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Caliper inspection followed by caliper failure: how long afterward is reasoanble?

My daughter heard a scraping noise in her 2010 Kia Forte Koupe. Took it to our mechanic who changed the rear brake pads and rotors and advised that an inspection of the calipers indicated that they were fine and did not need replacement. 2600 km (1600 miles) and 1 ½ months later she hears scraping noises again. Shen then takes it to a different mechanic who says that the rear brake pads and rotors need to be replaced again because of caliper failure and that the caliper on the one side needs to be replaced. Is it reasonable that a caliper that was inspected would fail in that period of time?

No. This soon after a replacement a caliper would not just freeze up and destroy the pads.

The previous mechanic did not check and lubricate the caliper slides and/or determine the proper free movement of the caliper pistons while doing the job. A real “tell” here is if only one side wore out the brand new pads while the other side is still OK. You still have to replace both sides but your “new” mechanic says only one caliper needs replacement so I would guess that is the case. This will likely fix it correctly and IMHO, your old mechanic owes you for at least the pads and the labor to replace them.

Had a caliper freeze up and toast a front brake pad, on my work truck not long after a brake job, he inspected everything, all was good at the time. Mechanic is great, stuff happens. On my own vehicle brake guys suggested changing calipers due to high failure probability, do not remember the price, but skipped it, that was 90k mikes ago, new brake guy, no caliper suggestion, hit or miss, and you had a miss, but not a predictable one

Even if I were able to inspect the failed caliper it might be difficult if not impossible to determine whether the failure could have been predicted. Mechanics are forced to walk a fine line between just enough and too much in condemning parts.

And FWIW I have done more brake jobs than Carter has liver pills.

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We as mechanics can’t predict everything. I would hope that if I performed a brake job and found the calipers to be working properly they would remain working properly for more than a couple of months. But I don’t have a crystal ball and I can’t see the future. There’s a tire/brake/alignment chain around that replaces calipers at every brake job to avoid problems like yours from ever happening.

Look at it this way: I can load test your battery every day. And one day it will test good and the next day it will test bad.

I found it . . .


I can’t fault the shop although admittedly I’m not the one who was hands-on with this. It is possible for a caliper to hang at any time; either the piston in the caliper bore or on the sliders.

Many years ago SAAB had a spell with calipers sticking and wiping our brakes. This would occur even on near new cars.
I’ve seen some SAABs go through a 5k miles maintenance procedure which included a brake check. The brakes (like the car) were as new during the service.
At 8k miles the car would come back in with the rotors and pads totally trashed due the calipers hanging on the slides.

Back in the 80s Subaru had a spell where brakes would go away very quickly or develop severe vibration problems due to the calipers hanging on the slides. This would also occur on near new cars.

My 05 4Runner had a problem with front calipers. I was replacing them every year. Second time I replaced them I bought the lifetime warranty.

This was a known design issue with that generation 4runners.

No insult meant to @Mustangman but I think he needs to reread the post.

The calipers were only inspected by the mechanic that did the 1st brake job, and they were found to be working good.
There is not much more that a mechanic can do to inspect the caliper, other than inspecting the wear on the pads that they are wearing evenly, and looking for leaks.

As others have mentioned, a caliper can be working fine one day and be frozen up the next.

I don’t think that you can blame the 1st mechanic, and he owes you nothing. Though if you had gone back to him when the caliper froze up, he may have offered a discount just to satisfy the customer.

Once a caliper does freeze up it wears the pads unevenly and burns up that pad from the excessive heat. This also overheats and warps the rotor for that wheel.
The pads on the other side were most likely ok because of the short time they were on the vehicle, but they are sold in sets and both sides should match to do the job right.The only right way would be to replace the bad caliper, that rotor and the brake pads on both wheels.


I’ve bought single calipers, so I have to disagree with your idea about calipers being “sold in sets”

I can understand how you’d come to that thought, @Yosemite, but I did read the post. It could be either stuck pistons or sticking slides.

If the mechanic short-cuts the job and didn’t check and grease the slides, I think that’s on him. A stuck caliper piston could happen any time the piston is pushed back so I could easily forgive the mechanic this.

As a DIY’er, I drive around the block to check and burnish the brakes a bit and then cool them off. I always check the side-to side temps with an IR gun to see if a caliper is binding. A professional just doesn’t have enough time for that. And I’ve had replacement caliper pistons bind on me, too, so I always check now.

Thanks to all for your input. I want to treat the original mechanic fairly while making sure that I’m not being taken advantage of because of my lack of mechanical knowledge. The results here have me convinced that, if the inspection was properly conducted, there is still the possibility of the calipers developing problems shortly afterward. In other words, without someone with the appropriate expertise watching over the shoulder of the mechanic, we really can’t tell about the quality of the inspection. Failure afterward doesn’t necessarily mean that the work was done poorly (although that is still a possibility).
Rod’s comment that: “Mechanics are forced to walk a fine line between just enough and too much in condemning parts,” really hit home. I am one of those customers who do not want to go overboard (or even worse, be taken overboard) for work that doesn’t need to be done…I’ve left a couple of those auto repair shops to find a mechanic who will do work on what should be done, not everything that could be done. I particularly appreciate a mechanic that I can trust to let me know when something truly needs replacing or if I can safely get by for a while longer. And as Mustangman points out: “A professional just doesn’t have enough time for that,” which is really the result that most of us (me included) don’t want to pay for that extra time, until the unlikely happens, in which case we wonder if the extra time would have caught it!
I must confess that I had rather hoped for a different conclusion so that I could make the case that some of the costs should be reimbursed by the original mechanic, but as I said, I want to be fair. (I guess that Dad will have to pitch in to help his daughter on this one.) Again, many thanks for your insights and experiences!

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