Has anyone said that you get what you pay for?
Well this is true for the most part in the car world. Parts are not Parts! Brake Pads can range from $16 to $260. Same car, application etc. Wow, however they are all designed for multiple different goals. Some are just simply cheap, they may stop sufficiently but wear out fast, have squeaks and or destroy your rotors while doing the above mentioned things. On the other end of the scale, you can buy brakes to last longer, provide for sure quietness or my favorite, stop 20% to 30% better while dissipating heat more efficiently.
But all that comes at a premium price. So at Keep It New we select somewhere in the middle, brands that exhibit good heat abilities, low dust, and equal or slightly better stopping quality then Originally designed for that specific vehicle while being quiet as a church mouse. We pick these brands so that the price is still affordable, yet you get a slightly above average brake pad. Now some people might think brake pads are all there is to a brake service. So Not true. If the caliper which squeezes the brake pads does so in an inefficient or slighter off angle way then the brake pads will suffer, and so will your pocket book. If the rotors surface is not flat or has prior heat spots or is simply cheap metal from the lowest bidder, then again the brake pad suffers, along with your wallet and some sanity or embarrassment every time you use them. If things aren't cleaned and lubed correctly with the correct high temp brake lube then all the quality in the Brake pad goes out the window, it MUST be done correctly for every part to work together. Getting the most out of the money you spend is the concept we strive for in every mission you task us to, not just brake services. So if we select Rotors and the occasional caliper, we often look at safety first, and cost effectiveness second. For obvious reasons none of us look forward to getting brakes done on our vehicles, however when the time comes, the math doesn't lie, do it right the first time with quality selected parts, it almost always is cheaper in the long run.
Calipers Do more then grip the brake pads. People will call up and ask “why is my brake pedal pulsating?” or “Why does my steering wheel shake when I hit the brakes?” Not all the time but a good percentage of the time it is due to the caliper not releasing all the way and dragging the brake pad against the rotor more then the original design was intended. This generates a huge amounts of heat, and as all of us know that heat has a tendency to warp things. Now the caliper isn’t always at fault, I know not only from almost 30 years of doing this but also from first hand experiments. No that's not a typo, I’ve purposely abused brakes in my own cars and trucks in many different environment with different brake pads and rotors to purposely see what condition really effect the parts in different ways and to what degree(no pun intended). The simply truth that was already common sense was the more I spent on the attention to the quality of the parts the better performance and longevity I received from those parts. I like to question the so called obvious every once in a while when there is room for error in the preconceived ideas we just choose to follow. But in this case, its very much true, the more you spend in quality the more you gain. The caliper can only do its job correctly if the rest of the parts it comes in contact with are of equal or greater quality. The caliper also has a built in design that allows it to retract slightly after you have applied the brakes, this still keeps the brake pads ever so slightly touching the surface of the rotor but allows things to cool off, and lessen the drag of rotation. I have spoken with Rebestos Rep on multiple occasions, and they still stress that after roughly 100,000 miles the calipers start to fail to retract the pressure applied to the brake pads. Another way of saying this is that the caliper piston fails to completely retract, thus allowing the brake pad to heat up beyond its normal designed service temperature limits. This temperature and dragging usually will be seen as warped rotors, uneven wear, premature brake life and hot spots in the rotors. Now there are other symptoms that can cause these effects but this is the typical just short of incorrect cleaning and lubing components on brakes in general.
Now for the last thing calipers do. IF you were to grab a caliper while its still bolted up and move it perpendicular to the rotation of the rotor, you should have some movement. This is normal for 90% of the brake systems out there. Brembo and the like work off a slight different design we will not cover here but they also allow movement. This movement is to allow some imperfection through the course of heat cycling our brakes go through in normal operation. The caliper is locating the brake pads against the sides of the rotor, if the rotor is warped like a warped record, then the caliper is designed to follow the warp to a certain degree. Once the warp or imperfection has exceeded that design limit, or the caliper is not allowed to move then feed back to the driver is imminent.
I hope that you have a better understanding of the Brake system enough to know at least imagine what your shop is telling you about your brakes. There is so much more that goes into this simple design but at least you made it this far to understand the basics so that you can make decisions for you and your family riding in this vehicle on the same roads my family drives also.