Reader Question: Sticking Brakes?

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Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply!

Cyndi asks: I recently had brake work done by my boyfriend. He had the rotors machined to a new surface and put new pads in the original calipers. When I apply the brakes and release them, the brakes “stick.” Any advice?

My reply: It seems likely to me that one or both front calipers have sticky pistons. When you depress the brake pedal, hydraulic pressure is applied to the brake fluid inside the brake lines. This fluid pushes the pistons within the calipers outward, applying braking force (via the friction pads) to the rotors. These pistons travel with a bore. These bores can become sticky – via rust, for instance. If the rust (or just gunk) isn’r severe, you may be able to clean the bores using solvent (nothing abrasive!) and get the pistons to travel freely again, which ought to solve your problem. But you may end up having to replace one or even both calipers.

Hope this was helpful!

. . .

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  1. This is a problem independent of the rotor resurfacing and pad replacement.

    Either the piston/clyinder in the calipers have an issue as Eric described or the caliper sliding mechanism is rusted. On modern cars this is usually a pair of pins the caliper slides on. This of course for calipers with pistons only on side. Rusted slide pins can be a real pain to get out of the caliper brackets. They’ll usually come out with effort.

      • Took the words out of my mouth, Brent. Another thing to look for is a kinked brake hose. Also, sometimes, depending on the quality of the pads used, it could take a few hard brake applications and or a few miles to “burn the new brakes in”- used to see that a lot in the 80’s- but not so much on modern cars….but then again, I haven’t used cheap-O pads since then…..


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