I bought my car in February 2013 with 49K miles. It now has 61K miles on it and my brakes are starting to squeak very gently, until I apply more pressure on the brake pedal.

When I bought the car, I foolishly didn't ask for any service / maintenance records, so I have no idea how old anything is. I'm assuming everything is the original OEM hardware when the car was first purchased. The rotors are pretty rusted around the hats. I know the general consensus is to replace the rotors along with the pads, or at least to have them resurfaced, but what about the calipers?

I've never actually had to replace the brake pads on either of my previous cars, so I really don't know much about the experience...

  • 1
    Calipers and brake pads are not the same thing, so the end of your question is a bit confusing. You don't need to do anything with your calipers unless there is something mechanically wrong with them. Your brake pads are a wearable item and may need replacing if they're wearing out. – Ellesedil Jul 9 '14 at 15:01
  • @Ellesedil Well, I know they're not the same thing, I just assumed that at some point I'd need to replace them. – sab669 Jul 10 '14 at 19:20
  • Calipers are normally designed for the all car life. Front discs shall last for approx 80 000 km mileage in avg, and friction pads for 40 000 km mileage. Rear discs and pads shall last double of the front axis ones, if the car is driven unladen. – hornetbzz Nov 29 '14 at 4:33

10 Answers 10


The noise you are hearing is more than likely the squealer on the brake pads. The squealer is a little metal tab which is incorporated into the brake pad. When they wear down "so much", it starts riding upon the rotor, which causes it to squeal. When you step on the brake, it will stop making noise (until the brake pad is so thin it will start grinding on the rotor and making noise). With ~61k on them, this sounds reasonable, depending on the driving habits of yourself and the previous owner. Your idea to change the rotor and pads is spot on. As cheap as rotors are these days, replacing them only costs a little more than turning (resurfacing) them. You can inspect the pads to see how much meat is left on them. If they look thin, this is definitely the issue.

As for the calipers ... if they are still working (not seized) and not leaking, you don't replace them. They will usually last for a good long while (a couple hundred thousand miles or more).

  • Ah, I didn't realize they can last for basically forever. My roommate recently took his car to have his brakes done and they told him he needed new pads, rotors and the calipers. Think they wanted like $1400 or something, so he went elsewhere and just did the pads and rotors at their recommendation. – sab669 Jul 10 '14 at 19:28
  • @sab669 ... You can usually expect calipers to last the life of the car, unless you are talking cars which get ultimate mileage. But, yes, they usually last a long time. – Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 Jul 10 '14 at 22:23
  • I have to do calipers about every 60,000 miles, but I deal with a lot of salt, dirt, etc. So, about every other pad change I'm doing caliper rebuilds (or replacements) too. – Brian Knoblauch May 2 '19 at 16:19

Brake pads last longer if you drive slow and brake gently or wear out quickly if you drive like Dominic Toretto. So it's dificult to give you a hard and fast rule regarding mileage. If you hear a squeal from your brakes, it means that the friction surface on the pads are too thin. You could probably drive another 1000 to 2000 miles with them in that condition if you're broke or in the middle of the desert (for some reason). But There is a tiny piece of metal on the brake pad which causes the squeal to tell you that you need to change them soon. It's a safety feature like your fuel light. It starts warning you that your running low on fuel, or friction surface, as the case may be.


After driving, place your hand on your rims. If any of them feel hot to the touch then you most likely have a seized brake cylinder or caliper. Once you have your rim off, look at the brake drum or rotor and look for discoloration other than the rusty color. If it looks almost purple like where the brake shoes or pads come into contact, then you have had some serious heat there from the seized caliper/brake cylinder.

I've had it so bad that pouring water on the rim causes it to sizzle from the intense heat. The drum or rotor will actually glow red while you're driving.


Caliper replacement does depend on the mechanical function, but for the life of the vehicle, guess that depends on where you live, pot holes, salt and sand beat up the calipers. In New England and areas where winters are harsh, you will find 5-7 years and they will need replaced depending on the vehicle and its use. In reducing the weight of the vehicle aluminum calipers are more popular and they do not last as long, generally because of the aluminum caliper and steel mounting components, the dissimilar metals do not perform well over time. Also rear calipers in some vehicles have more intricate parking brake and piston subassemblies that are contributors to failure rates. So making a blanket statement seems misleading.

Also today most rotors cannot be resurfaced, again to reduce weight and increase mileage there is just not enough material to turn them down to provide a smooth surface.


If your disks have started to develop new or deep circular scratches its time you change the pads. Try to feel the disk and you'll know if it really needs a change. Don't compromise on safety.


In general, if one brake pad wears out, and the other looks new. When the caliper fails it can sometimes make pressure on only one side. Also, if the Brake Pads on one SIDE of the car wear out significantly faster than the other side.


I keep my cars (Toyotas) for way over 10 years and over 100,000 miles, so my answer does not pertain to relatively new autos with low mileage. With such older vehicles, I take care with preventive maintenance. With 50 years and millions of miles of driving, I have had 3 times when my travel has been stopped dead. Two of those three were due to sticking calipers. At first, my solution was to change the brake fluid every 7 - 8 years, minimizing water buildup that could contribute to rust in the calipers. That was not good enough to keep me from having it happen again in another car. So, now every 10 years I replace my calipers. End of problem. Good insurance to keep me from being stopped on the side of the road.

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    While changing out calipers is a great preventive measure, you do realize brake fluid should be changed/flushed every two to three years? I'll agree changing brake fluid is probably thee most under performed maintenance on a vehicle, which I applaud you for at least thinking about. Changing out the fluid on a normal schedule would probably prevent any of your caliper issues. – Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 May 7 '16 at 14:40

I agree with all the recommendations given as certain makes of cars have rear calipers that tend to seize up when not used regularly and only on short journeys at low speeds. I.e. And depending on how quickly it is noticed you may not have to replace the bearings discs(rotors)and pads as we'll.my cars were Audi 100,Honda shuttle,Toyota Prius.At the end of the day what price do you put on safety ,but I do think the garages that know of this fault could recommend lubricating the slides and freeing the pads and pistons annually.


I just replaced calipers on one of my vehicles last week. They were still working, but they were very heavily rusted. I was replacing the pads and rotors, but the caliper guide pins were rusted on. The caliper could slide, but the pins wouldn't come off.

After applying penetrating oil, and heat and a lot of torque, the guide pins eventually came loose, but not before suffering some deformation and rounding. New guide pins were $10, rebuilt caliper with guide pins was $60, so I did the calipers.


I just rebuild my calipers when I notice problems with breaking. I brought an older car about a year ago and had a caliper completely seize up on me,I managed to get it to work for another 2000km. when I rebuilt it the reason it failed is the seals cracked this allowed mud to enter the caliper and sit there to rust, you can clean the inside with fine steel wool and replace the seals. make sure you do both sides so that your braking is symmetrical because the worn seals will allow the piston to move more quickly than new seals.

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