How To Push Back Brake Piston Without Tool

A lot of car owners and drivers have been reaching out to me to give them tips on how to push back brake pistons without tool. So in this article, I will be giving you a guide on how to do this easily.

Brake pistons are usually found in brake calipers. They are a vital part of the brake system of your vehicle. The brake pistons installed in your vehicle help the brake pads make contact with the brake discs, which slows the movement of your car. These pistons can be made from either steel, rubber, or aluminum. Both fixed and floating brake calipers have pistons. Most new vehicles have about six pistons in a caliper.

When pressure is applied to the brake pedals in your vehicle, the master cylinder forces down brake fluid through the brake pipes to the brake caliper. In the caliper, the brake piston then pushes the whole caliper back; this causes the brake pads and the disc to make contact. A lot of modern cars operate on disc brakes, which are a lot better and more effective than drum brakes.

Each time the brake pads come in contact with the rotating disc, it reduces the effectiveness of the pads; it then begins to wear off. The brake piston will have to compensate for this by coming out from the caliper. Due to this, the brake pads will eventually need to be replaced with a new one. But at this point, replacing the brake pads might prove difficult because of the fully extended caliper piston. Therefore, the piston will have to be pushed back into the caliper.

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How to push back the brake piston without a tool?

How To Push Back Brake Piston

Due to the brake piston’s design, the brake caliper tools are special tools generally used for pushing the brake piston so that the brake pads can easily be replaced. But in case you are stranded and you do not have this tool in your truck to assist you in pushing back the brake piston of your vehicle. No worries! This is a thorough guide that will help you out on how to push back the brake piston without a tool:

  • The brake piston is located in the brake system, which is an interior part of your vehicle. So first, you loosen the lug nuts of your vehicle but not completely. Then safely raise your vehicle with a jack. Make sure the jack is resting on a balance and solid surface. Remove the lug nuts and the wheel assembly completely when your vehicle is jacked up.
  • Loosen the brake line and detach it from the brake caliper. Keep the sealing washers and banjo bolt aside. You can use a brake line hose plug on the brake line to prevent the escape of fluid, or you can use something to wrap up the edge of the brake line. Please note that the brake fluid is very corrosive, so do not let it touch your skin or the body of your car.
  • Gently remove the mounting bolts on the caliper and then remove the caliper from the rotor (rotating disc) by pulling it up. You can use a screwdriver to help you remove the caliper if necessary.

Now that you have been able to successfully detach your vehicle’s brake caliper from the disc; how do you push back the brake piston:

  • You need to know that the rear caliper piston is quite different from the caliper piston in the front of your vehicle, and you will notice this in most modern vehicles. With the rear caliper pistons, you cannot compress them like the front caliper pistons. With the fronts, you can compress them with the c-clamp, and the piston will move in. No harm was done! However, if you try to do this for the rear caliper pistons in most vehicles, you will be in a whole lot of trouble.
  • To successfully push back the rear caliper brake piston, you will need a simple tool such as a plier or a screwdriver. You need to twist the piston clockwise; clockwise will spin the piston inward into the housing itself inside the caliper, and then you will be able to change your brake pads.
  • Now fix the plier to the piston by putting it in the grooves kind of where the actual tool goes and gently spin it clockwise. You will start to notice the piston going into the caliper. Continue spinning it clockwise until the piston completely goes in. You can know if the piston is completely inside by looking at the seal. The seal will be flushed and lower than the piston where it’s sitting in the housing.
  • So now you know that the piston is fully retracted, and you can go ahead to remove and replace the brake pads of your vehicle’s brake system.

How to push back the brake piston with a tool?

Pushing back brake pistons without a tool can be challenging at times. The mechanic or DIYer may even injure himself when pushing back the piston. But with the appropriate tool, you avert the chances of getting injured and make the work much faster and easier. Here are simplified steps to rewind brake pistons with a tool.

  • Lift the vehicle and support it with jack stands.
  • Remove the tires on the wheels you intend to work on
  • Slack and remove the upper bolt holding the caliper to the caliper hanger. (You can also loosen the two bolts if you prefer it that way).
  • Bar the upper side of the caliper out of the hanger until you have access to the piston.
  • Open the brake reservoir cap and put a towel around it so fluid won’t pour on the surrounding components.

Now that you have positioned the caliper piston to push it back, get your caliper pushback tool kit. The tool usually contains two pushback tools and other fitments. The reason for the two pushback tools is that all brake caliper pistons do not rewind in the same direction. Some rewind clockwise, while others rewind anti-clockwise.

The caliper piston tool kit features both tools so you can complete your work regardless of where your caliper piston rewinds to.

Prepare the rewinding tool

Open the caliper rewind kit and pick the circular plate that fits best for the piston you are working on. The circular plate has two notches or dots that fit into the hole on the caliper piston. These dots or notches rewinds the piston as you turn the caliper rewind tool. The circular plates are best for back caliper pistons that need rewinding.

Note: Rewinding caliper pistons are different from pushback pistons.

Attach the circular plate to the rewind tool and loosen or tighten a tad so it fits appropriately within the caliper. Gently turn the rear lever until it snugs the caliper. However, you don’t need circular plates on a pushback piston.

Rewind the piston

Now, tighten the rewind tool by turning the handle until it compresses the caliper piston back to its place. At first, the handle may be difficult to turn, but it’ll become easier after rewinding or pushing it a few millimeters back.

Install the pads

Once the piston is fully retracted, or at least enough to let the new brake pads fit, install the pads and other brake system components you removed earlier, following the reverse procedure.

Watch this video for a visual presentation on how to push back the brake piston with a tool.

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However, you should know that using ordinary simple tools like the plier or screwdriver to push back the piston, if not done carefully, can damage your vehicle’s piston or caliper. You might even sustain injuries in the process. To save me from this, I quickly purchased the Lisle 25750 Dual Piston Brake Caliper Compressor on amazon, this tool can compress dual brake pistons in your vehicle for easy replacement.

I have been using this compressor tool for a while now, and it has helped me perform this process with ease plus, it is very handy. It also saved my money instead of buying the whole brake caliper tool for this purpose.

Easy way to push brake caliper piston back YouTube


Q: How do you push a piston back without a clamp?

You can push back your vehicle’s brake piston with the aid of a screwdriver and an old brake pad. Carefully use the screwdriver to create a moderate gap between the brake piston and the brake pads. When the gap is large enough, you need to use the screwdriver as a pry bar to slide the caliper back on the pins, then push back your vehicle’s brake piston all the way back in.

If the brake caliper is already detached from your vehicle, use a big pair of channel locks and your old brake pad to push the brake piston back into its housing. Please, you need to be very careful as using this tool can damage brake parts of your vehicle’s brake system if used recklessly.

Q: Why won’t my caliper piston go back?

There are some of the probable causes that can make the caliper piston in your vehicle unable to retract:

1. Worn-out caliper mounting bolts

The caliper bolts have slides that require lubrication. It also has shielding boots made of rubber that keep the lubrication on the surface of the bolts for a long period. But sometimes, when brake pads are being fixed, it causes the shielding boots to wear off as a result of the repairer’s manhandling. Hence, it can cause the caliper piston to not compress.

2. Faulty pistons

When applying pressure to the brake pedals, it causes slight deformity in the brake piston. Also, when the motorist take-off pressure from the pedal, the brakes uncoil and compress the pistons for a drag-free run. Assuming the piston fails to sufficiently slide on the seals, the seal then prevents the brake piston from compressing.

3. Inactive vehicle

Not running your vehicle for a long period is considered one of the major causes of this problem. If your vehicle is inactive for a long period, it can cause the brake piston to rust. This results in built-up corrosion on the caliper, which leads to your vehicle’s piston being unable to retract into its housing. This will also prevent the smooth running of your vehicle.

Q: How do you screw a caliper piston without a tool?

You need to have some simple tools if you are attempting a brake job. You will not be able to use your bare hands to screw the caliper piston due to the fact that the piston is threaded like a screw, so it will be difficult to screw it back with just your hands. However, you use a screwdriver, a plier, a c-clamp, or a caliper piston compressor to successfully push back your vehicle’s brake piston.

Q: What do you do if your brake caliper won’t compress?

If your vehicle’s rear brake caliper piston won’t compress or the entire vehicle’s caliper piston, you need to address this issue right away. It can cause brake failure, which is very dangerous for the driver and its passengers. You can adopt the following methods to help you fix this issue:

Thoroughly clean the piston.

Completely remove debris and clean the brake dust or corrosion from the surface of the piston. This simple method can resolve this issue and prevent you from spending money on repairs.

Regular Vehicle Maintenance

Always make sure you refill your brake fluid and replace your brake pads on time as at when due. Taking care of your vehicle’s brake system can, to a large extent, prevent caliper piston problems from occurring. Regular maintenance of your vehicle’s brake system also helps to increase its efficiency.

Use the brake caliper rewind tool or special vice tool.

After trying all the possible methods, including trying to use the c-clamp to compress your vehicle’s brake piston and the issue remains unresolved. You can try borrowing the brake caliper tool; this tool is specially designed to easily compress the caliper piston. Ensure the tool you use is the perfect size for your brake parts as they vary in size. Special vice tools can also help in this situation.

Q: Do I need to open the bleeder valve to compress the piston?

From an expert point of view, it is necessary to open the bleeder valve to compress the caliper piston. It is not advisable to compress your brake caliper without bleeding.

You should know that if you don’t open the bleeder valve, the brake fluid in the caliper will have a very high risk of getting contaminated. Assuming you compress the caliper piston without opening the bleeder valve, you also put the ABS sensor at a high risk of getting damaged. I honestly do not think that this is a chance that anyone should take.

Final Words

The brake system is a very important part of your vehicle, so you need to run scheduled maintenance on your vehicle; this will reduce the risk of your vehicle’s brake system, developing any fault. If you are still not sure of how to push back brake piston without tool, you can get back to us at any time and be sure of a response.

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Osuagwu Solomon

Osuagwu Solomon is a certified mechanic with over a decade of experience in the mechanic garage, and he has over five years of experience in the writing industry. He started writing automotive articles to share his garage experience with car enthusiasts and armature mechanics. If he is not in the garage fixing challenging mechanical problems, he is writing automotive repair guides, buyer’s guides, and car and tools comparisons.

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