Retracting Rear Brake Caliper Piston : Tool - LotusTalk - The Lotus Cars Community
 
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Old 09-26-2007, 07:59 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Retracting Rear Brake Caliper Piston : Tool

So you are working on your rear brake calipers... maybe replacing the pads... and you need to retract the piston. Don't clamp it and try to force it! These pistons retract by rotating them clockwise.

You say you don't have a tool for doing this? Sure you do... pull out a needle-nosed pliers, and open it large enough to put each tip of the pliers into one of the two holes on the face of the piston. Apply a firm amount of pressure toward the piston, and rotate clockwise.

Be careful: it is easy to slip when you are doing this. If you slip, and your needle nose pliers nick the rubber boot around the piston, you aren't going to be happy.

Also remember that you need to watch the brake fluid level at the reservoir : when you retract the piston, the level of brake fluid at the reservoir will rise and could spill. Brake fluid eats paint. FYI: Sears Craftsman needle nose pliers are shown, but just about any should work.

While you are at it, use silicone spray and an old toothbrush to clean all of the brake dust out of the piston dust boot. Don't get any silicone on the pads or rotor surface.



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Last edited by Thomasio; 09-26-2007 at 08:06 AM.
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Old 09-26-2007, 08:18 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Great advice, but I would recommend buying a caliper piston retracting tool kit like this one http://www.harborfreight.com/cpi/cta...emnumber=40732 . I have used the pliers trick before, but one slip and the long nose tips will put a nice gouge in your hand and possibly tear up the piston face and/or the rubber boot. This kit from HF goes on sale a lot so it can be purchased for about half price--cheap compared to caliper parts or a tetanus shot!
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Old 09-26-2007, 08:25 AM   #3 (permalink)
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I use a pair of snap-ring pliers - same deal though.
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Old 09-26-2007, 08:28 AM   #4 (permalink)
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I agree 100%... but sometimes you get stuck w/o the correct tool.

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Old 09-26-2007, 11:11 AM   #5 (permalink)
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FYI, I bought the Harbor Freight kit and none of the discs are the right size Don't know whether there are different versions of the kit, but buyer beware .......

I use the needle nose pliers and agree there is obvious danger of slipping, but no big deal if done carefully.
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Old 09-26-2007, 11:20 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by MyElise View Post
You might want to clean all of that debris off of there before you retract the piston. It tends to get jammed in places you won't get to see until the next pad change.
Absolutely... the photo was staged before I cleaned it up w/ silicone spray (see original post). Good reminder, though.

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Old 09-26-2007, 11:41 AM   #7 (permalink)
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FYI, I bought the Harbor Freight kit and none of the discs are the right size Don't know whether there are different versions of the kit, but buyer beware .......

I use the needle nose pliers and agree there is obvious danger of slipping, but no big deal if done carefully.
Harbor Freight has another caliper tool that does NOT fit the Elise. I bought a small cube-shaped tool there this year. It was inexpensive, so no great risk. None of its protrusions are close enough together. Oh well.
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Old 09-26-2007, 01:54 PM   #8 (permalink)
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I have done the needle nose plier thing in the past but finally broke down and bought the Lisle Universal caliper compressor tool. It's one of those things you won't use a lot but is nice to have when you do use it
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Old 09-26-2007, 04:55 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by sk8nSam View Post
Harbor Freight has another caliper tool that does NOT fit the Elise. I bought a small cube-shaped tool there this year. It was inexpensive, so no great risk. None of its protrusions are close enough together. Oh well.
You can get another cube one that won't work from Pep-Boys
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Old 09-27-2007, 07:53 AM   #10 (permalink)
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I've used a large C-Clamp on my MINI, which has the same idea for the rear calipers. Clamp on, and it puts pressure on while rotating the piston. Works great on the MINI. Haven't tried a pad change on the Lotus yet. Kinda like this pic, but it's a Land Rover I believe.
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Old 09-27-2007, 12:01 PM   #11 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by skottoman View Post
I've used a large C-Clamp on my MINI, which has the same idea for the rear calipers. Clamp on, and it puts pressure on while rotating the piston. Works great on the MINI. Haven't tried a pad change on the Lotus yet. Kinda like this pic, but it's a Land Rover I believe.
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That's the normal way to push the piston back in on a typical single piston front brake caliper. But it shouldn't work on the rear caliper of most cars. The rear caliper has a mechanism internal to it that is used to apply the parking brake. It mechanically pushes the piston instead of hydraulically. They also incorporate a self adjusting mechanism inside the caliper to keep the parking brake adjusted as the pad wears. The reason that you need to screw the piston back in is to "rewind" the adjuster - just squeezing it with the C-clamp won't do it - in fact, you don't need to compress it at all, screwing it in does the retraction.
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Old 09-27-2007, 12:10 PM   #12 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by TimMullen View Post
The reason that you need to screw the piston back in is to "rewind" the adjuster - just squeezing it with the C-clamp won't do it - in fact, you don't need to compress it at all, screwing it in does the retraction.
But that's the interesting part on my MINI. The turning action of the threaded part of the C-Clamp 'turns' the piston, and it compresses at the same time. I've just found it to be an easier and cleaner way to 'turn' the piston.

Disclaimer though, this works on my MINI, I have NOT tried this on my Lotus.
Just clearing up that you can actually 'turn' the piston with a c-clamp.
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Old 09-27-2007, 04:37 PM   #13 (permalink)
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Harbor freight has the appropriate tool for like 50$ or less. Definitely worth it.
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Old 09-27-2007, 05:02 PM   #14 (permalink)
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Needle nosed pliers ARE the appropriate tool. You are unlikely to damage the boot unless YOU are a tool. A $50 specialty item is nothing more than a gimmick.

I also cleaned out my boots before they got accordianed back into place, but I used braked cleaner with a brush, not silicone.

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Old 09-27-2007, 06:15 PM   #15 (permalink)
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just like the subaru fronts.
the first time i did the screw-ins i almost screwed up!
golly, has it been THAT long ago??
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Old 09-27-2007, 07:11 PM   #16 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by xtn View Post
Needle nosed pliers ARE the appropriate tool. You are unlikely to damage the boot unless YOU are a tool. A $50 specialty item is nothing more than a gimmick.

I also cleaned out my boots before they got accordianed back into place, but I used braked cleaner with a brush, not silicone.

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Trust me, when those calipers age and get a little more use, needle nose pliers will no longer cut it. It definitely is NOT a gimmick. A lot of rear calipers use the thread in & compress technique. Not to mention you really risk tearing the boot if you slip.

Looks like it's $30 as well. http://www.harborfreight.com/cpi/cta...emnumber=40732
Using the right tool for the job really makes life easier and saves a lot of potential headaches.
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Old 09-28-2007, 06:07 AM   #17 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by ®ob View Post
Trust me, when those calipers age and get a little more use, needle nose pliers will no longer cut it. It definitely is NOT a gimmick. A lot of rear calipers use the thread in & compress technique. Not to mention you really risk tearing the boot if you slip.

Looks like it's $30 as well. http://www.harborfreight.com/cpi/cta...emnumber=40732
Using the right tool for the job really makes life easier and saves a lot of potential headaches.
I cannot imagine how I might slip with the needle noses. There would have to be an earthquake or something. Such an event would likely cause me to damage the boot even holding the special tool in my hand.

I agree that using the right too, IN GENERAL!!!, is definately the better idea. But in this particular case I cannot see any advantage. It's much easier to use what you have if it works well than it is to place an order, spend money, wait for delivery, etc.

I will go ahead and trust you that they may not work as well as the pistons age. I don't know. If there does come a time when the needle noses don't work well, I'll consider the special tool.

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Old 09-28-2007, 07:04 AM   #18 (permalink)
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I can attest to the fact that the pistons become less likely to move easily with age. I spent a few years damaging the pistons on my old RX-7's rear calipers (track car) with a pliers. The first few times they rotated easily but by the end it was nearly impossible to rotate them without the proper tools. I ended up scarring the chrome plating on the surface of the pistons and damaging the boots (as well as my hands) when the pliers slipped which lead to the pistons rusting and moisture getting past the rubber boots and eventually seizing the pistons nicely into the calipers. This cost me a lot of time and money in the end when they could no longer be rebuilt. I say use whatever you want on your caliper pistons (I also prefer not to buy specialty tools if I don't need them), but my experience is that this is one of those jobs that really is better with the right tools.
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Old 09-28-2007, 07:32 AM   #19 (permalink)
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I'd say that if the pistons resist moving due to age that it's time to consider rebuilding the calipers.
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Old 09-28-2007, 01:19 PM   #20 (permalink)
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I would humbly suggest that if they will not rotate as they did when they were younger that something is wrong.
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