Nothing lasts forever—except for maybe American Idol, which just won't seem to die—and this is especially true in racing. But proper care and feeding of your race car's brakes can help them last longer and perform better. Thus, helping you stretch your racing budget and improve your performance on the racetrack.
Most racers regularly work on their braking system, including bleeding and/or flushing the brake fluid, inspecting the rotors for cracks or warping, and deglazing or simply replacing brake pads. But one area that shouldn't be overlooked is the calipers themselves.
Most brake calipers, especially performance-oriented units from reputable manufacturers, are deceptively simple pieces of technology. Essentially, they are a cavity capable of transmitting the pressure of the brake fluid to pistons that squeeze the brake pads against the rotors. And as such, there really isn't a lot that can go wrong with a caliper as long as it's well-built to begin with.
However, rebuilding your calipers before the start of a new racing season is definitely a good idea, especially if you race on dirt. There's a lot of grit, sand, oil dry, and all types of stuff blown around underneath a race car and if it accumulates between the piston and seal it can cause fluid leaks, sticking calipers—which will overheat the brakes and harm acceleration—and premature brake failure.
Rebuilding your calipers is a relatively easy job that can be done by practically anyone with simple handtools. We would recommend having a set of new piston seals on hand but they may not be needed. Following are a few tips for rebuilding your calipers for maximum performance season after season and long brake life. The Dirt Late Model team we worked with uses Wilwood brakes, but the same concepts will work with any brand. You may also notice that the Wilwood Dynalite calipers in the photos are a few seasons old and show signs of use, but simply a testament to the value of using quality products and taking care of them.