Rebuilding brake calipers?

I have a 2006 Honda Element that has been sitting for a while due to surgery and illness in the family. The brake pads on all four wheels need to be replaced. They are worn very thin. I can do that no problem. My problem is this. All 4 brake calipers are seizing. The rear are pretty much locked up, one dust boot even came half-way off. The fronts are hanging but not as bad. I plan to repair or replace all four. I really want to rebuild all four myself to keep costs low. The rebuild kits will include new square cut seals, new dust boots and piston. The piston rides on the square cut seal. If done correctly, is there any reason why this won’t work? I have checked the hoses and they are fine. I really dont want to put new pads and rotors on just for these to turn around and hang up. Is there anything else I should replace or do (such as honing the cylinder-recommend buy one mechanic) to make this successful?

Depends a lot on how much rust/pitting in the bores and pistons. I’ve done a few over the decades but I find it an increasingly miserable job, with variable results. I have used fine steel wool and green kitchen scrub pads. Seems “rebuilt” or “remanufactured” calipers are a lot less expensive than they used to be. You won’t be breaking the bank if you end up buying 2 or 4 or those in the end. Good luck and let us now how it goes.

1 Like

I agree with @shanonia that this is probably more work than it is worth, especially since the most expensive part of the job you’re doing is usually the labor, not the parts.

Here is what I can offer:

Are you sure they’re seizing, and not frozen? There is a tool for compressing the caliper to make room for new pads. It’s kind of an inverse clamp that you tighten to push in the caliper. Maybe letting some penetrating oil do its job and wedging the caliper open is all you need to do, if you’re lucky.

How do you know the hoses are fine? Old hoses cause trouble when parts of the inner lining begin to flake, which causes a “one way valve” effect on the fluid flow. Your 13 year old hoses are definitely old enough to cause you trouble.

I agree with the above reservations about rebuilding the calipers.


Once the boots have pulled away from either end and trash gets in I have had no luck with successfully repairing calipers. But if the bores are not damaged brake cleaner and a Roloc disc has worked for me to clean them. Brake grease specified for use in the bores can greatly improve the likelihood of success.

As a rule, if the boots remain in tact and with the bleeder open, if the piston will press in until it bottoms without hanging up at any point the caliper is worth leaving in place and testing with new pads installed.

But honestly I hate to give ‘down and dirty’ advice on brake work. Do be careful and check closely for leaks before taking the car on the road.

1 Like

Yeah I’ve done everything to them, greased the slide pins…everything and they still seize up. I figure the square cut seal is the issue.

Because the piston still seizes when pressure is took off the caliper.

After using penetrating oil, it’s essential to disassemble and clean the affected areas with brake cleaner, and replace any rubber parts. General rule is no petroleum-based oils or greases on or in brake systems, because they can soften the rubber parts.


Thanks. I had the very same issues with my cr-v. I just replaced the caliper and it took care of the problem, but I didn’t have time to rebuild it. Honestly, I’m just looking for the cheapest way out that will work well because I plan on getting rid of it. These two Hondas have been the most unreliable vehicles I’ve ever owned. The element in particular.

Heck i may as well rebuild them if I do that. LoL.

I don’t think so. Rust in the bore is more likely the problem. Rebuilding the fronts should be easy. Just stay away from any petroleum products - oil, grease, ect. Brake fluid is glycol based and the seals do NOT like mineral oils. Use ONLY brake fluid to lube things up OR silicone brake grease.

If the rear caliper has the parking brake ON the caliper, don’t bother rebuilding them. The ball screw mechanism inside is a pain to disassemble, reassemble and get not to stick.

1 Like

Ok. At $70 a pop it’s gotta be worth some coin to rebuild and save them. Full rebuild kits, pistons and seals is like $70 total for all four.

I’ve rebuilt quite a few calipers. The hardest part is getting the dust boot to fit over both the piston groove and the groove at the top of the bore at the same time. Now I feel that a rebuilt caliper is money well spent, but you have to watch the quality on them as I have seen some really poorly rebuilt calipers.

You do not need to hone out the bore. The piston rides on the square seal. Nothing rides up and down on the bore, it just needs to be clean so it doesn’t contaminate the new brake fluid.


At rockauto, you should be able to get all four cylinders for about $160.

1 Like

Powerstop, Raybestos or cardone…which is better? I’ve always used Raybestos with good success. I just hope if I buy they have a good core return policy.

What about Carlson? That’s the kits I was looking at.

I’ve never rebuilt a caliper, but it’s a common thing done all the time in the diy’er world according to the magazine articles I read. I’ve rebuilt master cylinders and wheel cylinders though. I usually just wrapped some progressively finer grades of steel wool around a wooden dowel (slightly smaller in diameter) and worked it around to freshen the surface of the inside of the bore. The ones I rebuilt worked fine, but didn’t seem to last as long as new parts. If the caliper bore surface is noticeably pitted, or the slides are badly rusted, I suspect you already know what to do w/that particular caliper. As a compromise you might want to install new calipers on the front, and rebuilt on the back.


The Cardone A1 at Rock auto are about $40 each and no core charge. Don’t know what the shipping charges are. At Advance they are about 70 for Wearever brand lifetime guaranteed calipers but you can always get at least 20% off, sometimes more, especially if you are spending more than $100.

What do you mean, a good core policy, you return the old calipers and get the core charge back. With Advance, even if you get free shipping to your house, you can return the cores to your local store.

Just buy new or rebuilt calipers, you will be glad you did. Often the seals to rebuild them are costly…so much so that its a no brainer to buy them already done and ready to go.

I have only rebuilt the brake calipers on one of my vehicles out of near 100 vehicles I have owned…This was due to the caliper not being available, anywhere. The only option was to send my calipers out to be done…or do them myself. So I rebuilt them and they worked fine, but my issue was not similar to yours. I did not have corrosion inside the caliper, you do.

In your instance…just buy new units ready to go.