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Repeated Caliper Failures?

2008 Honda Civic EX, manual transmission, 105K, e-brake cable has been checked multiple times.

Last November, I was doing routine maintenance on my Civic. When replacing the brake pads, I noticed the rear driver caliper was pretty sticky, so I decided to go ahead and replace both rear calipers. Fast forward to a month later, I was having problems with the e-brake releasing. Maybe it’s something I did, so I took it to a mechanic. They replaced the calipers again and sent me on my way. A WEEK later, the rear driver failed (frozen). I took it to a different mechanic who did the same thing. A WEEK later, frozen. Replaced on warranty, two weeks later, FROZEN. Replaced hoses. Two weeks later, FROZEN. Replaced caliper again. Here we are, two months later and it’s 100 percent FROZEN, the wheel won’t even turn. All mechanics involved are stumped and not sure where to start. I can’t imagine that I’ve had that many faulty calipers in a row. Also, on the driver side rear, it was replaced twice (because of “pair”) and it has never failed. Even on the initial repair, it was in much better shape than the other caliper. The only constant is on the very first failure and today’s failure-the car was parked for a week while I was out of town on business, and it rained both times. It’s a bit beyond rust though as the wheel won’t move on pavement. This past weekend I opened up the main brake line and just HEMORRHAGED it. Since I discovered the freeze early this time, it didn’t destroy the caliper and it opened up when the line was opened. I had a guy pouring, another guy catching, and I was pumping the line. I’m thinking it’s debris in the line or something, but I wasn’t able to catch anything since it’s probably further up on the way back to the master cylinder.

Something I’m missing? Any ideas before I take it to Honda and spend 1 billion dollars?

Which “hoses” did they replace? Just the flex line? Are you 100% sure they replaced it? Because this sounds a lot like the flex line internally collapsing to me. When that happens, fluid can get past the collapse and into the caliper because there’s a lot of pressure forcing it through, but it can’t get back out of the caliper because the collapse blocks it.


Where did you open the main brake line? At the ABS unit? By “hemorrhaged it” do you mean fluid spurted out when you loosened the fitting?

To find out if the problem is with the rubber brake hose to that caliper, pump the brake pedal several times to see if the brake pads clamp onto the rotor.

If they do, open the bleeder screw on that caliper. If brake fluid shoots out the bleeder and the brake pads release the rotor, replace both brake hoses in the rear.



Yes, the flex line. Pretty sure it’s new and was replaced, it looks fresh.

The flex line on my '07 looks fresh too - they can look great on the outside and be crumbled messes on the inside. I’d recommend you do @Tester 's test - it’s also entirely possible that you drew the lucky straw and got a defective replacement flex line.

With all this caliper replacements, has anyone checked the e-brake cable? Maybe the cable is bad.

Here’s what the OP stated.


My bad, I missed that, and I even looked for it and still missed it.

Clearly it is not a caliper problem.

Has the master cylinder been replaced? Next time it sticks jack uo the passenger front wheel and see if it turns freely. If it doesn’t you have a master cylinder or possibly ABS problem.

Sorry you are having all these weird brake problems OP, must be very frustrating at this point after everything you’ve already done. hmmm … I think what I’d do in this situation is – rather than trying to figure out the exact cause — I’d just bite the bullet and replace all the following stuff.

  • MC
  • All flexible brake hoses
  • All the brake fluid, twice. Bleed it all out, then replace with fresh. Do that before replacing the MC, then again after. If you have ABS you may need a shop who has the Honda scan too so they can program it to open all the required ports during the bleeding process.

If the fluid that comes out looks contaminated, especially if it looks at all rusty, you may end up needing to replace the calipers again. You can sieve it through a fine screen or just an old white sheet to see if there are any particles floating in it. If it comes out looking pretty clean, I expect you’ll be good to go. Cross your fingers and knock and wood. If you still have problems, probably use a Honda dealership to buy your next set of calipers, spring for the oem version.

Ask your shop to check the booster’s diaphragm remains intact too.

Could be a design flaw. My 05 4runner ( and many others) had this problem. I replaced the front calipers on that vehicle at least 5 times. The second time I replaced them I bought the calipers from NAPA with a life-time warranty. They happily replaced the calipers every time I returned them - so I just was out my time and new pads every time I replaced them.

OP’;s problem seems a little different from what you describe @MikeInNH . From what I read in your post, you had to replace the calipers periodically, I’m guessing maybe every year or two. But OP is having to replace them once a week.

I would research about putting 2009-2011 civic calipers on. 2006-08 civics had rear brake issues that caused rapid brake pad wear. Some have solved the issue with aftermarket parts. I’ve never personally owned a 06-08 civic but I have known people who did and had to replace the pads alot. To quote 1 friend, its like the brakes wear as your driving even if you dont brake, and you dont even feel them. I’m not sure why calipers would be destroyed, but I’m not surprised. Research the 2009-2011’s because it was a refresh and perhaps they fixed the problem.

You guys…E-brake actuator needed lubrication, was intermittently sticky…hence why every mechanic was missing it. It wasn’t a full stick most of the time, just enough to heat up the brakes and cause the caliper to fail. Well played Civic, well played.

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