How to Repair Frozen Brake Pads

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Seized brakes, also known as "frozen" or "stuck" brakes, can be frustrating to the car or truck owner. Frozen brakes prevent the vehicle from being used or could create a potentially dangerous road hazard when driving. There are several different causes of frozen brakes: misaligned parking brakes or brake pads, stuck wheel cylinders, dislodged brake drums or a stationary caliper piston are common culprits. The key to remedying the problem is determining the cause.

Things You'll Need

  • Hydraulic lift
  • Lug wrench
  • Socket wrench
  • Auto lube
  • New caliper casing (optional)
  • Brake tool
  • Flathead screwdriver
  • Bleeder screws
  • Drive the vehicle onto a hydraulic lift, put the transmission in neutral and turn the car off. Lift the car until the vehicle is about shoulder height and manually spin each wheel. The wheel that doesn't spin freely and has a tendency to stick at certain points is the one that needs to be addressed. Pry off the hubcap and use a lug wrench to remove the lug nuts; once done, slide the wheel off.

  • Remove the bolts securing the caliper in place and remove the caliper: if it sticks and is overly difficult to remove, the caliper may be the problem. Visually inspect the brake pads behind the caliper: if signs of visible wear and tear are present such as fraying, you'll need to have new brake pads installed by a licensed mechanic.

  • Look at the sides of the caliper if the above doesn't apply. You're checking for signs of visible wear on the caliper itself: road grit has a tendency to accumulate inside the caliper's rubber casing, so if there are cracks or chips in the casing, grit may be causing the frozen brakes. Pry the casing off, re-lube the caliper and slide a new casing over the caliper to fix the situation.

  • Pull out the plug on the brake drum and insert an adjustment tool and a flathead screwdriver into the hole. Pry the retainer away from the brake wheel and turn the wheel to reveal the adjusting mechanism. Generously lube the mechanism and put everything back together to fix the brake seizure.

  • Use your hand to press down on the brake (or have someone else do this for you) to check to see if the brake fluid is freely flowing into the bleeder screws. Open each screw individually as the brake pedal is pumped to monitor flow; replace any bleeder screw that doesn't have brake fluid flowing from it.

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References

  • "Auto Repair for Dummies"; Deanna Sclar; 2007
  • Photo Credit brake image by Jan Will from Fotolia.com
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