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Anyone Interested In Seeing Brake Caliper Replacement


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Hey All,

I've got to replace a sticky front brake caliper on our 1995 ES300 tonight. I'm just curious if it would help anyone out if I did a little photo documentation of the process. If so, I'll take some pictures and do a little step-by-step of the procedure/repair... just let me know.

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Hey All,

I've got to replace a sticky front brake caliper on our 1995 ES300 tonight. I'm just curious if it would help anyone out if I did a little photo documentation of the process. If so, I'll take some pictures and do a little step-by-step of the procedure/repair... just let me know.

Personally, I think picture "how to" guides are WONDERFUL. I also have a caliper sticking but it is on the rear of my 2002 ES300. I may be too late, but yes, I would love to see them!

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Unfortunately I ran out of time and had to just plow through the repair, so I didn't get a chance to photodocument it. I wanted to because not only have photodocumentations helped me in the past (mainly from this site), but I wasn't able to find much of anything on replacing a caliper on the web... just one article/video for a motorcycle caliper.

Although, I can point out a few things about the replacement/repair. First, Kashi125 asked how one can tell a caliper is sticky. There are a few tell-tale signs:

1. the car pulls or grabs funny when the brakes are applied

2. the smell of hot brakes after driving, like someone left the e-brake on or something.

3. (our main symptom) sporadic shuddering of the car at speed... like one of the wheels is REALLY out of balance, but then it goes away after a minute or two.

4. Put the car in neutral on a slight incline... if the car is reluctant to freely roll, then more than likely it's a brake caliper sticking.

Once you know it's a sticky caliper, jack the car up to where the wheels lift off the ground (I did both rear first (with the car's transmission in 'park', then both front (with the transmission in neutral and the e-brake on in the rear)). With the wheels up off the ground, try to get them to turn with just human strength. If they turn with minimal effort (and they should spin freely in the rear, but take a little more effort in the front (since there are drive shafts up there)), then it's probably not a sticky caliper causing what ever symptom you have. If one wheel doesn't want to turn, that's the culprit (I've rarely seen two or more sticky calipers at a time). Now that you know which caliper it is, you can go pick up a new/rebuilt one (calipers are quirky, and you can probably try and repair your existing caliper by honing out the pucks and rebuilding the caliper yourself, but it's not worth the time and effort). A replacement caliper is pretty cheap and readily available locally. I got mine at Discount Import Parts here in Portland for $54, partially loaded (which means it comes with the caliper, mounting bracket, and all the clips, springs, and compression washer). There is a $60 core charge, but you get that back when you return the old faulty caliper.

Once you have the replacement caliper, jack up and secure the car, pull the selected wheel off, drop the caliper bolts, and pry off the caliper (I used the claw end of a hammer that slipped right in between the caliper and the mount and easily moved the caliper off the rotor). Move the existing caliper out of the way. Check your existing caliper mount bolts; these are 'floating' bolts that sit in the caliper mount-frame that bolts directly onto the spindle. They have little dust/dirt boots on them, and they should slide in and out with relative ease. Mine were in great shape, so I reused my old mount-frame. If yours are cracked and don't slide well, then change out the mount-frame to the new one that came with the replacement caliper.

Once you are sure your mount frame and floating bolts are good, put the new caliper on and bolt it down to the mount-frame. Now unbolt the banjo-mounted brake line from the old caliper (some fluid will leak out, so you may want a catch pan underneath), clean it, inspect it, and then bolt it right on to the new caliper. Your old caliper is now free to be set aside.

Now that you have the new caliper on, simply bleed it. I have a vacuum pump for one-man bleeding, and that worked great (got it from Harbor Freight for $19). You just put the pump on the loosened bleed screw, pump it till all the air is out and fluid is coming out into the catch cup, then tighten the bleed screw. Refill the master cylinder to ensure it's topped off with fluid. I also finished the install with a couple cycles of normal brake bleeding (opening the bleed screw, having someone push the brake pedal, closing the bleed screw, then have the person take their foot off the pedal to refil the system).

All in all, taking my time to double check everything and ensure it was all done right, it took about an hour. The car drives straight, smooth, and true now. It rolls freely in neutral, and all is right with the world (for the moment ;-).

Again, sorry I didn't get any pics. I'll be sure to make enough time to document any further work I do on the car.

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I have a question. My brake pedal "pulses" a lot whenever I brake at speeds of 40+. The brakes themselves seem to be working fine--there is no noise etc and stopping distance looks ok. In fact, had to brake suddenly yesterday when someone backed out of a parking lot without looking--and it worked better than I expected.

Any ideas what could be causing this? Do I need the rotors re-surfaced?

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Yep, my first guess would be that you have a slightly warped rotor. A resurfacing could take care of the problem, but if they are warped very bad, that might not be enough and you may need to replace it/them. Luckily they aren't very expensive: $22/each for rear and $36/each for front at Rockauto.com

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I have a question. My brake pedal "pulses" a lot whenever I brake at speeds of 40+. The brakes themselves seem to be working fine--there is no noise etc and stopping distance looks ok. In fact, had to brake suddenly yesterday when someone backed out of a parking lot without looking--and it worked better than I expected.

Any ideas what could be causing this? Do I need the rotors re-surfaced?

Definitely warped rotors, heavy car chews through them pretty quickly. I had the exact same problem, replaced the rotors and pads and it is like new. Easy job, only took me an hour to do both fronts, rotors and brakes.

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Thanks guys. I think I am just going to get new ones since the cost isn't very high as compared to getting them re-surfaced.

BTW, just for kicks I called the local Lexus dealer to ask them how much they would charge for front re-surface and pad replacement if I supply my own brake pads--guess what--$255!

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Yeah, dealer prices are insane. I picked up that replacement caliper for my ES300 and they had the dealer list price on there of something like $325, but an aftermarket remanufactured one is $53 with core exchange. I tell ya, I love cars, but loathe dealerships.

The more I thought about it, there wouldn't be any reason to resurface the rotor and take a chance it might just warp again when replacements are so inexpensive. You made a good call, Kashi125.

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