[TIPS]How To Push Back Brake Piston Without Tool ?

Last Updated on August 29, 2023 by Pittalks

As you know, brake pistons are in the brake calipers. They play a very significant role in your vehicle’s braking system. The Brake caliper piston in your car facilitates the brake pads making contact with the brake discs, allowing you to decelerate your car. There are different materials such as aluminum, rubber, or steel used to design brake pistons. Because of the brake pistons’ designs, they have specific tools to push them back to allow easy replacement of brake pads.

However, sometimes you might find yourself stranded, and you have none of the specialized tools to push back your brake pistons. So what will you do if you come across such a misfortune?

No worry, because different tools away from specialized ones can help you to push brake pistons back such as a screwdriver, an old channel locks, a C-clamp or even a caulk gun.

example of a front brake caliper piston that needs to be unstuck

How to push brake caliper piston back without proper tool ?

If you do not know how to push back brake pistons without tool, you will get a thorough guide on how to do it. Different methods can help you complete this process. You will learn how to operate using a regular screwdriver, a C-clamp, old channel locks, and a twenty nine ounce smooth rod calk gun. Each method will have a clear procedure to help you push back your vehicle’s brake pistons with simple tools. Despite these methods being helpful in many ways, there are risks associated with them. These tools are not designed for the job.  For this reason, each method will have its pro and cons.   

Method 1: Using a regular screwdriver.

The screwdriver’s shank has tough steel with a hardened tip to minimise the rate of wear. The handle is made of plastic, wood, or metal. This tool can help you a great deal to push back brake piston, so you shouldn’t underestimate its power. 

Steps to follow

When pushing back the brake pistons of your car using a screwdriver, the following are steps that you should follow:

  • The first thing you should do is look at the rotors to determine whether they need replacement or resurfacing.
  • Jack the car off the ground and put a jack stand for safety.
  • Use your flat blade screwdriver to wedge between the rotor and brake pad. Note that the caliper should still be in place all this time.
  •  After you get a little gap, remove the pad.
  • Using a screwdriver, push back the pistons and leave the brake shoes on while you pry between the rotor and brake up until the pistons compress fully. 
  • After compressing the pistons, put back the pad in the brake. Use the screwdriver against the pad to push the cylinders simultaneously. 


  • A screwdriver is a primary tool, so there is no hassle of finding one.
  • You can push back the pistons yourself without any help.
  • It is an effortless procedure.


  • You can easily damage rotor surfaces if you apply too much pressure.
  • Sometimes you can try to push back the pistons with no success. 

Method 2: Using an old channel locks

An old channel lock is a set of pliers with an angled head whereby one of its handles adjusts the opening size to grab or pinch without interfering with the handles’ distance. By adjusting the channel lock, you can accommodate different sizes to lock them into their desired positions. An old channel locks has simple features, but it can help you push back pistons of your vehicle. 

Steps to follow

If you struggle with other methods of pushing back your car’s pistons, follow the following steps on how you can make good use of your channel locks.

  • Take your car’s clippers off.
  • Place the brake pad next to the piston.
  • Adjust your channel locks out to lock both ends.
  • Squeeze the channel locks against the pistons to push back the piston back in.


  • It is a straightforward process.
  • Channel locks adjust to accommodate different sizes in different types of vehicles.


  • The channel locks may spin
  • Sometimes more effort is needed.

Method 3. Using a C-clamp

Typically, C-clamps are made of metal. At the top of this tool is a flat edge, and at the bottom, the tool has a threaded hole through which a long screw protrudes. C-clamp can be retracted or extended to reduce or increase the size of the opening. Mostly, you will find this tool in carpentry work. However, different manufacturers recommend it for multiple tasks. 

The main usage is to screw across the bottom of an item until you get the desired state of release or pressure. A C-clamp will also effectively push back the pistons of your car. The size of the caliper allows a C-clamp to fit in well. 

Steps to follow

If you want to know how to push back pistons without tool, the following tips will help you:

  • Take a large C-clamp for your application. A 6-inch C-clamp will be the best one.
  • Push your C-clamp into position and ensure it touches against the brake pad. 
  • Next, find a good flat surface on the backside of your caliper to prevent movements during the process.
  • Steadily tighten up your C-clamp until you start to see a gap between your pad and caliper. Continue tightening your C-clamp up until pistons are in the desired position.
  • In case yourbrake pads have worn out, you will need to compress more.


  • You will not need much effort in pushing back pistons.
  • This method works well even with worn out brake pads.
  • Some C-clamps can open up to 8 inches which makes them flexible.
  • It is one of the fastest, less expensive and most effective methods.


  • Sometimes it can be complicated to use; you have to get a flat surface on the backside of the caliper.
  • If you are not careful, you can push the pistons into undesirable position without notice.

 Method 4. Using a twenty nine ounce smooth rod caulk gun

The same way a caulk is used to compress items, you can use it to push back your cars’ pistons.

Steps to follow

Here are simple steps to follow when pushing back your pistons using a twenty nine-ounce smooth rod caulk gun:

  • Get out your twenty nine ounce smooth rod caulk gun and place it in a position so that it touches the brake pad.
  • Pull the trigger to push back the pistons into their place
  • Continue pulling the trigger until the pistons are in the desired position.


  • It is a cheaper tool.
  • It is a Simpler method than using a C-clamp.


  • It may not be effective in heavy vehicles such as trucks.

example of a rear brake piston that is stuck and disassembled

Reasons Why a Brake Caliper Piston Gets Stuck

  1. Corrosion: Rust and corrosion on the piston’s surface can cause it to bind within the caliper bore.
  2. Contaminants: Accumulated dirt, debris, and brake dust can interfere with smooth piston movement.
  3. Brake Fluid Contamination: Contaminated brake fluid can lead to sludge formation, obstructing piston movement.
  4. Seal Damage: Damaged piston seals can cause fluid leaks into the caliper bore, leading to uneven pressure and sticking.
  5. Caliper Slide Pin Issues: Improperly lubricated or seized slide pins can prevent the caliper from moving freely, affecting piston movement.


Why can’t I push the caliper piston back?

Below are some reasons why you find it hard to push the caliper piston back:

1.Damaged mounting bolts

The slides of caliper bolts need regular lubrication. To ensure lubrication last for long, the caliper has rubber made shielding boots. When fixing the brake pads, the mechanic may mishandle the boots. This results in wearing off of shielding boots which prevents compression of the caliper piston.

2. Faulty pistons

During the pressure application process on the brake pedals, the brake piston experiences some deformity. When a driver releases pressure, the vehicle experiences a free run due to brake uncoiling and compressing the pistons. In case pistons fail to slide fully, the seal blocks the compression of the brake piston.

3. Inactive vehicle

If your vehicle has been inactive for a long time, it might develop this kind of problem. The brake piston may rust, which causes corrosion on the vehicle’s caliper. Corrosion prevents the retraction of the vehicle. As a result, your vehicle fails to have a smooth running. 

Can you free a seized caliper piston?

Corrosion is the primary cause of this problem. If you have your piston stuck in the caliper, there are chances that your vehicle has accumulated a lot of rust on its brakes. This leads to brake failures as the piston is stuck to calipers.

You can easily free a seized caliper piston using specialized tools. Yet, you can use a regular C-clamp to free a seized caliper piston. Also, a can of compressed air may help to solve this issue. 

Can a caliper Unseize itself?

Occasionally, a caliper may dislodge itself. If you are a lucky motorist, by pumping your vehicle’s pedal vigorously, the piston may dislodge itself. This will ensure that the brake pads are separated from the rotor. Despite all this being possible, the damage is already there. You should seek other ways to save your calipers.

Your vehicle braking system is a very fundamental part of your vehicle. Regular braking system maintenance will help you avoid future grief

Leave a Comment