With the constant threat of getting taken for a ride, any car repair can quickly become a stressful, hair-pulling affair, and brake repairs are among the most scam-prone tasks in the automotive industry. But even legitimate brake repairs are often more expensive than they need to be due to the driver’s neglect.
Given the critical importance of your braking system to the overall safety of driving your vehicle—Toyota drives this point home for all of us—you can’t take any chances by letting needed brake repairs go unaddressed for any length of time. Whether you think you need immediate service for your vehicle’s braking system or you’re trying to avoid higher costs down the road, here’s what you need to know to stop paying too much for brake service.
Brake Service Prevention
The best to reduce the cost of brake service is to avoid the need for service altogether. For most people, it’s no surprise that how you drive your vehicle will have a considerable influence on its future repair needs and maintenance schedule. As tempting as it is for some drivers, you need to refrain from riding your brakes.
Beyond angering the driver behind, which is itself a safety hazard, even when you’re only lightly riding the brakes, a tremendous of friction and heat is created and starts to build up even over a short amount of time. It’s better to cover the brake and use the pedal more forcefully when you need it. On a less important note, you should also downshift when coming down a steep hill, assuming the road is dry and allows for easy traction.
Common Brake Service Scams
By far, the most common brake scam involves a mechanic insisting that you need to replace more expensive brake rotors when only the brake pads need to be replaced. What’s so frustrating about this scam is that the rotors can become damaged, and unless you know your stuff, you probably won’t have the confidence to stand up to the mechanic. To make matters worse, some rotors aren’t made to the same quality as they used to be, frequently leading to more expensive repairs.
On the other hand, brake pads have better, as many new pads now use a material with greater resistance to wear. Unfortunately, this harder material is more susceptible to squeaking and whining even when it’s still performing adequately. Possibly, the dust has gotten into the brake assembly and needs only to be sprayed with a brake cleaner. This naturally opens the door for a new type of scam in which a mechanic merely cleans the brake pads and claims to have replaced them.
There are several things you can do to avoid these scams, as well as making sure you get a good price for your brake repairs. It’s never a bad idea to learn about your vehicle and its braking system, picking up some of the lingoes, and understanding the basic difference between brake pads and rotors. Obviously, the most reliable way is to make sure you take your vehicle to an honest mechanic, or since you can rarely be 100% sure a new mechanic can be trusted, take the vehicle to more than one place.
But few people have the spare time to commit to these solutions. More realistically, besides doing your best to find an honest mechanic, the single most important thing you can do is to take your car in for service as soon as you notice any sounds or other signs of trouble. Alternately, you may just want to have your brake pads looked at once every six months to guarantee you catch problems before they manifest into more costly repairs.
Brake Service Costs
Needless to say, brake service costs can range all over, but for the most part, minor brake work (replacing the pads, resurfacing rotors) will run somewhere in the neighborhood of $100-$250. More significant brake work (replacing the rotors) might cost anywhere from $250-$500, depending on the car and the quality of the brake assembly. For major brake work on a new and/or high-performance vehicle, repair costs can approach $1,000.
Find Local, Reliable Brake Service or Auto Repair Shop
Along with word-of-mouth, the most reliable way to find an auto repair shop to work on your brake system is with an online referral service, like Kelley Blue Book. But like anything else, not all online referrals are created equal. Every professional in Kelley Blue Book database is put through a rigorous screening process that includes a background check, basic industry certifications, and positive customer feedback.
It takes only a minute of your time to submit an online request. Ideally, there will be several viable auto repair shops in your area, allowing you to comparison shop from the comfort of your own home, rather than making multiple, time-consuming trips in a vehicle experiencing brake problems.