Long story. Before asking my esteemed Car Talk experts some questions, here’s the background, pasted from my maintenance records:
27 November 2018, 86845 miles. Tuesday morning. Taking the car (2011 Venza, white paint) to [redacted] Toyota for a brake flush, am told one of the bleeder valves was frozen shut and flush couldn’t be done until tomorrow, when new part will be on hand. (Last flush was done at Pep Boys three years ago. Could it be that valve was never opened then?)
28 November 2018, Wednesday, next day. I come in as scheduled, wait hour and a half, to be told part is on backorder. Will be called in two days to set up new appointment.
30 November 2018, Friday, two days later, no call by 1030, so I call dealer. Am told service manager who was to have called me is out sick. Eventually am called back, told to bring car in Monday morning. We agree on 9am.
3 December 2018, Monday, 9am, I have car at dealership. Hour and a half later, service manager tells me both front bleeder valves broke off and only fix is to replace the calipers. Toyota calipers are $370ea, after-market are $200ea, both have 1-year warranty, I choose after-market. Am given a free loaner car (2019 Corolla that drives well), a pleasant surprise.
4 December 2018, Tuesday, 1:30pm, am called, car is ready. Car has new calipers in front and brake system was flushed. I pay only $393 because am not charged for labor and I had a 10% off coupon. All’s well that ends well.
From ticket: “Customer advised front caliper bleed valves are seized and will not loosen. Special order bleeder valves were ordered for replacement but valves broke when attempting to remove. Customer requests to replace both front calipers with after-market parts. Replaced both front calipers and performed brake fluid flush.”
OK, my questions.
- Is it normal for a car that’s spent its life in central Texas (no snow, no ice) to have rusted-tight bleeder valves in seven years?
- If the answer to #1 is yes, wouldn’t it be possible to loosen the valves with solvent?
- If Pep Boys flushed the brakes three years and less than 12,000 miles ago, would I be correct in thinking the bleeder valves shouldn’t seize so quickly? (I’d just bought the car with 75000 miles and assumed the brakes had never been flushed. Replaced the coolant at that time, too, though at the dealer.)
- Or is it likely that the Pep Boys tech doing the brake flush three years ago found the bleeder valves seized and just skipped past them?
- Though I came to the dealer expecting to spend $100 on a brake fluid flush and ended up spending $400 on a brake fluid flush and two new calipers, should I still feel good about the transaction considering I was given a free loaner plus free coffee in the waiting room?
I know, you’re thinking I shouldn’t have gone to a dealer for such a routine service. Maybe I’ve got too much money. Maybe I’m thinking brakes are one area of a car not to try to save money. I don’t know.
In my younger years I’d rebuilt calipers (or did I just replace them? it’s been decades) on an old Toyota Corolla. And my wife cherishes the memory of our trusty old 1977 Chevy station wagon giving her a leg cramp pumping the brake pedal three times before I’d yell “HOLD!” from underneath the car. Those days are over. I can now pay a mechanic to do it right.
Did the dealer do it right?
How I wish Tom and Ray were still with us so I could ask them but collectively you guys are pretty good, too. I welcome your thoughts.