Brakes: Part 8 (Comparing brake offers)

Now comes the shady part of brake services. As I mentioned in the intro, brakes have become a commodity – everyone does them. Every Val-Pack or Advo that comes to my house has coupons in it for brake services. They are advertised everywhere and it is always deceptive. Call a few auto repair shops and ask about brake prices and you will never get an apples to apples comparison. Most people don’t even know how to compare or what questions to ask. Many shops, knowing that people are calling around to get the best deal, will never quote a price over the phone but encourage you to come in for the free brake inspection.

So, let me give you a few examples of brake specials and what you get for it. There is a national chain that advertises brakes for $89.99 Continue reading

Brakes: Part 7 (Completion)

So, now we’re done, right? Yeah, pretty much. It is important that your mechanic takes the vehicle on a final test drive. This makes sure the job was done right and that the problem has been solved. Now its your turn. When you drive the vehicle make sure you are happy with the job. If not, be sure to give your mechanic the benefit of the doubt and let him fix your problem. Mistakes happen, you know? As a shop owner, it makes me happy to be given the opportunity to fix my mistakes. We learn from them. If my clients never return when they have a problem, I will never know that I screwed up. How can I fix a problem no one ever tells me about?

A couple of things to think about. If Continue reading

Brakes: Part 6 (Bearings and seals)

Another set of components that are related to brakes but rarely talked about are bearings, hubs, and seals. If any of these parts needs to be replaced when doing your brakes it will add a considerable cost, so let’s discuss each of these.

A hub is the assembly that houses the wheel studs, so the rotor sits flush against it. Hubs really only need to be replaced for a couple of reasons. In the same way that a rotor can warp, a hub can as well, especially if the vehicle has been involved in an accident like hitting a curb. But, because warpage is possible, many manufacturers these days are recommending, if not requiring, that rotors be resurfaced on the vehicle with an “on-car lathe.” Instead of removing the rotor to resurface on a bench lathe, it is done on the vehicle with a different machine. If the hub is warped, the machine will automatically compensate for that when cutting the rotor to minimize or eliminate runout (remember that word?). Otherwise, a rotor cut on a bench lathe on which the warp has been cut out will be placed back on a warped hub, thus not solving the problem. Another reason a hub may need to be replaced is Continue reading

Brakes: Part 5 (Quality brake parts)

What brands can be trusted? There are many manufacturers that make great products, and finding them is sometimes hit or miss. When I first purchased my shop, the previous owners were using AutoZone’s Duralast Gold product because it costs about half as much as other products. Although it is sold as a ceramic pad, it is only a partial ceramic, semi-metallic pad. About 30% of our clients were coming back to complain about brake noise. To solve the problem, the owners were applying a product called ‘Stop Squeal‘ to the back of the brake pad. The gel, or paste, absorbs vibration and sound and would temporarily eliminate the noise. However, it was a temporary fix until the paste washed off and the noise began again. Don’t let your mechanic use this stuff. Continue reading

Brakes: Part 4 (The “brake job”)

Once you’ve read the previous Parts posts, there is not actually much to say about the service itself. So, let’s focus on some basic procedures and parts quality.

Once you say ‘go’ our technician will start the brake job. The first thing that will be done is to push back the caliper piston with either a small screw press or even a stout screw driver or pry bar. This loosens the pads and allows them to be removed. On drum brakes, the springs and clips are disassembled to remove the shoes. My personal opinion is that hose clamps should be used on all brake jobs, although many mechanics dispute this procedure’s effectiveness. Continue reading

Brakes: Part 3 (Hydraulic inspection)

So, hopefully, your technician has taken the time to thoroughly inspect the components in Part 2 and has taken all appropriate measurements. Next, on the visual inspection tour, is hydraulics. There are several hydraulic components that make up your brake system. If you were to follow a flow-chart from your foot to the wheels it would look like this: the brake pedal pushes on the brake booster, the booster on the master cylinder, and master to the calipers and wheel cylinders at the wheels. So, lets start from the top and I’ll give you a general rundown of each component that our repair shop looks at. Continue reading

Brakes: Part 2 (Brake inspection)

Ok, so here is all of the technical, yet important stuff you will need to know so that you will never get ripped off on a brake job again.

Once the test drive has been performed the technician will lift the vehicle and remove the wheels. A good technician will always be attentive to any clues that may help him solve the problem. On front brakes (which are all disc and pad type, except for old cars) the rotors (discs), pads (the friction material), and the caliper (the hydraulic piston assembly that pushes the pads) are all clearly visible. On rear brakes (many of which are drum and shoe type) the drum will be removed to view the shoes and brake hardware. These drums are normally on fairly tight, so don’t be surprised to see a hammer taken to it to loosen it.

Now, let me walk you through what we are looking for when we look at brakes. Continue reading