*UPDATE caliper replacement or something more serious?

Here is the situation: I have a 2007 Saturn Ion. The brakes have been grinding but I have tried to put off replacing the pads and rotors until my next pay. I was delivering supplies to my son’s school when suddenly I felt a sort of popping feeling from the brakes, I lost almost all pressure from the brake peddle and had difficulty stopping the car ( had to really press hard on the peddle to actually stop). I left the car parked and got a ride home. (Please no judgement, I KNOW I shouldn’t have been driving the car, I KNOW I should have just parked it until I could replace the brake pads. Now I am paying for it by having to replace more expensive parts and having it towed)
I checked on the car yesterday and there was an area around the front right wheel where it had obviously leaked brake fluid. I turned on the car and my brake light is now on.
I am having it towed back to my house so I can replace the pads, rotors and now possibly the caliper.
I won’t know until I get it back here and actually get the tire off and inspect it to see what needs to be replaced. Has anyone experienced this? What is your opinion? Advice?

Sounds most likely like the rubber brake hose that connects the caliper to the steel brake line has popped. An inexpensive repair.

Recently, a friend of my wife’s asked me to help him with his brakes. They had been grinding for a couple of weeks. As I was pulling his car into the garage, I heard something metallic drop. It wasn’t until I had pulled it in that I looked back on the drive and found the remains of a brake pad, essentially the badly scored up backing plate lying on the drive. It obviously ground down both the rotor and pad to the point of falling off the caliper bracket! Without the pad, one good stomp would have punched the caliper piston out of the caliper, which is probably what happened to you. I understand money is tight, but putting off maintenance is more expensive.

Now that BustedKnuckles mentions it I think his diagnosis is more likely to be correct. A good example of how “a stitch in time saves nine”.

The good news is…oh…there is no good news. Sounds like you will need a new caliper as well as pads and rotors. It is possible that some shops can rebuild the caliper but you are probably better off with a re-manufactured unit. And technically you should replace calipers in pairs, although many shops will replace them singly to try and keep the repair cost down.

I replace calipers individually. Typically due to a leak or seizure. Never had a companion problem on the other side.

Yes only replacing the bad caliper should be fine. But make sure you bleed all the brakes when done. You’ll introduce air into the line because you have to disconnect the caliper from the line.

Bustedknuckles- You were correct. Not only was missing a brake pad but I also punched the piston out of the caliper. As soon as I took the caliper off, the piston fell out and the rest of the brake fluid spilled out. The metal on the other side of the caliper has been worn so thin that a rebuild is impossible.

Here is the caliper

Look at the bright side. You got to see what it looks like inside a caliper!!!


Maybe it’s my eyes but the outer surface of that rotor looks awfully thin compared to the inner half…

Looks like a pretty hefty lip on that thing.

Now that you mention it, it does look asymmetrical. But it could just be the way the light is shining off the outer bevel in the inside. Could just be a photo illusion.

Possibly, but I think that rotor is worn clean out. Most rotors have about .030 or .040 of an inch to work with on thickness and that means about 15 to 20 thousandths per side.

Note the lip on the friction surface near the hub. That looks like way more than 15 or 20 showing.

It’s no problem. The rotor is being replaced as well.

Just a note but replace both rotors with the new pads and the one caliper. Bleed the system and be happy. Could have been a lot worse. Fed Ex is supposed to deliver my pads tomorrow so you aren’t alone.

UPS delivered my pads the other day. New set of ceramics front and rear, air filter, and cabin air filter. After so much brake talk, I pulled a wheel to check mine, and both front and rear are less than 10% remaining. Catch it early and it’s cheap.

FYI, it looks like your caliper pins froze. This causes the outboard pad to wear much faster than the inboard pad. When you install the pads and rotor on the other side, and on the rear, be sure to lubricate the pins and make sure they float properly when done. Use a synthetic grease or a silicone grease on the pins.

@keith, I wholeheartedly agree with using synthetic grease on the caliper pins, but frozen pins did not cause this. If the pins froze, the inboard pad against the piston wears out as it is doing all the work. The outboard pad just sits there, doing nothing. The damage on the outboard side shows both pads were worn to the nub, and the loss of the outboard pad damaged the outboard caliper face until the piston over-extended.

I once bought a reman caliper that looked like that. Didn’t notice until I had it on the car and was wondering why my pedal was going so far down…