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E46 M3 (2001-2006) Engine: S54 - Max Hp: 333 hp at 7,900 rpm / 262 lb/ft at 4,900 rpm
Total Produced: 45,000+ - Years Produced: 2001 to 2006.


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Old Tue, May-20-2014, 08:10:05 AM   #1
rovert604
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Default Random Front Caliper Sticking

Hey guys,

I've been reading around forums about my situation and I believe this is what's happening but I also wanted to ask if any of you or know of others who have experienced this.

A couple of times I have felt that the brake was riding the rotor because when I come to a stop I hear that slight squeak as the rotor stops against the brake pads. On slight inclines the car would no roll in neutral. I was on the highway at around 70mph and I noticed the sound of a rumble and steering wheel shaking (more when steering angle biased to left) so I pulled off to drive slowly as the rotor cooled off and drove city streets to my destination which brought normal feeling back. At my destination there was a ton of heat from the front driver side (enough to burn fingers) while the other corners were next to warm/cool.

On the way home after full cooling the brakes didn't appear to stick. I would roll on any slight incline/decline in neutral. When I got home the rotor was still hot enough to burn a finger but not like before.

This seems to be a random degree of sticking. I just bought the car and it has about 54,000 miles. I have the previous owner's records that the brakes were changed at 44,000 miles in October 2011. I'm not sure when the brake fluid was changed out but the PPI said that it was dirty and needs to be changed. That brings me to what could be the problem:

1. Dirty/contaminated brake fluid with water in the lines
2. Failed seal at such a low mileage? (will inspect tomorrow)

Could it be as easy as contaminated brake fluid since the brakes randomly return to near normal operation? Can calipers show sign of failure in such little mileage or is it all about time? The car was driven in Vancouver which is known as Raincouver. LOL But I still don't see such an expensive car rusting away so early in it's mileage. I guess the main reason I made this post is to ask: What can I look out for and test to determine the issue with this caliper tomorrow? I love learning about DIYs and brakes is a new part of the system that I'm soaking up knowledge on.
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Old Tue, May-20-2014, 12:01:35 PM   #2
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Default Re: Random Front Caliper Sticking

Crud / rust builds up on the piston. That needs to be cleaned or replaced. Some emory cloth or fine sandpaper should be fine unless there is some major damage to the piston. All of your rebuilding needs can be fulfilled by a number of the vendors here.
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Old Tue, May-20-2014, 12:25:18 PM   #3
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Default Re: Random Front Caliper Sticking

Seems to be common. My driver side caliper just started sticking really badly -- car is basically undriveable except for *very* short trips. I suspect it has been sticking to a lesser extent for a while, and may explain a steering shake I've been chasing

I'll be rebuilding my calipers tomorrow
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Old Tue, May-20-2014, 04:26:56 PM   #4
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Default Re: Random Front Caliper Sticking

If you didn't want to go through the work of rebuilding one yourself, you can buy rebuilt ones from autozone for like $60ish I think before the core charge. That's where I got my passenger side from. It has the ///M stamp and all.
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Old Thu, May-22-2014, 04:03:36 AM   #5
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Default Re: Random Front Caliper Sticking

So it looks like the previous owner never did a brake flush. I wonder if it's maintenance period included a flush. This was the colour of the fluid:





So I made sure I bled all the brakes starting from the furthest away from the brake reservoir.

When I got to the problem corner I pulled the guide pin out (7mm hex bolt needed) and it slid put nicely. But trying to release the piston's grip too an extraordinary amount of leverage to even press it in a bit. Looking at the piston already looked a bit scary after it came loose:



I pumped the brake pedal a little to start ejecting the piston a bit and I pulled the seal and saw this:



I'm glad it's been caught before failure. Is getting a front pair of rebuilt calipers for $75 approx, the best way? I have a hunch if I try the rebuild DIY method, the caliper cylinder wall will be scored and damaged beyond repair.

I live in Canada. If there are any quick ways of getting stuff in Canada (better immediately from local supplier) for a bit more money that would be great. Other than that I have another vehicle to zip down to my USA post office box, 30 minutes drive away. Any advice guys?
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Old Thu, May-22-2014, 06:23:35 AM   #6
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Default Re: Random Front Caliper Sticking

My caliper seal somehow popped out (I never let the pads and rotor wear to such an extent where that can happen) and the piston was pitted. I bought a new centric branded piston and seals.






It was my first time rebuilding a caliper so it took me a while, but eventually I got the hang of it. Just took it for a test drive and everything seems to be great. Let's see how long it lasts. Only did the problem corner for now -- may do the passenger side and rears this weekend. The packaging for the piston said "Made in Canada" for whatever it's worth

Last edited by terraphantm; Thu, May-22-2014 at 06:28:20 AM.
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Old Thu, May-22-2014, 08:32:11 PM   #7
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Default Re: Random Front Caliper Sticking

So I decided to take it apart just to learn. This is what I found:



Lots of rust under the boot. So I took the piston out and sanded it down until it was smooth without pulling off a layer of steel. This should get me by for a while until I get rebuilt calipers and paint them.



The inside cylinder wall was perfect. No rust or scoring. I'm getting a rebuild kit to install now and the car should be good to go.

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Discussing Random Front Caliper Sticking in the E46 M3 (2001-2006) Forum - Engine: S54 - Max Hp: 333 hp at 7,900 rpm / 262 lb/ft at 4,900 rpm
Total Produced: 45,000+ - Years Produced: 2001 to 2006. at BMW M3 Forum.com (E30 M3 | E36 M3 | E46 M3 | E92 M3 | F80/X)