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E36 (1991 - 1999)
The E36 chassis 3-Series BMW was a huge hit among driving enthusiasts from the first moment the car hit the pavement. The E36 won numerous awards over the years it was produced and is still a favorite of many BMW enthusiasts to this day! -- View the E36 Wiki

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  #1  
Old 02-26-2011, 07:25 PM
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Replacing Brake Calipers in Pairs?

I searched and didn't see anything, so here we go...

I noticed that my front left brake caliper was sticking ever so slightly last night. I bought a caliper rebuild kit, took it apart, scrubbed and cleaned everything, and put it back together with the new parts. Unfortunately, the caliper piston did have a small amount of pitting/corrosion on a small portion of it. I used some Scotch-Brite to scrub it off as much as possible, but it's going to need to be replaced eventually. After putting it back together, the caliper no longer sticks , but I know its days are numbered.

My question is: is it necessary to replace the front calipers on BOTH sides of the car, or can I safely get away with replacing just the one?

I've heard from others that a new caliper could/will be able to apply more pressure than the old caliper on the other side of the car, thereby causing uneven braking force from left to right. That said, with the new seals on my rebuilt caliper, I didn't notice any pulling during my test drive, so I wonder what the difference between my rebuilt caliper and a new caliper would be.

Thanks guys!
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Last edited by ZeGerman; 02-26-2011 at 07:26 PM.
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  #2  
Old 02-26-2011, 07:38 PM
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charlesberry charlesberry is offline
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NO, only replace a bad caliper where required. You do NOT need to do both sides at once.
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  #3  
Old 02-26-2011, 07:54 PM
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Moeman10 Moeman10 is offline
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What he said^
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  #4  
Old 02-26-2011, 08:18 PM
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Really, so there's no truth to the replace in pairs theory? That's what I thought. Seems like if a caliper is moving freely and makes a good seal, it's working at fully capacity.

I could more likely see there being a need to replace pads & rotors in pairs.
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  #5  
Old 02-26-2011, 09:23 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ZeGerman View Post
Really, so there's no truth to the replace in pairs theory? That's what I thought. Seems like if a caliper is moving freely and makes a good seal, it's working at fully capacity.

I could more likely see there being a need to replace pads & rotors in pairs.
When I had a stuck caliper, the shop I took it to said they could rebuild the caliper or replace just that one. The mechanic said he thought it looked good enough to just rebuild and stick back on the car. He was only going to replace the one, not both.

Anyways, he is a very good mechanic -- so good that people in my area who have warrantied BMWs will pay to take it to him and his independent shop over the dealer (the dealer here is awful). If he says you can replace one, you can just replace one.
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Old 02-26-2011, 09:37 PM
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Yea, I think you'll be more than fine just replacing one.


Were you planning on a brand new caliper?
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Old 02-26-2011, 10:06 PM
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Actually, I just bought two remanufactured calipers from FCP Groton a moment ago. According to their photos (assuming they're accurate photos), they're just rebuilt OEM calipers, and they cost $41.86 a piece with a 15% "tax season" discount, so that comes out to $71.17 for two front caliperes - not bad. I figured at that price, I might as well just do both. I'll get the lifetime warranty on them in case anything goes south.

Hopefully they aren't junk. I'm assuming they will be fine (fingers crossed).
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Last edited by ZeGerman; 02-26-2011 at 10:07 PM.
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Old 02-27-2011, 08:27 AM
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That's a good deal for a lifetime warrenty.
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Old 02-27-2011, 03:59 PM
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that's a good price!!
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  #10  
Old 02-27-2011, 06:28 PM
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Yeah, it's a pretty great price. I trust FCP to source rebuilt calipers that are just as good as anything that I could rebuild myself, so I'm not expecting any problems. Calipers are, after all, pretty simple creatures. Just a cast iron housing, a stainless steel piston, and a few seals - not much to go wrong. And like I mentioned before, if their photos are accurate, they're just using rebuilt OEM caliper housings.
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Last edited by ZeGerman; 02-27-2011 at 06:30 PM.
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  #11  
Old 02-27-2011, 06:55 PM
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At that price it's almost cheaper to buy new ones rather than rebuild. Aren't rebuild kits $30 or so?
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Old 02-27-2011, 07:51 PM
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The theory on replacing both is based on the concept that both have seen the same environmental conditions, same wear, and same brake fluid for the same time. If the failure was caused by internal corrosion damaging the seal, then the assumption is the other caliper is in a similar condition and will fail in a similar manner in about the same time frame.
The reality is there are variables in the materials, and the amount of moisture that collects in the brake system and where it settles. I've seen a caliper on one side badly corroded and the caliper on the opposite side look like new. I've also seen both go within weeks of each other.
On the qustion of pulling, if both calipers have the same piston area, get the same flow of fluid, and neither has any leaks, there won't be any pulling. Usually where people experience this is they get one caliper made by a different OEM than the other and there's a difference in the compressive force.
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Old 02-27-2011, 08:24 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ethereal45 View Post
At that price it's almost cheaper to buy new ones rather than rebuild. Aren't rebuild kits $30 or so?
Nope, rebuild kits (which consist only of an inner seal and an outer dust boot) are about $3.50. Big difference in price. That said, after discount I paid about $35.00 per remanufactured caliper assembly from FCP. That's pretty inexpensive for a sparkling clean caliper with new seals and piston.
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Last edited by ZeGerman; 02-27-2011 at 08:26 PM.
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  #14  
Old 02-27-2011, 08:32 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dc_wright View Post
The theory on replacing both is based on the concept that both have seen the same environmental conditions, same wear, and same brake fluid for the same time. If the failure was caused by internal corrosion damaging the seal, then the assumption is the other caliper is in a similar condition and will fail in a similar manner in about the same time frame.
The reality is there are variables in the materials, and the amount of moisture that collects in the brake system and where it settles. I've seen a caliper on one side badly corroded and the caliper on the opposite side look like new. I've also seen both go within weeks of each other.
On the qustion of pulling, if both calipers have the same piston area, get the same flow of fluid, and neither has any leaks, there won't be any pulling. Usually where people experience this is they get one caliper made by a different OEM than the other and there's a difference in the compressive force.
Makes sense, especially since one of my calipers now has now been cleaned out and had a new seal installed, while the old one is the original, yet there is no pulling.
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For sale: OEM E36 328 catback
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