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2003 Subaru Outback Base Model Front Caliper recommendations

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My wife's 2003 base model Outback 2.5L Auto, AWD, U.S. model 146K miles.  The front right caliper is dragging.  Dealer says it needs replaced to the tune of caliper, pads, rotor( gouged ) about $600.  I'm willing to tackle it myself.  My question after determining it doesn't just need cleaned & lubed if I replace is there a good aftermarket caliper & rotor?  Also recommendation for pads.  A new Subaru caliper is $300.  I can get a salvage yard caliper with 60K miles and 6 months warranty for $59.  Is that a better option than the typical Autozone / Advanced caliper?

I just saw that Rock Auto has remanufactured Subaru calipers by Cardone & Raybestos.  Are these ok?   My wife doesn't put a ton of miles on this car.  She drives 90 miles to work, stays there for the week and returns home.  So about 800 miles/month.


Do I need to replace the left side which is operating just fine for balance?


 I need to get my wife back on the road soon.  Also any tips for the replace & bleeding are appreciated.



Thank you so much, Dave in PA

Edited by Spiney
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If one caliper is sticking, the rest are not far behind as they all live in the same environment.
I do all of my own work on my vehicles and I've fixed a lot of partially seized calipers on my cars and friends vehicles as well.

You pop out the piston and clean the piston and the caliper bore with "Fine" steel wool (0000) and flush them clean with fresh brake fluid. Check the piston for rust pits. If its badly pitted ... replace the caliper. But if it cleans up well, put it back in the caliper and finish the brake job. (Pitted caliper will leak fluid.) Check YouTube videos for popping the pistons out using compressed air or a grease gun, andother ones  for expanding the caliper dust seal to pop them back into the caliper using an air gun.


Unfortunately, I can't place the video links here because they don't load properly. I've tried for the better part of 20 minutes with no success.

Do a YouTube search for them, because they are slick ways to fix your problem fast.


I've used these two methods for years with great success.


Consider replacing your flex hoses as well on a 14 year old car. Good Luck!

Edited by gbhrps
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1.  Clean and regrease the slides with Sil Glyde and throw the pin bushing away. 

This repairs most sticking calipers.  Replacement is stupid if it's just a sticking pin bushings.


If the pins are stuck - wail them out with a hammer or have a shop torch them out - or get a used bracket.


Then bleed the brakes


2.  Rotors are absolutely not needed unless they're vibrating while braking.  

Pointless to throw away one rotating chunk of metal and put another one in there that's no different functionally.

Rust on non-bearing surfaces doesn't matter and any rust or deformation on the braking surface will rub off and wear in, it's benign. 


3.  If you do need another caliper just get a used one. 


You can also rebuild them - get the rebuild kit. Push the caliper pistons out - clean, replace seal and boot and you're done. 

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Thank you everyone for the replies. I already repaired the rear Caliper by disassembly, clean, & lube with Sylglide.


What part of the slides are the bushings? The Caliper will operate fine without it?


If I rebuild the pistons what brand rebuild kit do you recommend?


I need to replace the passenger Front rotor because it's gouged and out of spec from this dragging brake.


Where can I find the torque specs for the Caliper and mounting plate bolts? Thanks again in advanced for your help. I'm learning under fire because I'm not in a position to pay shop rates at this time. Also it takes me a bit more time because I have had 3 back surgeries with fusions plates and screws on 4 levels and a failed neck surgery with 2 levels fused with plates & screws. I was hit with a car as a kid and in my 20's crashed a hang glider. Now at 56 it's all caught up with me. I need to get me impact wrench, even if it's a Harbor Freight model.

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love my Lowes corded electric impact - wish I had one 40 years ago if only to buzz lug nuts off.


Centric rotors are good value replacement discs. I also run Centric Posiquiet ceramic pads on our OB - most any name brand or NAPA Gold - type ceramic will serve as well as OEM.


Go slow and take it easy. try to find a helper to run tools back and forth for you. get a stool or upturned 5 gal bucket to sit on. No need to rush it.

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Thanks, yes just got new tires so I'm sure the lug nuts are locked on. I got a nice rolling mechanics stool & creeper. Worst enemy right now is the weather. A week ago here in PA it was 60-70 degrees. Now I have a foot of frozen snow and it's going down to 12 at night. Next week it's supposed to get into the 40's, that's bearable.


I have mostly ratchet sets. What size wrench does the bleeder need? Thanks

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you ever on the other side of the state? I'd help you.


Pad choice doesn't much matter get a top tier brand, I'd say exactly what LT said. OEM pads are excellent, just a little pricey. I like to favor a kit with new pad clips if there's any age or miles on the car.


What year model?


Bleeders are 10mm or 8mm. I think usually fronts are 10 and rears 8. with any age or rust make sure they're 6 point sockets to initially loosen.


Caliper bolts 12 or 14mm.


Caliper bracket bolts are 17mm or 19mm and can be beastly in the rust belt. Again use 6 point gear and prepare for some leverage. An impact may not crack these if they're rusted depending on output. These may be the hard part - can be rusted tight and poor access for leverage if working on the ground.


Get the side you're removing rotor on up as high as possible for room to leverage those bracket bolts.


Rotor holes for removal (if equipped) are M8x1.25 threads if you want a couple scarificial bolts handy to push those rusty things off. Get hardened bolts and one for each hole (2 holes per rotor). Some are so hard to remove and rusty that the threads on the bolts get mangled and mushroomed and can't even be removed from the rotor intact once you're done. Just plan on them being sacrificial bolts. Only 1 in 10 are that bad but sucks when it's that 1. There's about 50 12mm head bolts on a Subaru that can be used for this task and aren't necessary if you don't have them.


Good luck !

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