Am I a sucker?



I just brought my 2004 Subaru Impreza with 50,000 in for an oil change and because my mechanic told me a few changes ago that we needed to “watch the brakes” I asked that he also check them while I had the car there. He said he’d call if they found anything. No phone call and several hours later I gave him a call. The woman on the other end said my oil change was done and that he was “working on the brakes now”. Huh. Should I have told him to stop? Anyway, I went and picked up the car, $600 bucks later my husband is telling me I was taken advantage of. He says A) I didn’t need them because I didn’t hear grinding and didn’t feel anything and B) It doesn’t cost that much.

Any one able to tell me if my husband is indeed correct?

Bummed out with new brakes.


Did the mechanic replace brake pads on 2 wheels, or on 4 wheels? Did he replace 2 rotors or 4 rotors, or no rotors? Did he drain the old brake fluid and put in new brake fluid?

Just as the term “tune-up” is essentially meaningless, saying that someone “worked on the brakes” is almost as meaningless. Check your invoice to see what parts are listed and report back to us in order to have some idea of whether you paid an appropriate amount or if you were charged a high price.

That being said, if your husband believes that you don’t service brakes until you “hear grinding”, then he is…well…let’s just say…not very knowledgeable about car maintenance.

Oh, and as to whether or not the mechanic overstepped your request, if your brake pads were not previously replaced, 50k seems like an appropriate amount of mileage for pads to be replaced. Of course, we are having a hard time seeing your old brake pads from this distance, and we don’t know what driving conditions you usually encounter. However, many people have to replace at least the front brake pads before they get to 50k.


He shouldn’t have done anything until he called you with a estimate.

In my shop no one proceeds with repairs until the customer is called and gives us the OK to repair their car. There are cases where the customer will give us the authorization to do repairs (when they drop off the car) without calling them but we have a well established relationship with that customer.


With 50,000 miles on the car and a prior mechanic having told you that your brake pads were low, I truely think you likely really needed them. Waiting until they start grinding isn’t nearly as good as doing them when the pads get low. Brakes are a critical safety system.

At first glance $600 sounds high, but if really depends on exactly what was done and whether all fours were changed. And dealers are usually higher than independent shops. Usually significantly.

He should have called. But without having heard exactly what you instructed him to do, it’s hard to say for certain. It sounds like you may have inadvertantly verbally authorized him to do the brakes if he found them to be needy.

Bottom line: yeah, you likely needed brakes. You may have gotten over charged. But you now have good brakes. And it’s a done deal.

For the future, let me suggest that you be sure that waht you want them to do is clear on the shop order when you drop the car off.


Your husband is correct in both respects. Whether you heard grinding noises or not, you had no reason to believe there was anything wrong with your car’s brakes. And routine brake service ought not to cost so much. Your mechanic likely replaced unnecessary parts to jack up the bill.

The good news is that your car’s brakes are now good for another 50,000 miles.


Brakes can be worn out and exhibit no noises or symptoms whatsover. I have no idea if your car falls into that category or not.
This sounds like a miscommunication problem to me and someone in the middle of this procedure thought that check meant repair.

The 600 sounds high but without having the bill broken down, knowing where the parts were procured, and the shop locale/labor rate, it’s hard to say.


Your mechanic should have not performed the brake work without your permission. Did you sign anything like a work order or invoice when you dropped the car off authorizing him to perform repairs. Many people just sign where they are told without reading the fine print. Might be a good idea to take a look at the wording on the invoice or service order near the signature block.
If you had never changed your four brake pads before, chances are they were ready to be replaced with 50K miles on them.
The cost for replacing 4 pads normally is not more than than $230. If he had to change some of your rotors because they were warpped, severely scored, or were thinner than your state’s traffic department’s acceptable levels, that can get costly. Rotors should last more than 50K miles unless you really neglected the condition of your brakes and let your pads wear too low. If you are the primary driver of the vehicle, chances are you would have sensed that your brakes were not performing as usual. Most of the time you can sense some squealing, break petal throb, grinding or pulling when the brakes are applied and your rotors need to be replaced.
Check your invoice to see exactly what services he performed. If he changed the rotors, you might want to ask him why,
and also make a few phone calls to other garages to see what they would have charged you for the same service. His charges could have very well been ligitimate after you do a little research.
As an aside, many consumer advocates suggest that you always request, either on the service order or invoice, that you be provided with all of the parts from your vehicle that were replaced.
Good luck!


First off, thank you to everyone for your replies. The mechanic did indeed replace rotors as well (both in the rear and front) as well as pads in the front and rear. He didn’t drain the old fluid but did clean and lube the calipers. I think I learned a lesson to be clearer in my communication with the mechanic to be sure “check” does not mean “do”. Regardless, as someone pointed out, I am safe with my new brakes (even if I was safe before…now I’m really sure). A good point was mentioned that I should always request the old parts. What is life without lessons? :slight_smile:


dear bummed:

once again – What is the recomendation in your service book (that thing that lives in your glove box) ?

I only know dodge, and the wheel bearings need attention at the time the brakes are seviced. The fronts are ‘life time’ and the rear need repacking. I understand subaru has weak bearings on some years and types…


Calling for every repair is indeed, the way it works with most shops and most customers. Where I take my car for work that I can’t do in my driveway (and that is lots since my house was flooded two years ago) I just take my car in and, within reason, they do what is needed. That is a relationship that has developed over time and most of his customers are handled in that way. He knows who he has to call first. I asked him to order some tires and when I dropped the car off I asked him to check the steering and suspension while it was in there. When I picked the car up they had replaced the front brakes. I would not have been surprised to find that a tire rod end or two, a couple of ball joints or something else had been done. A couple of times I might have rather been consulted, but my annoyance was minor. I trust this shop and they are good at what they do. I have seen them do some truly creative stuff that would never be done at a dealer or lesser independent. Some of the reason for the shops success are that the owner is a smart diagnostician and seems to be able to keep his hand-full of techs happy and enthusiastic.

Willey knows why calls are sometimes not made. It is a lot more efficient because it is sometimes difficult to get customers on the phone. While someone at the shop is trying it takes the phone caller?s time which is money. The car may be sitting in a bay or on a lift which costs money. If it takes too long to get in touch the car comes out and another goes in. The parts are not called for which means that the customer may not get their car done that day or have to drop it off again. Have I forgotten anything, Willey?