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BMW Brake Repair Too Soon?

I bought my 2004 BMW 325CI new. After 5 years, it only has 22,000 miles on it. I took it in last month for it’s annual inspection by my BMW dealership. They said the front brake linings were at 3MM and the rotors at 18MM. They recommended and I authorized them to replace the pads, rotors and sensor. They also noted the rear pads were at 4MM and would need to be replaced soon. Question: Isn’t this awfully early? I drive like the easy going retiree I am, almost all in my small town. In response to my question, the dealer replied that in town driving is hard on brakes. Still, my doubts linger and I hope some of you more knowledgable folks can give me your take on this repair and the one that inevitably awaits on the rear brakes when I take the car in next time.

For all in-town driving in an urban area 22,000 miles is not unreasonable. Stop & go wears brakes out in a lot fewer miles.

You use the brakes much more driving around in town than you would on the highway. After five years of braking it’s not surprising the brake pads were getting thin.

The BMW dealer will ALWAYS err on the side of caution. They want the car to be as close to perfect as possible, so if something is even close to wearing out they will recommend replacement, which is not necessarily a bad thing.

This is part of the BMW ownership experience, and it isn’t cheap. But, you didn’t buy a BMW because you’re cheap, right?

ANY shop can do brakes and a BMW is no exotic. Get a 2nd opinion from a trusty independent.

Town driving is very hard on brakes if you think how often you use them vs driving on a highway(rarely).

You can safely wait until the brake pad replacement light comes on and then many miles after that. Did you ask what is the sensor for if we are not going to wait until it does its job.

Its not like they are trying to save you from replacing the sensor or rotors.

The only reason we recommended to replace before the light comes on is so the customer did not have to return unexpecedly. Now you know,no suprise when the light comes on.

You did not buy the service package? Then this work would be included.

I have seen it many times, 15K pads leave the rotors alone (no one turns BMW rotors all though you can,they probably don’t even have a brake lathe unless is was bought for another line) and 30K pads and rotors.

Thank you all for your thoughtful comments. I appreciate your taking the time to give me the scoop on brake wear. (Although the car did come with 4 years bumper to bumper maintenance, for the years following I only bought the extended repair warranty, not the extended maintenance and repair warranty which would have included the brakes. Too bad, as the cost of the brake repair was more than the cost of the additional coverage. Live and learn…) Thanks again!

My BMW is older than yours, now out of warranty, so my car goes to the local specialist, and while not as expensive as the dealer, still pricy. Just this week while my car was there, they remarked that the sensor was about to trigger and they could replace them, a situation similar to yours.

This repair shop told me something else: the sensor triggers when the pad still has 25% usable material remaining, described as a convenience so that I needn’t rush it to replacement as soon the sensor goes off. On harder questioning, the more senior guy at the shop admitted that although braking might be diminished during this last 25%, it would not matter for casual driving around town.

While BMWs seem like they consume brakes more readily than my other cars did, there is no need to replace them in advance of the sensor. Moreover, the kind of driving my car sees does not merit urgent replacement even when the sensor does trigger.

An additional point – in my old car, it was important to replace the pads before the pads abraded rotors because damaging the rotors was expensive. But with my BMW, the dealer always replaced the pads and rotors as a matching set. Thus, there is no advantage to being as cautious (or avaricious) as the dealer would have you be.

22,000 miles is probably reasonable, and it is normal to replace pads and rotors together on this car. I have a 2004 330 and we replaced ours for the first time at 70k miles, but our driving is much more rural so we don’t use the brakes so much.

I got tired of having black, dirty wheels and grabby brakes, so I put on Aaxis pads rather than BMW pads. Braking is now quiet, smooth, and predictable, and the wheels always look clean!

Is this an automatic? In around town driving automatics wear brakes faster than stick shifts due to less engine braking, and engine pulling below 5mph.

Yes, the car is an automatic. Thank you for the added information and giving me yet another reason to opt for the much more fun manual transmission next purchase!

I get a lot more miles from my brakes, but I put on a lot of highway miles. If you are driving in town, then mostly that is stop go, go and stop. You are driving less than 5,000 miles a year and seemingly all of that is short trips. For this type of driving you got the expected life from your brakes.