Difference Between Fixed Caliper and Floating Caliper

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Difference Between Fixed Caliper and Floating Caliper

Brake calipers are a vital part of a vehicles’ braking system. Their job is to slow down and bring the car to a stop by taking the hydraulic pressure from the braking system and converting it into a mechanical force. This mechanical force is what squeezes the brake pads onto the rotors.

There are two main types of brake calipers in use in modern vehicles, fixed and floating, each with their own distinct mechanism and characteristics that can affect their efficiency. This article will help explain the differences between these two types of brake calipers.

Floating Brake Calipers

Floating (or sliding) calipers have a single piston that is housed on one side of the rotor. It works by hydraulic pressure pushing the piston outward against the brake pad. The other pad then clamps against the rotor while the caliper, which is ‘floating’ on pins, is ‘free to slide a small amount’ to accommodate the rotor movement. Known to be less complicated and lighter than the fixed type, the floating caliper is often more cost effective for everyday driving needs.

Advantages of Floating Calipers:

  • Cost-Effective: Generally cheaper to manufacture and maintain.
  • Lightweight: Less mass compared to fixed calipers, which can benefit overall vehicle efficiency.
  • Compact Design: Takes up less space, making it suitable for a wide range of vehicle designs.

Disadvantages of Floating Calipers:

  • Uneven Pressure Distribution: Can result in slightly reduced braking performance, especially under high-stress conditions.
  • Maintenance Needs: Sliding pins can wear out, requiring periodic maintenance to ensure smooth operation.

Fixed Brake Calipers

A fixed caliper has pistons on both sides of the rotor, which means when the brake pedal is pressed the hydraulic pressure is applied evenly to all pistons. This in turn has the effect of pressing both brake pads against the rotor from both sides. This consistent pressure distribution results in improved braking performance. Due to their efficiency and are therefore found on high-end performance vehicles where precision is required.

Advantages of Fixed Calipers:

  • Consistent Pressure: Provides even clamping force on both sides of the rotor, resulting in better braking performance.
  • High Performance: Ideal for high-speed and heavy-duty applications, offering superior stopping power.
  • Durability: Typically made with higher-quality materials to withstand intense braking conditions.

Disadvantages of Fixed Calipers:

  • Cost: More expensive to produce and maintain due to the complex design and additional components.
  • Weight: Heavier than floating calipers, which can impact the vehicle’s efficiency.
  • Space Requirements: Bulkier design requires more space, limiting its use in some vehicle types.

Comparative Analysis

Performance: Fixed calipers generally offer better performance due to their ability to apply more uniform pressure across the brake pads. This consistency makes them ideal for high-performance and heavy vehicles needing reliable braking under extreme conditions. While floating calipers are sufficient for most standard driving situations, they may not perform as reliably in high-stress scenarios.

Cost and Maintenance: Floating calipers are more economical and easier to maintain, making them a practical choice for most passenger vehicles. With fewer components and simpler mechanisms, they result in lower manufacturing and maintenance costs.

Application: The choice between fixed and floating calipers often depends on the specific requirements of the vehicle and the driver. High-performance vehicles, sports cars, and heavy-duty trucks benefit from the enhanced performance and durability of fixed calipers. Conversely, everyday passenger vehicles, where cost and maintenance are key factors, often use floating calipers.


Both fixed and floating brake calipers have their unique advantages and are suitable for different driving needs and vehicle types. Understanding the differences between these two types of calipers can help you make an decision based on different requirements. 

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Hi, I'm Grant

I am the author of this article and have been working in this field for over 10 years. If you have any questions regarding brake calipers or steering knuckles, please feel free to contact me, and I will be happy to assist you.



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