Car Doctor Q&A: What’s With These Brakes on my Malibu Hybrid?

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Our reader hits AAA Car Doctor John Paul with a question on the weird brake calipers on a Malibu Hybrid.

Q. I have a niece with a 2010 Chevrolet Malibu hybrid and it needs brakes. I replaced the front brake pads and rotors which were completely worn out. When I got to the rear brakes (which have a little life still) I took off the calipers and the piston wouldn’t move.

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At first I thought I needed calipers but the pistons look odd. I have done plenty of brakes but never have seen anything like this arrangement. Could the calipers be so complex because the car is a hybrid? I did some looking online and it appears as if the caliper pistons turn? Am I in over my head?

A. The brake calipers that are on your car and many others use a caliper design that incorporates the emergency brake.

When you apply the emergency brake the piston moves out slightly to hold the car from moving. In this style caliper the piston turns into the caliper bore to retract the piston to allow for the installation of the brake pads. This system is different but not complex.

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Replacing the brake pads is simple with the right tools. You need to use a special tool that holds the caliper and turns the caliper piston. You can purchase a brake pad tool set for $45-$60, but before you spend the money many auto parts stores now have programs where you can borrow tools. Essentially, you pay full retail price for the tool on a credit card, and the store fully refunds the purchase price when you return it.

There’s a good video on YouTube that explains the procedure:

When installing the brake pads you do need to line up the notches on the inner pad with the corresponding area on the caliper pistons. Take your time with the repair and you should be fine.