'05 Corolla Disc Brake Maintenance

Brake maintenance question. I have an '05 Toyota Corolla in Seattle. My shop performed the following maintenance: “machine disc rotors” ($90), and “clean, lube and bevel disc brake system” ($45). Now, 1 year and only 8,000 miles later they want to sell me new rotors, “rebuild calipers,” and “front disc brake caliper overhaul package.” Does this seem suspicious? Also, they want to flush my brake fluid at 2 years/15,000 miles.

Thanks for any input. Matt.

Yes, IMHO this all seems suspicious.

  • New rotors would have been about the same price and much better. They’ll be less prone to warpage.
  • I don’t see and new pads in the list. Was that an omission in copying the shop order comments?
  • "Bevel"ing the “system” (I have to assume they meant the pads) is unnecessary… perhaps even unnatural.
  • what’s the difference between a “rebuild calipers” and a “front disc caliper overhaul package”?
  • I’ve never known a shop that does front-line repairs to rebuild calipers on-site. They just replace the calipers.
  • brake fluid should be periodically flushed… but normally not at two years and 15K miles. I do mine every 5 years.

These write-ups and recommendations are suspicious. Are they out of context? Is there missing information? Why was the car in the shop to begin with? What kind of problems are you having?

Is there a problem with the brakes that caused you to return a year and 8k miles later?
If so, what are the symptoms?

Some of it sounds a bit iffy; especially the 2 years/15k miles brake fluid exchange if you mean it was done such a short time ago.

I take my car to Affordable Tire & Brake for oil changes and used to really trust the service recommendations they’d come back with. The last few years, though, there has been a lot of turnover with the staff and I really just don’t get a good vibe.

So I’m looking at two receipts.
The fist, from 8/14, lists “machine disc rotors,” and "clean, lube and bevel disc brake system."
And now from 8/15 under parts: “disc brake hardware kit,” “disc brake pad shims,” “front brake rotors.” And also “shop supplies” for $14.70. Under labor: “rebuild disc brake calipers” ($180), and, as a separate item “front disc brake caliper overhaul package: replace disc brake pads, resurface rotors, bebuild or replace disc brake calipers, lubricate caliper sliders, rapack wheel bearings (if applicable), road test vehicle” ($159).
Also, $45 for “clean, lube and adjust rear brakes,” 2 years/15k miles after paying $159 for “rear drum brake package,” which included “install brake shoes,” “machine brake drums.” Is that just routine maintenance after 2 years?

Is it possible that the work they did on the brakes this time, shady or not, required flushing the system?

I guess I am kind of willing to believe them that I needed new brakes this time around, but why bother with the work they did last year instead of just cutting to the chase? And does all of that labor add up?

Also suspicious is that they spell maintenance, “MATINENCE.”

Is “Affordable Tire & Brake” a chain of shops?
Avoid chains. Find a good independent shop with the “Mechanics Files” button above or yelp.com etc.

On 8/15 they’ve charged for both front rotor replacement and resurface rotors. Redundant.
Looks like they also charged you twice for "“rebuild disc brake calipers”.

CircuitSmith, they used to have a few shops around Seattle. Maybe franchises? But I completely trusted the service manager. But he’s gone and there have been a lot of changes and the general good vibe is gone. I think they were bought by Tire Factory? I guess I need to stay on top of that stuff more.

I think you need to find a new shop. Ask friends, co-workers, relatives, fellow church-goers who they use, then tell the shop who it was that recommended them to you. Independent shops are almost always a better choice than chains, especially true in urban areas. You dealership shop should be able to do this kind work for you too, but dealership shops tend to charge a little more for the same job, and in an attempt to boost corporate profits tend to upsell services that aren’t needed or can be deferred. But as a last resort you could use a dealership shop and likely get a good job, but just steel yourself to say “no” if they start their upselling routine.

That said, it possible everything here is on the up and up. You car has disc brakes front and rear, so they may be referring to different wheels the second time, which would be completely different parts than the first time.

How frequently a car needs brake work depends a lot on how it is driven, whether it is an automatic or manual, and the road conditions, steep hills are harder on brakes than flat ground. So it is hard to say if there is anything unusual with the frequency of service you seem to be needing. One thing is certain, the Corolla brake system is a top notch design, and fairly easy to service, so there’s nothing wrong with the car itself.

What’s a little unusual is that prior repairs include machining rotors, beveling, rebuilding calipers, caliper overhauls, etc. For the Corolla as is the case w/most econo-boxes it is usually more economical and reliable to simply replace worn rotors with new ones, and replace defective calipers with new ones. You can look up the parts cost of these parts on a website like rockauto’s web site if you like, autozone’s website, etc, I think you’ll find these parts are not particularly expensive for an 05 Corolla.

Thanks everyone. I feel like the brake job they did this time around was probably legitimate, though over-priced. They probably screwed up a year ago wanting to machine the rotors and bevel the pads instead of just replacing them. I think the fluid flush was probably necessitated by the brake overhaul? So I feel a little better about it, but I’m definitely moving on to a new mechanic. If I feel uneasy enough to go online and to other shops to ask if they think I’ve been getting screwed, then it’s time to find a new shop.

Those prices are quite reasonable, $159 for a front brake job and $180 to rebuild the front brake calipers. You didn’t tell us why you needed these repairs. Perhaps you had a brake problem last year ($90 will not get you two new rotors installed, only resurfaced) and your brake pads were down to the minimum thickness this year.

Services such as to clean and lubricate the rear brake shoes is at your discretion, if this has been done recently say so and decline the service.

Nevada, I wasn’t experiencing any problems. I just brought it in for an oil change and they called me wanting to do a brake job. But then I started thinking about the other services they’ve sold me in the last two years and got a little suspicious. But I feel better now that the brake job was on the up and up. Just a little irritated that they didn’t just do it last year instead of recommending to resurface the rotors and whatever else. This way I’m paying for the band-aid AND the brake job. As for the clean and lube being at my discretion… I just really felt incredibly confident in the advice of the previous service manager… actually, sometimes i felt like I had to convince him to sell me something. But with the new management I’m just having to be much more skeptical about these discretionary services, and I don’t like having to think about it. Before, if they suggested it I felt good about paying for the work. Not anymore.

They must have recommended a brake job because your brake pads were thin. How thin? 1 mm is the minimum, brake pad replacement is usually recommended at 3 mm, which is no emergency. You need to ask why?

To resurface the brake rotors isn’t a normal oil change upsell. I suspect you wanted them to cure a problem. If the brake pads were 5 mm or less at that time a complete front brake job would have been more practicable but would the cost of repair have made sense to you?