How do you know when your car repair costs are fair? There’s an old sales joke: How do you know when a salesman is lying? Answer: His lips are moving!
Similarly, when a mechanic is chatting about your car trouble, he’s often embellishing. The reasons for this requires a separate eBook, but incompetence, profit motives, and ignorance are the top three, and will provide the necessary backdrop for our discussion here. The following real-life example and the subsequent tips will help you recognize the danger signals during your next auto repair.
The repair customer in our example came to us with a common automotive complaint – squeaking brakes. You may have asked similar questions as him: Should my brakes be squeaking? Does it mean that I need brakes? Do they just need to break-in? The responses to these simple questions can get quite elaborate from the plethora of amateur mechanics in the field.
The original customer comments below have been edited here for grammar and context.
My front brake pads were replaced recently, but the new ones only lasted a week before squeaking horribly at every stop. I returned to my repair shop and they said that I must have got a bad set of brake pads.
They installed a second set of brake pads, but apparently forgot to resurface or replace the rotors so the new brake pads went bad again, as this time I felt excessive vibrations in the steering when the brakes were applied at highway speeds.
They put on a third set of brake pads and installed new disc brake rotors. However, the third set was squeaking intermittently for over two months. When I returned again (the fourth time), they said it was just a rough spot that had to wear through. It didn’t.
Next, they proceeded to put on a different type of pad, stating that the last set “did not hold up.” It “seems” okay now.
The fact that this particular auto repair shop installed different types of brake pads suggests several things.
- The repair shop likely installed cheap aftermarket brake parts originally.
- They installed the wrong parts.
- They installed the wrong brake pads from a “material/OEM” standpoint.
- The brake replacement procedure was done incorrectly.
- They failed to recognize another brake component contributing to the squeak – a sticking caliper perhaps.
- They didn’t service the calipers properly during service – a very common error.
- Potentially all of the above at some point during the five attempts to fix a simple brake squeak on a car that “never” had squeaking brakes prior to this particular shop’s “Expert Brake Service.”
Brake pads do not cause vibrations. The condition the customer was describing is technically called “pulsating,” and is caused by the disc brake rotors being out-of-round. This is what was causing the “vibration.” The brake rotors were not replaced the first time – they should have been. Putting new brake pads on old, warped brake rotors are what caused the customer to notice the car’s vibrating steering wheel during high-speed braking.
Finally, the statement that the brakes had a “rough spot” and needed to wear through is a classic load of crap!
Auto Repair Help – Tips:
- Vague terminology like a “bad set of brake pads” is a signal that you’re dealing with an amateur
- Forgetting to do a certain procedure (i.e., installing new disc brake rotors) on a critical safety system such as brakes is a strong signal to run like hell
- Rough spots that your vehicle’s brake system needs to “wear through” are a mechanics way of telling you to go away in the hope that the real issue with your car will miraculously go away too
- If your shop is installing parts that just don’t “hold up” on a “brake system” take this as a clear signal that they may not have your best interest at hand