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Suspension & Braking Forum by BimmerWorld
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Old 12-25-2011, 07:33 PM   #1
Viktimize
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Sticky caliper quick fix??

So my GF decided to drive 8 hours to see family for x-mas. When she got there, she realized the front left caliper is sticking intermitently. (wheel was really hot, steering wheel shakes intermitently). Her dad is there and can do some work, but it's christmas day so no dealers or parts stores will be open. Has anyone tried just putting some lube around the piston while it is still in the caliper bore, and then pushing it in and out a few times to work some lube in?? I don't want her dad having to open up the brake system, and lubing it while still together would be a much quicker fix. You think this might get her home(700km highway driving)??

I'm ordering 2 rebuilt calipers and pad set right now to replace them when I get back home. Just hoping a quick fix would be good enough to get her home. Otherwise I'll have to load a jack and tools in the truck, and drive 8 hours to fix it out in the cold myself.
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Old 12-25-2011, 07:41 PM   #2
tifreak
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it's not necessarily the piston that's stuck, could be the sliders or the pads that are stuck. if it's the pads or the sliders you can take them off, wire brush where they contact the caliper and re-lube them, but if it's a piston there's not much that can be done

also, there's no need to order 2 calipers unless the other one's acting up too
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Old 12-25-2011, 07:47 PM   #3
Stinger9
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Yeah, always replace calipers in pairs

That seems to be the prevailing wisdom.
And how much is your GF's life worth?
I'd say you're fortunate to have discovered this before needing your full brakes in an emergency. Maybe not so lucky on a return trip.
Good Luck!
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Old 12-25-2011, 07:59 PM   #4
Viktimize
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I don't screw around with brakes. If one side needs something, the other side gets it too. Everything is always in pairs. Thanks for the tip on checking the sliders, I just assumed it's the piston since that is such a common problem on these cars. Car is at 100k km, and it doesn't seem the PO took very good care of it, so the piston sticking does not seem far fetched at all.
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Old 12-25-2011, 08:32 PM   #5
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Is the piston stuck or just the bushings on the bolts sticking. Pull the bolts and sleeves, clean and lightly grease them. You could work the piston in and out by having someone apply the brake the carefully with a screw driver collapse the piston by inserting it between the pad and rotor. Drive it and see if it's heating up again. Good luck! Bad timing for brake trouble.
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Old 12-25-2011, 11:27 PM   #6
Viktimize
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Originally Posted by Paulscustom View Post
Is the piston stuck or just the bushings on the bolts sticking. Pull the bolts and sleeves, clean and lightly grease them. You could work the piston in and out by having someone apply the brake the carefully with a screw driver collapse the piston by inserting it between the pad and rotor. Drive it and see if it's heating up again. Good luck! Bad timing for brake trouble.
Well that's the problem, I'm not there to see and diagnose myself. I'm 12 hours away at work. So I'm just going by the info she can give me over the phone. I was hoping someone has tried a quick fix and could let me know if it held up for awhile, so that her dad doesn't waste his time working on it tomorrow. Oh well, he is going to pull the wheel and look at the caliper tomorrow and I will go from there.
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Old 12-26-2011, 01:09 AM   #7
MJLavelle
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Originally Posted by Viktimize View Post
So my GF decided to drive 8 hours to see family for x-mas. When she got there, she realized the front left caliper is sticking intermitently. (wheel was really hot, steering wheel shakes intermitently). Her dad is there and can do some work, but it's christmas day so no dealers or parts stores will be open. Has anyone tried just putting some lube around the piston while it is still in the caliper bore, and then pushing it in and out a few times to work some lube in?? I don't want her dad having to open up the brake system, and lubing it while still together would be a much quicker fix. You think this might get her home(700km highway driving)??

I'm ordering 2 rebuilt calipers and pad set right now to replace them when I get back home. Just hoping a quick fix would be good enough to get her home. Otherwise I'll have to load a jack and tools in the truck, and drive 8 hours to fix it out in the cold myself.

It sounds most like the piston is not floating on the two guide pins. The actual piston itself does not get lubes, except with brake fluid, as it moves in and out. But the two pins the caliper floats on can get gummed up with dirt and old grease, and the caliper does not move in and out properly. It can get cocked to one side, and stick there, and cause the problem you are seeing. Just breaking it loose and moving it in and out a few times may clear the issue, but if you can pull the caliper off, and get some new caliper grease on there, it should work fine. This is the most common problem encountered. There could be other issues, such as a piston that is not moving correctly, but it most likely is just some gummed up pins that the caliper slides on. If her father has some experience with cars, then he should be able to diagnose that, and fix it fairly easily. The guide pins are item #6 in the attached drawing. They are smooth, and protected by rubber boots. It is not the best representation, so you may want to look up a DIY for brake pad replacement, to get a better view. I hope I was able to post this in time to be helpful, but I think I may be a bit late. Good luck.*
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Old 12-26-2011, 01:17 AM   #8
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In my post above, I forgot to mention that you should take care of cleaning and greasing the pins on all 4 sets of calipers as soon as you get the car back, and have the time. If one side is gummed up, they are all probably in a similar condition. If you had someone do the brakes before, or if you did them yourself, it is possible that the wrong type of grease was used, and it could not tolerate the heat. Make sure you use a synthetic caliper grease, or one of the newer ceramic caliper greases that are available. Just make sure it is specifically made for brake applications. But clean out all of the old grease from inside the rubber boots, and all the mating parts, with brake cleaner. Use some Q-tips to get in there really well. The new ceramic synthetic brake caliper grease may be a better choice, given the cold climate you live in. This is an important part of the brake job, but a lot of people just slinger some new grease in without cleaning out the old stuff, if they mess with the grease at all.
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Old 12-26-2011, 09:25 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Viktimize View Post
I don't screw around with brakes. If one side needs something, the other side gets it too. Everything is always in pairs. Thanks for the tip on checking the sliders, I just assumed it's the piston since that is such a common problem on these cars. Car is at 100k km, and it doesn't seem the PO took very good care of it, so the piston sticking does not seem far fetched at all.
I used to agree with your opinion on changing calipers in pairs. But when I had a sticky caliper my mechanic (over 30 years in the business) convinced me to only replace the bad caliper and it worked like a charm. So, now I am of the opinion that just one side can be replaced without being a problem. Of course, you must replace the bad caliper, the rotor and the pads on the one side.
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Old 12-26-2011, 09:34 AM   #10
Viktimize
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Originally Posted by MJLavelle View Post
It sounds most like the piston is not floating on the two guide pins. The actual piston itself does not get lubes, except with brake fluid, as it moves in and out. But the two pins the caliper floats on can get gummed up with dirt and old grease, and the caliper does not move in and out properly. It can get cocked to one side, and stick there, and cause the problem you are seeing. Just breaking it loose and moving it in and out a few times may clear the issue, but if you can pull the caliper off, and get some new caliper grease on there, it should work fine. This is the most common problem encountered. There could be other issues, such as a piston that is not moving correctly, but it most likely is just some gummed up pins that the caliper slides on. If her father has some experience with cars, then he should be able to diagnose that, and fix it fairly easily. The guide pins are item #6 in the attached drawing. They are smooth, and protected by rubber boots. It is not the best representation, so you may want to look up a DIY for brake pad replacement, to get a better view. I hope I was able to post this in time to be helpful, but I think I may be a bit late. Good luck.*

Thanks for taking the time to post. I am crossing my fingers that it is just gummed up guide pins. I know how the braking system works, my train of thought is not that the piston is requiring lube. But if the piston is sticking some lube around the bore may help it to stay free long enough that the car can make it home.

I will be going over the brakes pretty throughly once it gets back home, I've already done a nice clean up and overhaul on my 325i. I just haven't had time to do it on the xi since I bought it, and the PO said they had just done front brakes before selling. Just goes to show you can't trust anybodies workmanship but your own.
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Old 12-26-2011, 09:40 AM   #11
Viktimize
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I used to agree with your opinion on changing calipers in pairs. But when I had a sticky caliper my mechanic (over 30 years in the business) convinced me to only replace the bad caliper and it worked like a charm. So, now I am of the opinion that just one side can be replaced without being a problem. Of course, you must replace the bad caliper, the rotor and the pads on the one side.
Being a mechanic is really irrelevant. I am also a mechanic by trade, but my personal train of thought is more towards preventative maintenance than waiting till stuff breaks to fix it. If one caliper is binding there is a good chance the other one will bind soon enough(since it is a sign of poor PM, like not changing brake fluid or cleaning parts improperly), and a measely $30 for a rebuilt rotor is cheap piece of mind. It's quite alright to only replace one caliper, but do I really want to chance this happening again when the car is somewhere far from home??
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Old 09-04-2012, 07:32 PM   #12
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I'm not an E46 owner and this is on old thread, but I thought I'd post my own experience on having no option but to drive a car with a sticking caliper.

First and foremost, I must emphasise that doing so is not all that safe. Only do this if you have no other means of transport, and the trip is absolutely necessary.

* If your car has hub caps, remove the wheel cover on the affected corner. This will let in more air to cool the caliper, pads and rotor.

* Before you set off, shed any unnecessary cargo. The heavier your vehicle, the more braking force will be required to stop.

* Plan your journey carefully. If possible, drive on quiet roads very early in the morning. The fewer times you must press the brake pedal the better (..It's almost like getting into the "Hypermiling" mindset.) Avoid heavy traffic, as stop/go driving will never give the brake piston a chance to retract back into the caliper bore.

* Leave an extra large-large gap between you and the car ahead, thus reducing the number of times you brake.

* If the brake pads are permanently rubbing, then try to keep the speed under 40MPH. The lower the speed, the less heat will be generated from the friction.

* If you drive a manual, use the gearbox to perform "engine braking", i.e. shifting down early through all the gears (taking care to avoid over-reving the engine). For example: when slowing down, if you normally change from 3rd gear into 2nd at about 15MPH, instead change down into 2nd gear at 35MPH. This will help kill off some of the speed, reducing the pressure required on the brake pedal. You will need to keep an eye on the rev counter, and also on the rear view mirror (if there is traffic following behind. Lightly touch the foot brake as you gear down, just enough to bring the brake lights on. This shows drivers that you are decelerating.)

* Engine-braking can also be used for descending long hills. Leaving the gearbox in 3rd instead of the usual 4th gear, will hold the car back. Again, the revs will be higher than usual (around 3.5 to 4 thousand RPM). With the car held back, it will tend less to run away as you go down the hill, therefore requiring less force (if any) on the brake pedal. If you have an automatic transmission, select the "2" or "L" position for the long descent. If your vehicle has selectable 4 wheel drive, it's probably better to have power going to all 4 wheels for the long descent for maximum resistance.

* If the sticking caliper is on the front, and your handbrake (parking/emergency brake) activates the rear brakes, then a slight pull on the lever will also aid in killing off some speed when slowing. Only do this on a good dry road, and in a straight line. If you are not happy doing this with the E-brake, then SKIP THIS TIP . . . as incorrect use of the parking brake could cause a loss of control.

* If the caliper sticking is an intermittent problem, it might be worth stopping the car, getting out, and rocking the wheel or car body forcefully from side to side. (Watch out for a hot wheel rim!) Using the manufacturing tolerance of the car components to your advantage, the rocking motion might be just enough to push the pad away from the rotor by the fraction of a millimeter necessary to reduce the pressure. This rocking action could also help free up a stiff self-centering slider on the disc brake.

* As you drive, running the affected wheel over the odd cat-eye in the road might be worth a try. This could be totally futile, but the shock may just help the brake piston slide in it's bore a little.

* If it's a front caliper that's sticking, you may feel the car juddering slightly under you, or even some vibration on the steering wheel. If this happens reduce your speed. If it continues to vibrate, pull over and let the brake cool for an hour.

* Do not rest your foot on the brake pedal if stopped in traffic, and avoid pulling up the parking brake if the bad caliper is on the rear. (Obviously, ensure your car dosn't roll into another car.) Give the caliper piston every possible chance to retract.

* Don't get too carried away with trying to avoid using the brake pedal. If driving circumstances call for a firm push of the pedal, do it. Don't run into the back of someone else. Unless your rotor is glowing red, your car should still have good stopping power.

---> After reaching your destination, have the braking system fully inspected by a mechanic. It may seem like more money initially, but always replace calipers in pairs. If the left side sticks, there is a very high probability that the right side will give you trouble in a few thousand miles, and at the very worst time once again.. If the opposite side does give trouble later on, that's a second pair of brake blocks you will need to buy, and the newer caliper may differ slightly to the first one, leading to your car pulling to one side under braking. Not good at all. Get the brake fluid changed as you're at it, to extend the life of your new calipers.

As a preventative measure, do as little driving on salted roads in the winter as possible. Gritting salt in one of the main factors involved in the corrosion/pitting of the brake-piston's surface. Inspect the little protective rubber boots at regular intervals too.
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Old 09-05-2012, 10:14 AM   #13
Viktimize
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Since this got revived from the dead for some reason I guess I should give the update. GF's dad pulled the caliper off and did as I recommended, put some lube around the piston and pushed it back in. Re-installed the caliper and pumped the brakes, didn't seem to be binding anymore. She drove the car home and I had her stop every hour or so to check that wheel wasn't getting hot again. Car made it all the way home no problem and I replaced the caliper with a new one when she got home.
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Old 09-05-2012, 10:21 AM   #14
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Updates always a valuable addition here!
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Old 09-05-2012, 04:05 PM   #15
klax
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I had a sticking caliper once after installing new discs and pads. I pushed the piston back in/out several times and that seemed to solve it.
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Old 09-06-2012, 09:11 AM   #16
Viktimize
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Updates always a valuable addition here!
Agreed! I hate when I find a thread describing a problem I'm having exactly, then nobody came back to update what the fix was.
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Old 01-23-2013, 12:45 PM   #17
mikes325xi
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Hey guys, I know this thread is kind of old but just wanna share this useful info with you. A couple months ago I had the same problem. Sticky caliper front passenger side anyway I replaced it with a remanufactured caliper from Autozone. Listen to this genuine bmw oem ate part only $39. I looked everywhere and its the cheapest. Anyway 2 months later the other side starts sticking so just some advice and change both while your at it. I figure I'll flush the brake fluid and paint the calipers while I got everything taken apart. I hope this saves someone a couple bucks I know the dealer wants like 350 for a new caliper hahaha.
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