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Brakes/ mechanic trust issues

I have a 2005 VW Gold with about 35,000 miles. I’ve been going to the same mechanic for about two years mostly for routine maintenance and oil changes. A couple weeks ago I brought my car in for an oil change and the mechanic called me at work to tell me that the left rear caliper had gotten stuck down and worn through the break pad and rotor, and that I needed to completely replace my rear breaks. I hadn’t noticed any problems with my brakes before this. I hadn’t ever experiences any trouble stopping or heard any strange sounds. The mechanic said that it was unsafe to drive the car without fixing the brakes. I was unable to leave work to go look at what he was describing and it was a Friday and I needed the car for the weekend. I okayed the work. He charged me $720 to replace the brakes on top of some other routine maintenance work. A couple people told me that $720 seems like a lot for brakes and the car drives exactly the same as before I had the work done. I’ve never had reason to be suspicious of my mechanic. They’ve always seemed friendly and honest. The surprise brake job ate my summer vacation and I’m getting a little worried that when I take the car to get oil changes my mechanic might start finding more urgent, but previously unnoticeable, safety issues with my car.

$720 for brakes is high however a caliper/rotor is pretty expensive ranging from $100-$300 dependent on vehicle. VW upper end. Usually brake work only involves pads so figure seems high but is not.

You may not have noticed the degradation. I don’t think he was being dishonest but only way of ever telling is having a 2nd opinion before proceeding.

At this point water under the bridge…

I’m assuming you mean a VW Golf.

The rear disk brakes on this car, I believe, are integral parking calipers. That is the parking brake operates the disk brake caliper… as opposed to a drum brake built into the “hat section” of a disk brake rotor. Such calipers are quite expensive compared to non-integral parking counter parts.

Now, they also are special in that you have to twist the piston to push it back into the bore to give clearance to replace the pads. Such a condition (if one is not aware of it) would very much feel like a “stuck piston.” No amount of c-clamping would push the piston back in the bore… it MUST be twisted and pushed on at the same time (and twisted in the correct direction.)

35,000 miles sound AWFULLY short for rear brake pads to wear out. I would have wanted the hardware the mechanic replaced returned to me so I could examine them. Also, there really is no reason to replace calipers on both sides of the car when only one is bad. Many will say that it is necessary “for balance” but that is simply non-sense. Unless one is changing the SIZE of their brakes when replacing a caliper, and that would be a serious alteration of the cars performance characteristics, there is no reason to change both.

So… does $720 sound like a lot to do calipers, pads and rotors on both sides of the rear of a Golf? No. But I seriously doubt the need to replace all that hardware IF one side truly was bad. If the caliper did go bad, examining the used hardware would have shown as much.

You can always ask to have a shop leave you with your old parts from any job. That way you would have been able to check out the old rotors, pads & caliper (not that you’d be able to tell much w/ a caliper that isn’t installed).

Its a bit late for that info, I suppose, but just for future reference…

And what “other routine maintenance work” was included in the price?

Considering that you needed at least one new caliper possibly two, plus new rotors and pads, and other work was performed, the price doesn;t seem unreasonable. Considering that you were headed out for vacation, the brake work may have saved your life.

I’ve seen pads wear down from a stuck caliper in less than two weeks from when the brake job was performed, and the driver had no idea it was happening. The $720 is also not unreasonable for rear brake pads, calipers and rotors (especially for a vw) and on top of that other services were performed at the same time as well. As far as I can tell from the information provided in your post I would say you weren’t ripped off and I would continue going to this mechanic.

Thank-you, I feel better about my mechanic. I’ll be sure to not need the car right away next time I take it in just so I can get a second opinion if there’s a big repair.


The other work was changing the cabin air filter for $110 so the total was $830. I think it was mostly sticker shock that got me. I thought that at 35,000 miles I would notice if something big was wrong, especially the brakes. I’ve appreciated all the successful braking I’ve had so far, though :slight_smile:

It was $830 altogether, but I’m definitely getting the consensus that my mechanic is not a schmuck and this was probably a legitimate repair. Thanks for responding!