Calipers (Loaded, Semi-Loaded, Unloaded) | Ford Explorer Forums - Serious Explorations

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Calipers (Loaded, Semi-Loaded, Unloaded)


Well-Known Member
August 11, 2000
Reaction score
City, State
Greensboro, NC
Year, Model & Trim Level
1991 Ford Explorer Sport

It appears that my "heated wheels" problem is the calipers. I had the tire guy look at them today while I was getting the tires rotate. He says the pins and calipers were rusted and apparently getting stuck.

I went to to get some pricing on new calipers and they are listed as loaded, unloaded and semi-loaded. It appears that loaded would be caliper and brake pads...but whats the difference in the others, I can't tell (other than price).

I need to get the wheels off to assess how bad things are, perhaps I just need new pins. The brakes work fine, but after hard braking apparently they are holding on. The manual makes it sound pretty simple, just remove the calipers replace the parts, and put the pads back on. Can all this be done with everyday tools? Can anyone tell me what unloaded and semi-loaded means at carparts? Thanks!

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not sure but i think that it means that unloaded is just the caliper without the piston and seal, semi loaded it the caliper with the piston and seal installed, and loaded is with pads as well. the calipers are fairly easy to replace and you need to replace the pins when you do this too. i dont think that its the pins though. why would something that move all the time rust together? its probably the pistons in the caliper. good luck

Don't buy calipers....Go get some new pins, clean the metal surface of the caliper and mounting point where the pins go, and apply a light coat of grease..Should fix you right up..You will need a pair of pliars, screwdriver, large c-clamp and some emery clothe.

Being a former parts "*****" (that means parts salesman to the common folk), I can explain the situation:

LOADED CALIPERS will include a rebuilt caliper, pads, nessecary hardware (such as pins, clips, shims, etc...) and the mounting bracket if applicable. In some cases, certain hardware will not be included. An example of this would be the Explorer's. They won't include the slide pins.

UNLOADED CALIPERS will be a rebuilt caliper only. No pads, no hardware, no nothimg---only the caliper.

SEMI-LOADED CALIPERS are a grey area. You may be getting the caliper and pads only, or any combination of nessecary parts.

I would avoid buying loaded and semi-loaded calipers on line. You just really aren't sure exactly what you are going to get. That is kinda up to the rebuilders to determine.Only buy unloaded calipers on line. If you want loaded then go to your local parts store.

The brakes are very sensitive on Explorers. Take your time and do a very thorough cleaning of all the components including filing down all the rust with an emory cloth. Use plenty og brake grease to keep everything sliding nice and free.


explorers have a major problem with the slide pins sticking...not because of rust but road debris........clean out the tracks and use a very light coating of synthetic grease.

Get new slide pins

Always use new glide pins no matter what. They are cheap insurance.

Good luck

OK, assuming the brake pads are fine and the calipers only have surface rust, can I get away with taking out the old pins and putting in some new ones with grease?

They wanted to charge me $244 to redo the calipers, but I think the slide rails and other parts haven't been maintained in a while.

Also, are the pins the same as the caliper slide rails...or is that a different part? My F-150 regularly has the caliper slide rails greased on my truck maintenance schedule.

The cheapest and easiest fix would be to just try the new pins with the appropriate caliper slide pin lube. Don't use grease! There is a special lube made exclusively for the pins. It's cheap, I would use it. Be sure and clean the holes for the pins as best you can. I used a cotton swab soaked in brake parts cleaner on mine. I ran the swab in and out until it came out clean. Lubed the pins and reinstalled everything. My maintenance manual calls for lubing them every 7500 or 15K miles (I can't remember which).

Do I need to remove the whole caliper to replace the pins or can I replace them while the caliper is still attached to the rotor?

Also, are these called the caliper slide rails?

I'm assuming your 91 brakes are the same as my 93's, they are fairly easy to work on. jack it up, pull the tire off, use a hammer and long handled flat head screwdriver and drive the pins out, clean the slide rails with a wire brush, grease the pin and rail. and hammer them back in. There's not too many times you can work on your explorer with a hammer, this one of them. Read the " Explorer Tips" section on this site, they give good detail on doing it. a 1hour job. Good Luck

Thanks all! I will be attempting this in a few days.

I picked up my new glide pins. Just to check, when inserting the new ones you should not hammer the screwdriver on the rubber part in the middle...right?

I haven't started yet, but when I picked them up they were not what I expected.

I changed out the glide pins last weekend. This afternoon, after some heavy braking, the car is still pulling to the driver side.

I get back to work and I can smell something burning. I get out and the driverside wheel is hot. The passenger wheel is hot but not as bad as the driver's side.

What is up with this? Apparently the driver side is gripping after hard braking and not letting go.

caliper piston

Sounds like it was the caliper piston, not just the glide pins. I would get new calipers, or you could rebuild the existing. The calipers are fairly cheap once you figure the cost of a piston rebuild kit, and the added time to do the work, so I got the calipers when I did mine. I think they cost 40.00 a side or so from NAPA a year ago. Make sure the caliper mounting bracket is smooth and clean where the pins ride.

If its been getting hot you should pull the rotor and check the bearings and repack. Check the rotor run out also, and look for heat cracks if its been getting really hot.

Good luck.


Do you remember if you got loaded, semi-loaded or unloaded? I'm thinking of getting loaded and just replacing everything at this point, but not sure of the cost.

Where is 'rotor bearings' or do you mean the wheel bearings?

Yeah, I meant wheel bearings.

I got loaded calipers which included premium metallic pads, I looked at the invoice I have for them and they were 60.00 each from NAPA. Remember -Left and right are different. Now I dont know if they had the hardware kit with them or not. I would assume they did since my invoice shows the calipers only and no other front brake parts. I am pretty **** about replacing the slide pins so I would assume they were in the box and I didnt need to purchase them. I would call your supplier though to make sure.

Good luck