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Caliper Bolts stolen! Do I need new calipers?

I live in a city and left my car parked on the street for 5 days. When I returned to the car there was no brake pressure and I noticed fluid dripping down the inboard rear tires. Had it towed to a garage and they told me that when they removed the tires the caliper bolts were missing, which caused the brake fluid to leak out. They have also told me that the rear brake calipers are bad and need to be replaced. The rear tires were last worked on a year ago, when the calipers and rotors were replaced at a different repair station, and the only explanation we can come up with is that the bolts were stolen. The car was not driven, only towed with the caliper bolts missing so I’m wondering whether simply sitting in the hot sun for 5 days with brake fluid dripping out could really cause the calipers to go bad. If they were replaced a year ago, they should still be good, right?

I’ll assume that your caliper bolts were missing because they were in fact stolen, since I can’t imagine both of them being missing for any other reason.

The absence of the bolts would not have directly resulted in the “no brake pressure”. The calipers would have been free to come out of their mounts once the car was moving, but up to that point they would have still had pressure. What is more likely is that whoever removed the bolts also took the caliper off the rotor. This would have eliminated anything for the caliper to press against, resulting in your “no brake pressure”. Repeated pressing on the brake would simply push the pistons out of the caliper. Once that happens it’s not likely any reputable shop would use those calipers, but would instead want to replace them.

I don’t even know how to respond to this one. Stealing caliper bolts is a new one on me and is definitely not worth the trouble because one can buy new bolts at the car parts store for a few bucks.

If one bolt, or maybe even two, were missing one could blame it on someone not tightening them previously but if all of them are gone this could point to vandalism more than likely.
The calipers could be bad; it depends on where they’re leaking. The argument could be made that the bolts may have been missing before you parked the car and the last half block rubbed something through on the calipers or popped the caliper pistons out. The former means trouble; the latter is repairable.

Hopefully, you’re not on the outs with anyone who decided it would be a good idea to sabotage your car and possibly cause a wreck.

Mr. armstrong put the bolts in, way over-tighten them, over time, they broke and fell out.

What, exactly, is wrong with the calipers? Just saying they are “bad” doesn’t give us much to go on. Missing caliper bolts (the bolts that hold the caliper in place) should not have caused a brake fluid leak. There’s something else going on. If the bleed screws were removed the fluid would leak, but how did any of this happen if the wheels were still on the car? More information please.

Thanks for all of the input! The shop told me that the rear brake assembly (the caliper and rotor) were hot when it was brought in to the shop and appeared to be locked up. It had only been towed less than 1 mile to the shop and not driven for 5 days prior, so this was unusual. I am wondering if maybe the tow truck driver left the parking brake set during the tow, which might have caused the heat? They showed me the calipers where the lower inboard bolts were missing, and fluid was draining out of those holes. He also showed me that the rear rotors would not turn as loosely as the front rotors, but again, could the parking brake have been set while it was up on the lift causing them to be tighter? I’m not saying they were trying to fool me, but maybe they just made a mistake and didn’t realize it was set. That was really the only reason he gave for needing new calipers. Since the car had been towed in without brakes they were unable to do a test drive.

Also, a friend of mine just called this morning and said if the brake fluid had drained out of the line that the calipers would drag on the rotors. Does anyone else agree with this?

For now, I have told the shop to replace the bolts and flush/fill the fluid. I will see how it feels/drives after that.

Well, since you asked, no I don’t agree with very much of this.

1.) If the caliper bolts were missing the calipers wouldn’t drain brake fluid. The bolts never get anywhere near the brake fluid.

2.) If all the fluid drained out of the line the calipers wouldn’t drag on the rotors. It’s the fluid that applies the pressure to make the calipers grip the rotor. No fluid means no pressure means no grip.

Frankly, almost none of this makes sense. It might help if you told us what kind of car this is. That would tell us if it’s front wheel or rear wheel drive. If it’s rear wheel drive the wheels would certainly not turn as easily as the front, since they’d have the differential resisting motion. Either you’ve misunderstood a lot of what you’ve been told or you’re getting quite a load of hogwash.

Sorry, it’s a 1997 Acura Integra, and it’s very possible that I’ve gotten the description wrong. The estimate that they gave me has a line item for “Caliper Bolt”, so that’s where I got the name of it. The mechanic was calling it a “bolt”, and I saw fluid draining out of the hole. When I checked the brake fluid before taking it in, the level was below “min” in the reservoir. Whatever the “bolt” is called, the mechanic says that it would’ve been accessible, without removing the tires, to someone who crawled under the car.

Probably the bolts removed where the ‘banjo’ bolts that hold the banjo fitting of the brake line to the caliper. I would bet that these bolts are not cheap and would not be available at a regular foreign parts store, ergo the reason they might be stolen. The calipers would probably be fine unless some damage was done to them during the theft. The pads might need replacing if they got soaked in brake fluid.

I am pretty sure that the emergency brake on this works through the calipers so if the caliper is not releasing correctly it could be a problem in the caliper. So you might want to have them reassemble the old parts; put new banjo bolts and seal washers on; bleed the system; and keep an eye on the rear brakes. If you experience overheated rear rotors; accelerated pad wear as demonstrated by dust on the wheels; or other rear problems, have the affected caliper(s) replaced. IMHO.

Hope that helps.

Thank you for all of the input! I picked it up at the shop after having them flush/fill the line and then replace the missing bolts. I noticed that the brakes were quite ‘soft’ and decided to get a second opinion. I took it to the place that had done the rear brakes a year ago and they have said that the right rear caliper and the left front calipers are bad, causing the brakes to heat up and restrict the wheel movement. They are honoring the warranty on the rears, and charging me only for the front package. Still not sure what exactly the cause of this was, possibly just wear on the fronts (done in 2004) and a reaction to the loss of fluid in the back. Thanks again!

Thanks for letting us know the final outcome. This is one of the screwiest tales I’ve heard in a while.