I have a 2007 Volkswagen Jetta with 78K miles. The brakes are squeaking, so I am assuming that the front brake pads need to be replaced. The front brake pads were replaced in 2010 (I don’t remember the mileage). My dad used to be able to help me out with these things in the past, I have moved to another state, so now I am handling the mechanic on my own. I need advice on how to approach this situation with the mechanic I have chosen; I take my car in on Friday. What things do I need to know so that I am a knowledgeable consumer? I would like to be able to tell the difference of what is a reasonable brake repair and knowing the difference if I am being taken for a “ride”. I am grateful for any and all suggestions.
Have the mechanic measure the thickness of the rotors (wouldn’t want to install just pads, if the rotors are already below minimum specs)
When you apply the brakes at freeway speeds, does the pedal kick?
If yes, the mechanic will need to measure runout, and machine/replace rotors as needed
Make sure the mechanic installs factory pads (or at least very high quality aftermarket pads)
Ask him to replace the disc brake hardware (shims, pins, clips, bolts, etc.)
If the pads use shims, install them (some lazy guys don’t)
If the pads don’t use shims, apply brake paste to the back of the pads
If the rotors have deep grooves, they may need to be “cleaned up” on the lathe
If the mechanic wants to sell more than just brake pads, politely ask him to explain why the other things are needed.
It might be a good idea to have the mechanic perform a brake fluid flush. Brake fluid is hygroscopic and attracts water. It should be flushed every 2 years in a perfect world. If you’re game, ask him to use a diaphragm brake bleeder and the appropriate adapter. As a professional, I don’t have a high opinion of vacuum brake bleeders or the old 2 man brake bleeding method.
Here’s something EXTREMELY important. Ask him to drive the car before he pulls it into the shop.
This is so that he gets a feel for it. He needs to drive on the freeway and step on the brakes.
Many guys pad slap cars without ever really driving them. You may not feel a warped rotor at 35mph.
I would add a couple things.
If you want to be educated, take some time to do some research. Three key parts on the brakes are pads, rotors, and calipers. Find out a range of costs for these parts and why you might replace these parts. For example, one basic example. When pads are worn, the metal base on the pad rubs against the rotor giving a noticeable metal on metal sound. At this point, your pads are worn through and need to be replaced.
Be aware that shops markup parts so if from your research the range of pads seems to be $20-$80, the shop may charge you twice the retail.
Frankly I would also research shops in advance. Looks at reviews. You’re not going to get all the details down before the appointment. If you find someone who gets reviews as being fair and honest, go with this shop.
I would also say to find out what company produced the parts that were used. You can go back and check on the markup for the parts. You can do a post mortem and find out whether you’re happy with this mechanic, how they communicated, re-post after the repair and get feedback. It’s a gamble. Shops are conservative or liberal in their approach. You’ve got to tell them whether you’re concerned about cost. They may have several safe options based on what you want to do.
You may also get a shop that wants to take advantage of you tho the more research you do, the more you’ll be able to smell a rat.