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Old 08-23-2005, 08:23 PM
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$280 for a front brake job - Is this reasonable?

Last week I took my 2001 Toyota Corolla to the dealership for an oil change and a free 27-point inspection (half of which they apparently didn't complete, but that's another story.) The mechanic said that I needed new front pads and rotors (est $530) and four new tires (est $340). I reluctantly made an appointment for service, since I have only 4 mm of pad left.

Luckily I happened to relate my tale of woe to a friend who does all his own brake work, and he told me the brake estimate was way too high, even for a dealership. So I asked my father to call the customer service manager, who offered to reduce the brake job to $280. This includes new front pads, resurfacing the rotors, and labor. The manager said that if I wanted them to replace the rotors, it would cost an additional $110 per rotor. So basically he's giving me $30 off the original estimate.

My questions are
1) Is $280 a fair price for a front brake job?

2) The mechanic said that the rotors have "rust rings" on them. How serious is this, and does it warrant replacing the rotor? I don't understand why the manager said they will resurface the rotors, after the mechanic said they need to be replaced. He hasn't even looked at my car.

3) Could I do this myself? I have already checked out the cost of the parts - approx. $52 for Toyota-recommended pads and $54 for rotors.

4) As a last resort, could I buy the parts and take them in for the dealer to put on? This would at least save me the cost of the dealer markup. My father said they may not allow this, but why? I'm still paying them for labor, so why should they care where I got the parts?
I really don't know much about cars, but that's going to change. I have already ordered a Haynes manual from the library, and I just checked out four textbooks on brake design. This is going to be a long week. Any advice from more experienced Dopers on how to proceed would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks.
Old 08-23-2005, 08:33 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Margeuerite
Last week I took my 2001 Toyota Corolla to the dealership for an oil change and a free 27-point inspection (half of which they apparently didn't complete, but that's another story.) The mechanic said that I needed new front pads and rotors (est $530) and four new tires (est $340). I reluctantly made an appointment for service, since I have only 4 mm of pad left.

Luckily I happened to relate my tale of woe to a friend who does all his own brake work, and he told me the brake estimate was way too high, even for a dealership. So I asked my father to call the customer service manager, who offered to reduce the brake job to $280. This includes new front pads, resurfacing the rotors, and labor. The manager said that if I wanted them to replace the rotors, it would cost an additional $110 per rotor. So basically he's giving me $30 off the original estimate.

My questions are
1) Is $280 a fair price for a front brake job?

2) The mechanic said that the rotors have "rust rings" on them. How serious is this, and does it warrant replacing the rotor? I don't understand why the manager said they will resurface the rotors, after the mechanic said they need to be replaced. He hasn't even looked at my car.

3) Could I do this myself? I have already checked out the cost of the parts - approx. $52 for Toyota-recommended pads and $54 for rotors.

4) As a last resort, could I buy the parts and take them in for the dealer to put on? This would at least save me the cost of the dealer markup. My father said they may not allow this, but why? I'm still paying them for labor, so why should they care where I got the parts?
I really don't know much about cars, but that's going to change. I have already ordered a Haynes manual from the library, and I just checked out four textbooks on brake design. This is going to be a long week. Any advice from more experienced Dopers on how to proceed would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks.
Well, the parts you priced come to 106$. Most shops on this part of this planet charge around $60 an hour for labor. If the flat rate manual time for a front brake job is around 2.5 hours that adds up to $256.

It is hard these days to have a garage wash your windshield for under $100. JUst the same I think I would shop around just based on the fuzzy stories you seem to be getting.
Old 08-23-2005, 08:35 PM
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IANAMechanic, but:

1. That sounds a bit high to me.

2. Without the guy seeing your rotors, how would know if they can't be turned (..to the dark side....sorry)? If they are too thin, then it'd be best to replace them.

3. You say you don't much about cars, but are you mechanically inclined? If so, you should be able to do this yourself. The Haynes manuals are usually pretty good. (I used one to replace the front bumper, A/C condenser, and radiator on my 1994 Escort and I'm Home Simpson with tools. It took a while, but I did it and probably saved $300-400).

4. The shop probably wouldn't take your parts and put them on if for no other reason than liability. He'd likely be pissed about that huge profit he'd be losing on the parts.
Old 08-23-2005, 08:48 PM
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Do you have any actual brake problems that the dealer didn't find?
Old 08-23-2005, 08:52 PM
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FWIW, my best friend (and fellow Doper) has sold auto parts for a long time, and he told me that places won't install parts you bring them because under those terms, the manufacturer doesn't honor its warranty.
Old 08-23-2005, 08:52 PM
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That doesn't sound too unreasonable to me, as long as they are willing to guarantee the job. Sure you could do it yourself for less, but why not let someone else breathe the asbestos?

Just make sure you ask for all the old parts. (you are legally entitled to them)

SP
Old 08-23-2005, 08:55 PM
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I just finished putting new brakes on my truck (and I'm waiting for my skinned knuckles to heal). I'll gladly pay $280.00 next time

(Seriously, 280 is maybe a smidge high, but not unreasonable imo)
Old 08-23-2005, 08:57 PM
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While I am not knowledgable enough about cars to know the answers to your questions, I can provide a data point which might at least answer the "is it reasonable" question.

I had the front brakes replaced on my 2000 Saturn replaced 2 months ago for $268. As far as I can tell from the invoice that's $95.40 for labor and $55.00 for PAD KIT-F and $59.00 a piece for Rotor-FRT (I needed two of those and one of the Pad Kit things). The invoice says that the front rotors were rusted and the pads were low. I think I was told it was down to about 25%- and I got the feeling that this was more age than milage related. (My car only has about 33,000 miles on it).

The brakes were not the only maintenance done on my car at that time, but were decidedly the most expensive and I had no idea I was going to need my front brakes replaced.
Old 08-23-2005, 08:59 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by surlyprince
That doesn't sound too unreasonable to me, as long as they are willing to guarantee the job. Sure you could do it yourself for less, but why not let someone else breathe the asbestos?

Just make sure you ask for all the old parts. (you are legally entitled to them)

SP
And what are you supposed to do with the old parts when they give them to you?

Not being snarky- being honestly baffled by why old car parts are desirable.
Old 08-23-2005, 09:02 PM
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I just checked the prices on Autozone's website and the premium high-end ceramic pads are $38.99 for the pair. You can get the rotors resurfaced at most auto parts stores for about $15 each. Total labor for even an inexperienced person is 1 to 1 1/2 hours, not including the wait for the rotors....you'll have to put the front end up on jackstands and take both rotors in at one time if you don't want to tie up your whole day.

If the rotors can't be resurfaced, they're $27.99 each at Autozone with a 2 year warranty.

The only drawback I can see is that they list a hub kit complete with wheel bearings. When you buy a rotor, it doesn't come with this hub kit. So if you have to replace the rotors, it'll involve having to separate the rotor from the hub which may be difficult or impossible without a special press.

Finally, I am not an ASE or otherwise certified mechanic and all of this is only my opinion, but unless you're a serious purist, there's not much reason to buy any parts from the dealership. The parts at the auto-parts chains are just as good and a lot cheaper (although I usually go for the premium parts at these places rather than the discount parts.)
Old 08-23-2005, 09:02 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Eureka
And what are you supposed to do with the old parts when they give them to you?

Not being snarky- being honestly baffled by why old car parts are desirable.
Proof that they actually changed them out?
Old 08-23-2005, 09:08 PM
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I just had the front brakes done on my minivan. I don't think $280 is unreasonable if they're replacing just about everything in there (hence, the reason for asking for the old parts.)

As for whether you can do it yourself... let me put it this way. You don't know what pure terror is until you step on the brakes and discover that an experienced mechanic didn't bleed the brake lines properly.
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Old 08-23-2005, 09:16 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by surlyprince
That doesn't sound too unreasonable to me, as long as they are willing to guarantee the job. Sure you could do it yourself for less, but why not let someone else breathe the asbestos?


I don't think asbestos is still used in brake linings. I could always be proven wrong.
Old 08-23-2005, 09:20 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Eureka
And what are you supposed to do with the old parts when they give them to you?

Not being snarky- being honestly baffled by why old car parts are desirable.
By asking for the old parts you are getting some measure of assurance that they have actually put new parts on the car. Of course, if you have a suspicious nature, you have no absolute assurance that the old pads you get back are from your car, or would even fit in your car. (And let's face it: many people couldn't tell the difference between brake pads and pistons.)

Alternately, after getting the car back, you can remove the wheels, examine the calipers and see if the pads have lots of liner on them.

Or you can trust your mechanic.
Old 08-23-2005, 09:21 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Margeuerite
Last week I took my 2001 Toyota Corolla to the dealership for an oil change and a free 27-point inspection (half of which they apparently didn't complete, but that's another story.) The mechanic said that I needed new front pads and rotors (est $530) and four new tires (est $340). I reluctantly made an appointment for service, since I have only 4 mm of pad left.
I used to be a service advisor in a Chevrolet dealership. The first question I would ask you is do your brakes squeel as you are driving down the street and if so, does the squeeling stop when you step on the brakes? Most front brake pads have sensors built into them that will rub on the brake rotor when they get worn down too thin. The resulting squeel is the signal that it is time to replace the pads.

If there is any question at all, it wouldn't hurt to get a second opinion. As for $280 being reasonable, there are a lot of variables involved, such as the shop labor rate, parts prices and which parts actually need replaced. As far as the rotors go, if it won't make them too thin by having them machined, then by all means do that rather than replacing them. Also, where brake pads are concerned, there are usually varying grades. The cheaper ones are not necessarily better. In all actuality, the $280 is probably a tad bit high, but not totally out of the question either.
Old 08-23-2005, 09:29 PM
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It'll be either super easy or super hard to do it yourself. If your rotors are floating -- they're just held on by the tire, essentially -- then no problem. If you have to pop the hub, then you may be in for more work than it's worth.

I used to do my own brake jobs all the time, but I've never needed a brake job for any of my last 4 cars, except for the current car and it was always done under warranty (yeah, "always done" twice in its short, 72,000 mile life). So... I've been out of practice since 1996 or so. And then, we had the Auto Crafts Centers on base that rented entire bays and lifts and sets of tools to us. So... maybe it's not easy...
Old 08-23-2005, 09:43 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kunilou
As for whether you can do it yourself... let me put it this way. You don't know what pure terror is until you step on the brakes and discover that an experienced mechanic didn't bleed the brake lines properly.
Well, of course, brakes are a critical part of the car and shouldn't be dealt with lightly. However, bleeding the lines is not necessarily required when changing pads and/or rotors. And on most cars, changing the pads is one of the easiest jobs to do, and considering the relatively low cost of the parts from aftermarket sources, if your time is worth less than the dealer's mechanics, doing it yourself can save quite a bit of money.
Old 08-23-2005, 10:07 PM
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1) Is $280 a fair price for a front brake job?

It depends on exactly what's being done, exactly what model car it's being done on, and what part of the country you're in.

I'm pretty sure (away from my books, so I can't check) that removing the rotors on that model does not require removing the hub. If that's correct, I would expect my price for the job, with premium grade (but not genuine Toyota) pads and rotor resurfacing would be in the 200 neighborhood. If hub removal is required, I expect it would be more like 400.

2) The mechanic said that the rotors have "rust rings" on them. How serious is this, and does it warrant replacing the rotor? I don't understand why the manager said they will resurface the rotors, after the mechanic said they need to be replaced. He hasn't even looked at my car.

Hard to be sure about the rust rings without seeing them myself, but usually that in itself does not warrant rotor replacement. I'd be more concerned about the rotor surface condition and thickness.

The manager either consulted with the mechanic and decided resurfacing would probably be sufficient, or threw you a bone to placate you. Still, either the mechanic was trying to sell something not needed, or the manager is talking out of his butt with no grasp of the pertinent details.

3) Could I do this myself? I have already checked out the cost of the parts - approx. $52 for Toyota-recommended pads and $54 for rotors.

If the hubs don't need to be removed, it's a job well within the scope of most do-it-yourselfers. However, since it sounds like you haven't done this sort of thing before, I would strongly recommend doing it under the supervision of someone who is experienced at it.

Doing brake repairs is generally considered easy. Doing it really right -- e.g., making sure the rotor-to-hub surfaces are clean so the rotors don't get cocked by a rust flake, indexing the rotors so they're reinstalled in the same position, opening the caliper bleeder on ABS systems so that piston resetting doesn't push debris into expensive ABS parts, lubricating the right places with the right grease -- is not so easy.

4) As a last resort, could I buy the parts and take them in for the dealer to put on? This would at least save me the cost of the dealer markup. My father said they may not allow this, but why? I'm still paying them for labor, so why should they care where I got the parts?

Because their pricing structure is based on the assumption that they will be getting some profit from parts. Because they take on some liability for the job as a whole, and often will be on the losing end legally for problems caused by those parts, whose quality and suitability they can't control.

I really don't know much about cars, but that's going to change. I have already ordered a Haynes manual from the library, and I just checked out four textbooks on brake design. This is going to be a long week. Any advice from more experienced Dopers on how to proceed would be greatly appreciated.

It's not out of the question that the rotors don't even need to be resurfaced, much less replaced. For an attempt at evaluating the rotors through cyberspace:
--Make available photos that clearly show the surface condition of the rotors, including the rust rings.
--Measure (and report) the rotor thicknesses with a micrometer.

Alternatively, just replace the rotors.

If the rotors are coming off for replacement or resurfacing, confirm that hub removal is not necessary.

If you're getting aftermarket pads, get premium grade.

Know (and report) whether or not the car has ABS.

More to come once above requested info is at hand.

Thanks.

Anytime.
Old 08-23-2005, 10:47 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Eureka
And what are you supposed to do with the old parts when they give them to you?

Not being snarky- being honestly baffled by why old car parts are desirable.
Depends on how much you trust the mechanic. Some less scrupulous mechanics have been known to suggest replacing parts that didn't really need replacing, and then after charging the car owner for the new parts, selling the old parts for a profit elsewhere.
Old 08-23-2005, 11:43 PM
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The dealer cost is going to be high. They rape you on both parts markup and labor. You gotta expect it, but I think there needs to be a bit more give and less take if one wants to maintain a decent dealer relationship (but that's for a different discussion, perhaps in the pit ;-(

You can buy the parts yourself, but your dealer will not put them in. Why? They will cite "liability concerns".

Which, to a point, is bullshit.

Here's what I do:

Buy the parts myself, and have my mechanic put them in.

I get better parts, and my mechanic makes money from labor.

My last brake job consisted of:

Set of front Performance slotted rotors: 160.00
Set of front Raybestos QS ceramic pads: 65.00
Labor to install Rotors and pads: 105.00 ("outside parts" cost)
Total: 330.00


The key here is that I get much better parts for the money. If I would have gone to the dealer, or even to Midas, I would have likely paid the same or likely more money for a set of pads that would dust up my chrome wheels badly. I could have turned the stock rotors for around 15$ per, but I wanted the performance rotors for better breaking in snow/rain conditions. (and befor anyone chimes in, yeah I know that slotted rotors are generally harder on pads.) This is stuff that you probably don't have to worry about, and can save considerable money in parts.

HTH,

_SweepK_
Old 08-24-2005, 06:14 AM
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Thank you to all of you who have explained the purpose of asking for your old car parts. I have decided that I would prefer to be naive and trusting rather than paranoid- especially given that had the dealer brought me the old parts I wouldn't have known whether they were the parts I was told needed replacing or if they were the right parts whether they were actually from my car. YMMV.
Old 08-24-2005, 07:37 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Eureka
Not being snarky- being honestly baffled by why old car parts are desirable.
One classic scam is for the shop to take out your (nearly new) brakes (that didn't need changing anyway) and replacing them with nearly new brakes from a previous customer. They then sell your brakes to the next schmo that turns up. They sell second hand goods at new prices and you get crappy brakes.

What do you do with the old ones? Toss 'em. In an enviro-friendly way, natch.
Old 08-24-2005, 07:40 AM
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As for that vintage Corolla:

I have replaced the pads and rotors on them using a Haynes manual for help. It really is quite easy. Besides the tire, there are only 2 bolts holding the calipers on that need to be removed. Using an Al wire to hang the calipers from the springs makes sure that no brake bleeding needs to be done, etc. Just follow the manual step-by-step.

Some tools of note:
Big C-clamp to press the piston in.
Metric socket set.
Torque bar. (Rec.)

A can of brake cleaner and a pan big enough to hold a rotor. Rubber gloves.
A small amount of high-temp auto lube.
Old 08-24-2005, 07:48 AM
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Hub is by trade a mechanic. Worked for US Navy and now City of Union City, CA. Just asked him if price was reasonable. He said rotors could not be turned if they are "out of round", and wasn't familiar with the term "rust rings". It's my experience (10 years mgr for Grand Auto) that a 4 y/o car shouldn't need rotors replaced unless you live in areas where the ground is regularly salted.

Based upon the prices you mentioned for individual parts, hub say $280 is a reasonable price, especially for a dealership.

Check out a Wheel Works to compare pricing.
Old 08-24-2005, 08:19 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Margeuerite
The mechanic said that the rotors have "rust rings" on them. How serious is this, and does it warrant replacing the rotor?
I find this a bit strange. Pretty much all rotors will show some rust in the area where the brake pads don't rub on them, and this will be in the form of a ring.

Rotor replacement is indicated when the rotor is worn and resurfacing ("turning" it on a lathe) will take it below its minimum allowed thickness. This has nothing to do with the "rust ring."
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