Ask the Editors: Floating Brake Caliper Questions- No Need To Bother NASA
July 1st, 2012 by Jason Giacchino
What exactly is a floating brake caliper and do all ATVs use them?
Floating brake calipers can be a bit of a deceptive label considering they are every bit as subject to the laws of gravity as the rest of us. It is their more common label, the sliding caliper, that does a better job at describing how it works.
Floating calipers have their piston located on the inner brake pad only. The actual body of the caliper is then pulled by the outer brake pad to ensure that pressure is being applied to both sides of the rotor. So why call it “floating” you wonder? Simple- the caliper is not locked into a fixed position, but rather slides along pins whenever you apply your brakes.
Of course the opposite of this is, as logic dictates, a fixed caliper (or sometimes called a dual piston/ multi piston caliper). Unlike the floating caliper, the fixed caliper does not move when applied but instead relies upon pistons on both side of the rotor to put the squeeze on.
Multi piston calipers are typically found on supersport motorcycles and exotic automobiles where scrubbing off excessive speed in a hurry is commonplace. The downside to the fixed caliper, aside from slight weight increases, is cost. They are typically much more expensive than a comparable floating option. While typically considered the more effective of the two at reducing speed, they have a tendency to be susceptible to the buildup of dirt/ corrosion that can lead to sticking over time.
Many stock ATVs make use of floating calipers for the reasons stated though some machines (Can-Am Outlander 1000 for example) do indeed spec twin piston calipers right at the OEM level. Additionally some clever searching reveals that there are aftermarket companies that produce multiple piston calipers for most off-road applications for riders seeking additional stopping power.