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Did I get taken for a ride?

I have a 2008 Toyota Sienna AWD (bought in Oct 2007). Anyway, in March of this year, the dealer replaced the rear brake pads saying that they were worn down (the van was still under warranty, but they made me pay for it). Anyway, today I took it in (now it is out of warranty by about a month), and they called saying that the rear brake pads are gone again and the rear calipers are “locked” and need to be replaced. They are charging me 1000 for the calipers and 365 for the brake pads. I had to say “yes” since I am heading out of town tomorrow and have no choice; but should they not have checked the calipers when the vehicle was still under warranty and is the expense way too high? I suspect it should be (it is the dealer), and now this may be the last time they see my van. Should I even try and see if Toyota will pick up some of the cost? The vehicle has only 33500 miles on it.

Warranty does not pay for brake wear except under very very limited circumstances.
However, I would consider a problem caused by faulty calipers to be a warrantable procedure and this should be covered.

It would be highly unusual for a caliper to freeze on a 3 year old vehicle, much less have 2 of them allegedly lock up.
My feeling is that you should do several things. One is to let the dealer know, politely, that you are contacting Toyota’s regional office to see about a Good Will warranty. Two is that you want those old parts to be placed in your possession, and this means the pads and the allegedly locked up calipers. Do not buy into the “we don’t got them no more” excuse.

Granted, some minor details are unknown but just off the cuff this sounds a bit suspect. Outright fraud? Probably not. Botched diagnosis? More likely.

Since the vehicle is out of warranty you should start looking for an independent mechanic to help you care for your Sienna.

I’d want some explanation from the dealer about how the van wore through TWO sets of rear brake pads in only 33,500 miles, and why the calipers are frozen at such a low mileage.

Do you drive in a really nasty winter environment where salt or some other corrosive is used on the roads? That’s the only thing I can think of that would ruin the calipers so quickly.

A few months ago I had the rear brakes (pads, rotors, and calipers) replaced on one of my cars for a lot less than you’re going to pay for the calipers alone. Dealers are always always more expensive and seldem any better than independent shops.

Its time to quit going to the dealer

The vehicle spent its first 9 months in Syracuse and the rest of its life in the Potomac/Bethesda area. We had a relatively severe winter last year (3 snowstorms), but otherwise it has been in mild weather. I called up the Toyota dealer and they are saying that a. when they replaced the rear brake in March, the brakes had been damaged by the calipers, and b. the calipers were not bad at that time that’s why they did not mention it.

I mentioned that the cartalk blog folks say that this rapid changeover is fishy, and the service person said that they have not seen the van, so how could they comment on it. Should I let them finish the job or just take the vehicle back (may be too late for that, tho’)?

Ok, now the dealer says that they will check with toyota to get the “goodwill” on the brakes, but they don’t think I can get goodwill from toyota for the calipers since that was not a problem before (not sure what that means). Some “victory” I guess.

He’s right, we can’t see the van.

It still sounds fishy, though.

We have not seen the van, that’s true, but some of the people on this forum that are assisting you have also been around the mechanical block a few times as to repairs and warranty procedures, so to speak.

Again, demand if need be those old calipers back if they change them. It’s a very simple matter to determine if they are indeed locked up or not as they are claimed to be and being in possession of those calipers can certainly clear up whether you’re being yanked or not.

There are only a few reasons for calipers to lock up. One is freezing on the caliper slides. Since they did the brakes 6 months ago part of the job, IF done properly, means cleaning and lubing those slides so they should not be frozen in 6 months time.

Another reason is aged, contaminated brake fluid but I don’t see this as causing this kind of problem at 3 years of age.
Another is when the caliper piston seal hardens with age and does not retract the piston. Again, at 3 years of age I don’t see this happening.

You could take the old calipers somewhere else (without mentioning what’s going on) and have them check the pistons to see if they are indeed frozen or not. If they’re not frozen, then…


I was going over the service records:
on 3/22/10 they replaced rear pads and machined the rotors and inspected wheels and tires
on 4/30/10 they performed tire alignment (yearly I get it done) and a C service (30K) and cleaned and adjusted rear brakes.
Would either of these services have shown the problem with the calipers? Is it possible for calipers to go bad within 7 months? (esp. considering these are seven months with very nice weather). I have emailed Toyota, but have not got any response; debating whether to contact Toyota Regional Manager or the dealership GM to see if anybody will accept any responsibility. Not too confident that I will get far.


I called the dealer today to ask them to keep the old parts and they said they can give me the old calipers but not the brake pads (they can let me look at 'em). They are covering the brakepads and the rotors under warranty (and have to return the brake pads to Toyota), but are not going to cover the calipers. Ah well, small victories, I guess. My other query is: this boils down to either greediness or incompetence. If it is the former, that is not something new; however, if it is the latter, then I am not confident that they have done the job right this time either. Would it behoove me to take this van after they fix it to an independent (dealer or non-dealer) shop and get them to check the rear brakes and calipers to see if they have done a good job?

"on 4/30/10 they performed tire alignment (yearly I get it done) and a C service (30K) and cleaned and adjusted rear brakes.

They adjusted your rear disc brakes? Really?
You might want to ask how they did that, as they are not adjustable.

And, the rear brakes needed cleaning after ~30 days?
Do they recommend that customers come in once a month for brake cleaning?

I see at least two signs of a semi-scam operation going on here.

I’ve posted comments in previous threads about the ridiculous cost of the simplest repairs these days. Rear brakes should not be much of a maintenance hassle, as the front brakes do most of the work. I’ve never priced calipers, but $365 for a set of brake pads is outrageous! I don’t know how the labor for the pads would work out since they already have it apart to do the calipers, but still…You can usually buy a set of good quality pads (for 2 wheels) for around $65 at an auto parts store.

Yes, it sometimes makes me wonder about dealerships. They would rather make a quick 1000 and lose a customer who could buy a 40K vehicle from them. I guess if the sales and service divisions were the same, then they would worry; but since they are not, the service team is just out to make as much as it can, and so is the sales, and the twain shall never meet. And just when I was starting to like my dealer…can I mention their names here so others in the area can watch out or is it not allowed? On the other hand, they are probably the only Toyota dealers in the Bethesda area.

Your vehicle has been in a poor climate during extreme temperatures. A caliper functions by utilizing a square cut seal, corrosion can cause an issue and cause the caliper to “lock up” whick means the seal is no longer releasing pressure. This condition will cause the brake pad/friction material to wear excessively on one side, due to a rust condition the slide may not have been working properly as well. By using the dealer you may have purchased brand new calipers, going to the aftermarket you may have been able to purchase rebuilt units. Also the return of the caliper set may also be related to the fact they might not have been servicable cores, meaning you pad for a reman unit and the core charge as well because yours had become junk from rust or corrosion. I am from Florida and have worked in automotive for a long period. I have only had to sell new calipers like that on a Mazda in the 90’s and just by chance it was from your neck of the woods. It also recieved new brake lines complete, an expensive bill similiar to yours. Do I think you got taken for a ride, no. Did you pay full boat for the service yes. Another factor to consider is the condition of the emergency brake actuators if equipped. Rust will destroy your brake system… period.

Your analysis makes a lot of sense to me. What bothers me is that how come the caliper fault was not detected in March and April when they had to replace the brake pads and “adjust” the brake pads. The last snow was in March before the brake pads were replaced (albeit, the salt must have been on the road for a few more weeks subsequently). How can the dealer claim that the caliper failure happened out-of-warranty, is what bothers me? If when I take it in for service 5 to 6 months before warranty expires, they don’t tell me something is wrong (while it is in warranty), but tell me it is wrong 1.5 months out of warranty, it makes me wonder if everything is all square.

It’s not that complicated. Depending on how well you negotiated the dealership may have made less that $1000 off of the sale of the van. Where as there’s much more unusually, non-negotiable profit to be had on the service/repair end.

I am fully onboard that this situation is out of wack (meaning the Dealer is doing you wrong) and that is said with just knowing the facts you have related.

I can’t say I have done “plenty” of warranty brake work but some, and it did include wear from a siezed caliper (notice I said just one).

In the mid to late 90’s we had plenty of warranty brake work on Chevrolet full size pickups (eary pad wear and pulsation). The factory rep related the components were not “robust enough”.

This stinks a bit to me too; especially considering that both calipers are claimed to be frozen on a young, low miles car.
Just food for thought but it’s possible the caliper slides were never serviced during the brake job and IF for the sake of argument one assumes the calipers stuck this does not mean the calipers need to be replaced. Frozen pistons usually mean caliper replacement; frozen sliders do not.
It could be that the caliper replacement is the alibi for A; covering a screwup, or B: inexperience on the part of the person doing the work.

The fact that the parts are pricy does not mean a ripoff. The dealer uses Toyota OEM parts and Toyota, like every car maker, does not provide these parts on the cheap to the dealers in spite of the perception that they do. They hang it on them too and the dealer cost is likely much much more than what the retail is on parts from the local parts houses.

If this dealer is selling you new Toyota calipers then you should demand those old calipers. There is no core return on parts on like this. With those old calipers in hand take them to a competent indpendent shop (without mentioning any details) and ask them to check the caliper pistons. This only takes a few minutes. If they’re not frozen, then it’s time for a declaration of war.

Ok, I got the old calipers back from the dealer (had been out of town for a few days, so could not get back). Incidentaly, all the problem was on the right rear wheel (the brake wear in Feb, brake pad adjustment in March and the total brake pad wear in the recent visit). They said they had to replace both calipers (Left and Right) which is how it is “always” done. Is that true? The left brake pad and calipers were fine. They showed me the brake pad for both sides and the right side was worn out pretty bad, while the left one was not bad. Toyota (to whom I had also complained) has emailed the customer service manager at the dealer asking her to contact me within 3 days (i.e. this Wednesday), so we shall see where this goes. How do I know a “competent” independent shop? I.e. a shop that the dealer will accept as being legit? just go to the sites recommended by cartalk?

Scout around on this URL and find a place called something like Mechanix files, which will have customer recommendations. I have used this in the past when my son was in Virginia. A shop told him his motor was frozen up, though it ran the previous day when it was parked. Using a recommended shop, it was learned an a/c compressor was frozen. They cut the belt and drove the car since then, 3 or 4 years w/o a/c