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Seized Caliper & Damaged Master Cylinder


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Hi guys

After spending a whole weekend refurbishing the front brake system of my A series (taken out, wirebrushed and cleaned with copious amounts of chemicals) including a change of wheel bearings I took her out to test what I'd done. within 10 minutes the car was undrivable and had to be towed home by the recovery man. to add insult to injury the guy left the handbrake on all the way home roasting the back brakes as well.

I was told that the master cylinder is damaged (seals) and that my caliper pistons are stuck solid. the brake pedal now is too hard to press. I think by mistake I tried to force the pistons back to put the pads back but I forgot to remove the cap off the master cylinder... also the safety thingies that hold the pads in place snapped now so I also lost a couple brake pins.. the guy also told me that I'd need to drain the system, and poke around inside the master cylinder to pop the seals back in place or get a new MC. it also appears that I'll be needing either to strip and refurb the calipers or get recon ones... where can I get such things for my A series? are there any parts suppliers or do I just have to wait until they turn up on ebay?

it makes me wonder sometimes why bother.. the trouble is i'm on a budget and I fear i'll get scalped if I leave this job to a garage..

any advice on how to repair the MC.. and on who supplies the parts that I need? should I just leave this to the professionals?

just frustrated


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if the master cylinder seals have gone then you would be able to press the brake pedal all the way to the floor and feel little or no resistance!

therefore if you mean its going hard to the floor then i concurr the seals are goosed!


i suspect what you may have done is :-

when you pushed the caliper pistons back into the calipers the leading edge of the piston may have been dirty or corroded, this is now causing the piston to cease in the caliper, or one other posssibility is that the pads are jammed and the pistons cannot slide them so appear jammed.

if the pedal is not traveling to the floor then start by stripping the calipers down again.

if it is the master cylinder then you may struggle to get the parts you need, find out what diameter master cylinder you have , i got a seal kit for a early cavalier and although it was not a direct replacement the seals where actually the same so i swopped them onto my original internals.

Edited by upk
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Big redd sell master cylinder seal kits if you need them. None appear for a manta, but if you look at the application list the kit for an old ford (cant remember which) is the same. Was about 20 quid I think.

Edited by Shug
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Bigg Red will also be able to recon your calippers £35 + vat each. Give them a ring, they are very helpfull.

Master cyl. for an A is normally 19mm ( big 19 on side), GTE has a 20mm or Mk 2 carlton 22mm. You could go up to a 20mm with no problem.

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hi and thanks for the answers and the offer for help. So could I upgrade for a 20mm GTE brake caliper and would that be a straightforward swap? I'm sorry if this has been asked before..

In order to press the brake pedal I need to exert considerable effort so does that mean that my Master Cylinder seals are actually ok? I'll have another go and take the calipers apart.. should I split them in half by removing the 4 bolts which hold each caliper together - or how else can I pop the brake cylinders out of the caliper?


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DO NOT SPLIT THEM IN HALVE!!!! (job for a specialist with all the seals etc to put them together again).

We really need to be sure its not the master cylinder first.

possibly the best bet is too disconnect the brake pipes from the calipers under the car and catch the fluid. then see if the brake pedal will go to the floor with little resistance whilst it ejects the fluid remaining in the pipes.......if it is hard too push then sounds like a seal has dislodged and is jamming the master cylinder piston.

if it works fine then you can ry to push out the pistons using compressed air, turning the pressure up gradually until they move ( you may need to rig up a connecting pipe to facilitate this.

I doubt very much you will have a simultaneous failure of both calipers and master cylinder at the same time. In fact simultaneous failure of both calipers at the same time is rare. that said you did not say what was happening that caused you to call for a tow home??

1. no brakes at all............maybe master cylinde is main culprit or air in system ( but peddle should travel to floor easy)!

2. pulling to one side when braking ............caliper siezed on the other side so not braking!

3. pulling to one side when not braking...........caliper siezed on , on that side!

4. front brakes locked on and not realeasing................maybe master cylinder jammed in braking position or both calipers stuck on!

if its the cylinder then let the fluid pressure go and the calipers should move back ok)

off course all of the above is based on the fact that the work you did was correct and you have not made a mistake on reassembly - sorry but we do all do that from time to time.

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If you need calipers like i did a company in Blackburn did a new set for me at £98 for the pair

Part number CA228 and CA228R

Blackburn brakes

1-4 Eden Street, Blackburn BB13AR

01254 53463

Worth a phone call for the master cylinder as well :thumbup

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Oh!! :o

Not neccessarily the end of the world in the hands of a competent fitter but i have to say i am a little concerned regards your skill level and the importance of effective brakes!!

you still have not said what actually happened to result in needing a tow??

i strongly suggest you get someone to look at this that knows what they are doing, i feel to continue advising on this matter without seeing for oneself the actual problem may not be the best solution.

post up to see if a club member lives local to you who is prepared to come and have a look and has a degree of experience to help sort this out.

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Pad kit is in the post Thomas. But please take heed of what UPK is telling you, because, and I say this without being offensive, I don't think you have enough experiance to attempt this problem on your own. Good luck and I hope you get it sorted soon,without splitting your wallet in half!!

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Do you have one of these;


An 4" one would be prefect and a tin of WD40? Take the master-cap off, slacking off the nipple (very slightly) then using the clamp, push the cylinder back in (tighen up nipple), press the brake pedel. Do this a few times; Work the cylinder 'in and out' afew times, that should get your brakes working again (watch you don't push the cylinder out). That's how I've sorted cease brakes on the newer style caliper and other vehicles, I suspect it would also work on the fixed caliper.

However, i suspect, this will only be a short term solution, you'll probably have to get new kits, and only if the brake cylinder [calipher/(s)] arn't badly corroded, if they are? you'll need to get rec/new ones :(

GT/E-1.8 type


A/B/Cavalier type


I would have to agree with Kev/Julian's posts. You probably just need someone to point you in the right direction :thumbup I'm for ever, asking for advice :)

Am in Dundee until tomorrow afternoon, however I don't have any tools with me nor do I want to get dirty B) BUT if your still not sure and you want me too have a quick look? pm me your address and i'll pop over, see if i can advice/help. Nah promise tho :lol:



[edit] ps the above advice is based on faulty front brakes. It is of no help in relation to master-cylinder.

Edited by keith1200
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To Upk: there was a noticeable lack in performance and the car started to pull (without braking) heavily to the left with some grinding noise. Upon inspection the left brake disc was very hot (but not scored) and one of the pad safety pins was missing and one of the brake pads was loose to the point of nearly popping out. Another problem I didn't mention was that I had also changed the wheel bearings and it seems that I had overtightened the one in the left side (the smaller one sitting to the front of the disc).

This was the second time I tackled brakes (first time was on a capri and was relatively straightforward) so I guess I've made a mess. :)

Julian thanks a lot again.

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ok. sounds more like the left caliper or siezed wheel bearing that is the culprit rather than then master cylinder from what you describe so its not the end of the world.

if i were you i would take keith up on his offer and get his opinion once hes seen it.

good luck with the repair.

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Thanks to everyone for their wisdom...

Julian the pad fitting kit arrived today, thanks!

I'm off on holiday tomorrow with my girlfriend so I'll tackle the job when I'm back.

To Keith: sorry mate, I was away with work all day today and got back late. Will you take a raincheck? will you be up Dundee way in the next 3 weeks?

Looks like I'll be needing new calipers anyway, so please if anyone does have a spare pair or comes across somebody with one please get in touch.


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  • 4 weeks later...

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