Disk Brake Calipers

Disc brake rotor.

Disc brakes are installed on the front of most passenger cars and are recognized as a better solution for the rear brakes as well. On FWD vehicles the front brakes provide over 70% of a vehicle's stopping power.

Fixed and Floating Brake Calipers

Fixed vs floating brake calipers.

There are two brake calipers manufacturers install on automobiles and light trucks today. A fixed caliper uses two or more pistons to provide clamping force on both sides of the rotor at the same time. A floating caliper uses a single-piston and the caliper body or mount to provide clamping force to the pads and rotor. These calipers slide on a set of lubricated pins or rails.

Floating Brake Calipers

Floating brake calipers

A floating caliper typically uses one piston to move the inboard pad into contact with the inner side of the rotor. The force of the inboard pad contacting the inside surface of the rotor causes the caliper to slide or float on the pins mounted to the bracket or steering knuckle. This forces the outboard pad, mounted inside the caliper housing to contact the outer side of the rotor. This clamping force on the spinning rotor is what causes the wheel to slow and stop. These slide pins can stick in their bores, preventing sufficient braking force and causing the inboard pad to wear prematurely.

Fixed Brake Calipers

Fixed brake caliper.

A fixed caliper has pistons on both sides of the rotor. These pistons squeeze both the inboard and outboard pads with equal force causing the vehicle to stop. Light and medium trucks and luxury cars have fixed calipers.

Brake caliper pistons are either chrome-plated steel or phenolic plastic. Both of these are hollow to save weight. The phenolic pistons are excellent heat insulators and thus help prevent heat from degrading or boiling the brake fluid.