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.