How To Select A Brake Repair Shop

Brake Repair Tips

Long before I started Brake Centers I worked at new car dealerships, I was hired straight out of technical school. Mechanic’s working at new car dealerships are paid on a funny system called “flat rate”. Flat rate is where you get paid based on the predetermined time a repair should take. Most of the time the mechanic gets cheated because the time allocated to do a repair is based on perfect conditions. It is a bit of a joke because in reality there are many other factors that are involved in a repair.

Here is an example: A customer drops off his new car with a headlight out. The headlight replacement pays .2 or two tenths of an hour to replace. You go up to the dispatcher as the mechanic and he hands you the repair order, L.F. headlight inop. You punch in with the repair order and the clock starts, you head out to the parking lot and look for the car amongst dozen’s of the same model car. If it is winter in the North East you wipe the snow off the car, take down the mileage and drive it into your stall. The lights are checked and it is confirmed that the LF bulb is burnt out. The wiring and bulb is inspected to determine why the light is out. You’re lucky, it looks like the bulb simply burned out.

You remove the bulb and head over to the parts department with the bulb. As usual there is a back up at the parts counter, you wait for other technicians to get there parts. You get up to the counter with your fingers crossed, please have the right bulb, please have the right bulb, because you know that if they don’t have the bulb it will have to be ordered and the customer will have to come back and you will have to go through this whole process again for naught. But today is your lucky day, the bulb is in stock, you go skipping back to the car, install the bulb, close the hood, park the car, come back in and punch out on the time clock. You just spent an hour and ten minutes and got paid two tenths of an hour for your efforts.

But all is not lost because of CPL. What is CPL? Dealer mechanic gold, Customer Paid Labor, a non warranty repair that the customer will pay for, the “gravy work”. And in this category is brake repairs. If you want to see a dog fight at your dealership go into the shop after you drop off your car for a brake job. The mechanic’s are like piranha tiring to get that repair order. And if you were the one that just spent over an hour replacing a bulb for near nothing you feel that that job should be all yours, but of course the dispatcher will give it to who he feels should get it. I was always nice to the dispatcher.

You get the brake job, yahooo. It pays one hour to replace each set of pads and an hour for machining each rotor. That’s 6 count them six hours pay. And the technician knows that he can blow this job out of the shop in two hours. Not not proud of this but in order to make a living at the dealership the mechanic must produce hours as fast as he can. I went on to be the service director at a couple of very busy dealerships and over the years the mechanic’s continued to rush out CPL brake repairs, that is one thing that never changed.

This brings us to why the dealer is the worst place for brakes. The technician almost never will take the time to measure rotors, check wheel cylinders or hoses or anything else because that means less pay. It pays four hours to service the rotors and usually two tenths of an hour to replace it. And replacing it may complicate the job at the parts counter. I have seen many of dealer mechanic’s make believe that they don’t see a wheel cylinder leaking because they want that six hours for the simple brake replacement. This is why most dealers only warranty their brake work for 3 months or 4,000 miles.

Here are five good reasons not to0 visit your new car dealer for basic brake repairs.

  1. inconvenient – You have to make an appointment in advance which can cause your brake pads to destroy a brake rotor because you waited too long.
  2. Time – You have to find a ride to the dealer, drop the car off for the day and then get a ride back.
  3. Quality – A proper inspection may not be performed which may result in an inproper repair, the technician may also rush the job.
  4. Cost – Dealer brake repairs can cost twice as much as an after-market repair.
  5. Warranty – Brake repairs at new car dealers are seldom over 3 months or 4,000 miles.

Over the years I have seen some pretty bad work coming out of new car dealer garages along with many angry customers. My suggestion is simple – When it comes to brakes, stay away from the new car dealer. Quite the opposite from the way we work as brake professionals.


Replacing Your Rotors and Brakes

So, you’re hearing a rubbing or grinding noise in your brakes? You know what that means, even if you are not accustomed to fixing your own car: it’s time to change the brake pads.

You could rely on repair shop for the fix. Replacing the brake pads will cost you around $150 (more or less, depending on your car). Not bad, but not ideal. It gets worse when the mechanic adds that dreaded word “rotors.” That could run you a couple hundred more dollars.

The good news – you can make these repairs yourself, even if you’re a novice at automobile maintenance. All you need are the right tools and a little instruction.

Here is how I recently completed this repair:

1. Have the right tools.
To change your brakes, you’ll need:

  • a lug wrench to remove the tires
  • a bottle jack or floor jack
  • jack stands
  • an allen wrench for the caliper bolts (car dependent)
  • a torque wrench
  • a c-clamp to compress the caliper pistons
  • a block of wood to place over the caliper boot during compression
  • wire to support the caliper assembly during brake pad and rotor replacement

2. Before lifting your car with a jack, chock all wheels that will not be worked on.
Before you start, make sure your car is parked on flat ground with the parking/emergency brake engaged. Next, chock all of the wheels you aren’t working on. You can go out and purchase wheel chocks from your local auto parts store, but a wedge of wood or other sturdy material from the garage can also work. Once the wheels are chocked, lift the vehicle with a floor jack high enough to release a major portion of weight from the tire assembly.

3. Loosen the lug nuts with a tire iron, and support the axle with a jack stand.
Use your lug wrench to loosen the lug nuts. Once they’re loose, lift the vehicle until the tire is clear off the floor. At this point, it’s also a good idea to support the axle with a jack stand as an extra safety precaution.

4. Once you feel the car is not going to move, remove the tire, then loosen the caliper slide pins/bolts.
If the brake you’re changing is on the front of the car, it’s helpful to turn the steering wheel so the caliper is facing away from the car. This will give you easier access to the caliper bolts. Loosen the top and bottom bolts that are holding the caliper to the knuckle, making sure to not back them all the way out just yet. If you’re not sure which part of the assembly is the caliper, this video should help: 

5. Secure the caliper assembly, and then completely remove the bolts.
Before you completely back out the caliper bolts, be sure to support the caliper assembly with wire, rope, or something similar so the caliper doesn’t fall. If it does, you risk damaging the brake line. Once you completely back out the bolts and remove the caliper from the axel assembly, hang the caliper in the wheel well anywhere you can.

6. Pull the rotor toward you to release it from the axle assembly.
Now that the caliper is out of the way, you can remove the rotor. This is the first step that may be a challenge. If it won’t move, a torch might be required to heat the rotor, causing it to expand and break free from any rust or corrosion.

To prevent this from happening again, I used LOCTITE® LB 8070™ Heavy Duty Anti-Seize Stick on the rotor backing plate. The black anti-seize blended in well, so it may be hard to make out in the photo. I worked the material between all the studs and hub to alleviate rusting. This will make it much easier to remove the rotor next time around.

7. Slide the new rotor over the studs.
Once you slide the new rotor on, it’s a good idea to screw one of your lug nuts back on by hand to hold the rotor in place.

8. Reinstall the caliper bracket and torque bolts to specification per your manual.
Before you torque your bolts to specification, you should use apply some Loctite® 243™ Blue Threadlocker to each one. Wheels are exposed to a lot of vibration, so the threadlocker ensures that those bolts won’t back out on you.

9. Remove old pads and install the new caliper clips with a coating of grease or anti-seize.
You can now remove the old brake pads and brake pad clips from the front of the caliper. The brake pad clips are located at the highest and lowest points where the rotor comes into contact with the caliper. They should come out with the help of a flat head screw driver or something similar. Before reinstalling the new caliper clips, you should coat the section that comes into contact with the pads with some brake grease or anti-seize.

10. Check to see if you need to compress the caliper piston.
You may find that the caliper piston needs to be compressed to accommodate the new, thicker pads. To do this, first relieve pressure in the brake cylinder reservoir by removing the cover. This will help accommodate the rising level of the fluid from the compressing of the caliper piston. Brake fluid can be harmful to components and paint, so be ready to clean it up immediately if there is any overflow. This generally isn’t an issue, but it’s good to be prepared. If you do lose some brake fluid, you should add additional fluid to the full level indicator, but not before all pistons have been compressed.

To begin compressing, place a block of wood over the caliper piston and tighten your c-clamp to push it in. Compress the caliper piston until the new pads will fit into place.

11. Install the new brake pads.
Just as with the caliper clips, you should coat the back of the brake pads with grease or anti-seize, making sure not to get any on the front of the pads. This will prevent rust and keep them looking great. You should then install a new pad on each side of the rotor.

Once this is completed, you can close the caliper and tighten the final caliper bolts to specification.

12. Reinstall the tire and torque all lug nuts to specification.
Now that the brakes are replaced, you can reinstall the tire to complete the fix.

13. Remove the jack stand, lower the car and repeat the process for the other side of the vehicle.
It’s important to remember that you always need to replace both the driver’s side and passenger side brakes at the same time. You may not need to replace both the front and the rear brakes at the same time, though.

Regular maintenance and replacement of brake pads is a very important safety measure. Depending on where you drive (city driving tends to wear pads out quicker), brake pads usually last between 30,000 – 35,000 miles. With this particular repair, it’s not a matter of “if” but “when.” Luckily, you can avoid a long day at the mechanic’s shop and a sizable repair bill by doing it yourself.

Time To Change The Brakes On Your Car

When it comes to safety in the car, the brake system is your best friend. It is important to know the signs of failing brakes so that you can have them repaired immediately in order to keep you and your passengers safe. Effective braking could be the difference between a serious accident and driving away without a scratch. Here are 5 common signs that your vehicle needs brake repair.

Brakes squeal when applied

Your brakes are designed to squeal or screech to let you know that the pads are getting low. This involves a small mechanism that creates the shrill noise, which stops when the brakes are applied. This is often the first sign of brake failure Be sure to get your car to a local car repair shop right away to get the problem fixed before it turns into a larger issue.

Car vibrates when the brakes are applied

If you start to feel shaking, vibrating or other odd motions abnormal for the car when you apply the brakes there is a decent chance you have warped rotors, which is the part of the wheel where the brake pads grab to slow your vehicle. Warped rotors will greatly reduce the effectiveness of the brake system.

Howling or grinding noise when braking

When you apply the brakes and howling or grinding noise happens it is likely because you have no, or very little, brake pads left causing metal to grind on metal. If this is the case you will likely need to replace your rotors or drums along with the pads in order to restore the braking power of the system to its factory condition.

Brake pedal is soft

If a brake pedal has lots of “give,” meaning when you push on it it takes more distance to push it for you to feel a response then when your brakes are new, it’s probable that your car’s brake pads are worn down. However it could also be a more serious issue with the brake system, such as low brake fluid or air in the brake lines.

Car pulls to one side when braking

If you hit the brakes and your car swerves to one side of the road or the other it likely means there is something wrong with the brake system. Usual culprits include a collapsed brake hose, uneven wear on the brake pads or impurities in the brake fluid. It is important to get the car to a mechanic right away to diagnose the cause and have it repaired.