The 9 Best Caliper Greases
This wiki has been updated 20 times since it was first published in October of 2016. While it may sound counter-intuitive, lubrication is a very important part of maintaining braking systems. Although these caliper greases are specifically formulated to reduce friction and offer increased protection to a vehicle's brake assembly, they can also come in handy for a wide variety of lubrication and electrical insulation needs on HVAC systems and other machinery. When users buy our independently chosen editorial recommendations, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
March 02, 2021:
We haven't changed our recommendations here recently, and in fact, options like Permatex 24125 Ceramic Extreme and Napa Sil-Glyde are frequently found in auto shops, and have been for decades. If you won't be using it often, a smaller tube of Permatex 85188 Ultra or Loctite Quiet Stick should do the trick. For especially high-heat applications, both CRC Industries 05353 and Super Lube 97008 are worth considering. They offer advanced additives such as PTFE in the case of the Super Lube, and molybdenum and graphite in the CRC Industries.
March 10, 2019:
Brakes, of course, are meant to stop vehicles, but lubrication is still a very important part of the process. If you want new pads and calipers to last, while performing effectively and without excess noise and vibration, it's important to apply the proper amount of the right type of lube. For shops or owners of multiple vehicles, it's hard to go wrong with Permatex Extreme, which is useful for a large number applications, and comes in a big enough size to last for quite a while. Generations of gearheads, on the other hand, also swear by Sil-Glyde, and its tube design makes for relatively easy use. Some users find Loctite's Quiet Stick even easier to use, as it operates much like the glue sticks you may remember from your early school days.
The Super Lube and Motorcraft are still relatively popular, although not every job needs a traditional silicone-based formula. But the Motorcraft does have dielectric qualities, and therefore is a great all-purpose lube for various applications aside from just braking systems. Meanwhile, the Silarmic and CRC are relatively well-known synthetic options, which also have a wide range of uses. But we cannot stress enough, whichever you end up deciding on, it's key to use just enough — too much or too little, and you'll reduce the brakes' effectiveness, or their lifespan, or both.
The Ongoing History Of Stopping
The industry took over 20 years to catch up to Sperry's leading-edge standards of safety, finally offering four-wheel systems in 1923 as an option.
It's hard to overstate the influence of automobiles, shaping countless parts of culture, including resource distribution, social networking, and even the way we design and build cities. Passenger and cargo vehicles have lent commercial viability and personal freedom to countless drivers. While the purpose of cars and trucks is to move people and things, one of the most important parts of any vehicle is its ability to stop moving.
Like most engineering feats, automotive braking systems come from humble roots. For their first dozen or so years, automobiles weren't much faster than a standard horse and buggy, so they employed a lever to shove a wooden block against a metal-clad wheel, just like a carriage. The introduction of the pneumatic rubber tire necessitated an entirely new design. By the turn of 20th century, a rather overlooked US inventor named Elmer Sperry had already been installing four-point brakes on electric cars for years. His designs were well received in Europe, and in 1896, this Industrial Revolution-era Elon Musk became the first person to drive an American-made car in Paris. It even had front-wheel discs. So, as is often the case with patents of the time, historians credit someone entirely different with the inventions of both major types of brakes, years after Sperry's pioneering. The industry took over 20 years to catch up to Sperry's leading-edge standards of safety, finally offering four-wheel systems in 1923 as an option. That's also when manufacturers started using hydraulics, which offered greater leverage and consistent force to all four drums.
Several other early advancements are still in use today, too. Fred Lanchester patented disc brakes in 1902, but with copper pads scraping against iron-alloy rotors, they shrieked like a banshee, and didn't take off for decades. Aircraft-inspired vacuum boosting arrived in the 1920s, and by 30 years later, most vehicles drew from the power steering pump for superhuman stopping power. Even anti-lock brakes came about roughly 100 years ago, again inspired by aircraft, although ABS wouldn't become feasible until the 1960s. By 1980, almost every car sold in the United States came with front-wheel disc brakes, and today only low-budget cars and large commercial vehicles even use drums in the rear. While discs are the proven standard, they still require proper installation and maintenance for smooth, quiet operation. And even the self-operating brakes of the 21st century require proper maintenance and lubrication.
For The Love Of Lubricant
A brake system's effectiveness, stability, and noise level are closely tied to heat and vibration. Technically speaking, the function of brakes is to turn kinetic energy from the wheels into heat energy, then dissipate that into the atmosphere. Weighing around two tons each, cars take quite a bit of force to stop, the act of which creates quite a lot of heat. Temperature and wind drag tend to break down and physically strip oil-based lubricants like standard chassis grease, leading to corrosion, rust, and rot in places that safety requires be pristine and well-oiled. The secret to keeping your brakes silent and effective lies in the type of lubricant you choose and how you apply it.
A good brake job used to require a different product for the rubber-on-metal versus the metal-on-metal contact points. Unlike standard grease, silicone-based products are effective lubricants, and they won't break down any potentially vulnerable seals. Remember, though, brakes turn friction into heat, and temperatures rise sharply* near the pad and rotor. Historically, silicone wasn't always suited to such conditions, and hot, expanding metal along with intense vibrations can lead not only to annoying or off-putting noises, but also grabby and imprecise braking action; however, newer formulas tend to hold up relatively well.
On the other hand, some mechanics still use anti-seize oil where metal rubs against metal, though typical, oil-based grease tends to break down rubber seals and protective boots. In fact, evidence of metal-saturated anti-seize on certain brake parts can void the warranties of many newer models. So, it's especially important to make the right choice for your needs.
An Acute Case Of Hydrophobia
Modern cars are the beneficiaries of advanced liquid and solid polymers (i.e. synthetic oils and rubbers with useful, novel properties), which means it's possible to find one-size-fits-all brake lubricant that won't hurt any parts, and won't break down itself. These are often silicone-based blends treated with various thickeners to keep them in place when the temperature rises and the wind screams by at 80 mile per hour; some claim to be stable to as high as 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit.
Too little results in rough brake action and frozen components, while too much can contaminate parts that do not need lubrication.
Lubricating brakes requires more finesse than it does actual lubricant. Firstly, all contact surfaces must be clean -- and not just using soap and water, but with a grinding tool. Make sure to remove all the rust and corrosion you possibly can. When it comes to volume, there's an important sweet spot between "stretched a bit too thin," and "somewhat of a layer of goop." Too little results in rough brake action and frozen components, while too much can contaminate parts that do not need lubrication. While we're on the subject, never apply grease to the faces of the rotors or pads. And if you insist on using oil-based anti-seize on the metal contact points, at least avoid copper or other conductive metals, which can turn your entire rotor into a battery and wear away at its hardened finish.
At the end of the day, no lubricant will improve stopping performance in a healthy system or repair a damaged one; the right choice here is all about durability and safety. For that matter, it's worthwhile to clean out excessive grit with an air compressor and touch-up the grease every time you rotate the tires. Using the right chemicals for your vehicle, keeping the calipers clean, and changing the brake pads properly and on time are more than just good ideas; they're steps to keep you and your passengers safe.