600 to have it done in the shop. You can choose to do the work yourself, which means you’ll save money on labor. However, it’s important to ensure you can properly bleed the brakes after doing the work.