How old were you when


How old were you when you first fixed your own brakes?

Hi folks. I need help - not on my car, but at work.

My boss asked me to answer the following question: Given that a person has ever worked on his (or her) own brakes – at what age did this person FIRST work on their own brakes. At what age did they LAST work on their own brakes (or maybe they plan to keep working on their own brakes indefinitely). Why did they START and why did they STOP.

So, if you do or ever have done your own brake work – can you tell me about it?

Funny stories also a plus – for my own amusement, my boss doesn’t care.

Thanks in advance,



I was about 17 when I did my first brake job and I contnue to do it today at ______. I just don’t like others doing what I can do and having to wait for tme to do it.


first brake job was at 16. Last brake job was a month ago :wink:


17 give or take a year


I really don’t know at what age I first worked on brakes but I grew up on a farm so it was likely before I could legally drive.

After going to college and getting a white collar job, I tried to adjust to letting others do the work on my cars. I don’t think I once was satisfied with a paid brake job.


I started relatively late in life for DIY auto repair. First brake work at age 31, then kept on going.

Now, Becky, it’s your turn. What do you do for a living? Why the heck did your boss give you this assignment? What will he do with the results?

We all want to know.


I’m sure I helped my dad work on his brakes from the time I was a little kid. I first worked on my own car’s brakes when I was 16. I’m sure I’ve worked on the brakes of every car I’ve owned since then (lost count). I most recently replaced the front brake pads on my car a couple of months ago.

Next to changing oil, replacing brakes is one of the easiest DIY projects you can do. Replacing the rotors is a little more complex.


OK, I’ll play. I don’t remember exactly when the first time was. I think I was 17 or 18 and my Brother in Law helped or did most of the work. After that I did it all myself. The main reason was cost since I was a college student. The last one I did was last week at 58. I expect I’ll do more yet. The main reason I do it myself now is cost and convenience. Its a lot easier to schedule my own time than try and get it into a shop, take time off, wait for it or have to get a ride, and so on. Just a hassle. I can spend a few hours myself at night and be done with it.


The first time I did my own brake job was at 16 when I had my first car. A 1966 Chrysler Newport. To test the brakes afterward, I decided to take the car down to the neighbors driveway and turn around. I turned into their driveway and the brake pedal went straight to the floor! I was slowly coasting down their driveway toward the garage. I opened the door and briefly considered using my foot to slow down this behemoth. By then, my fate appeared sealed so I shut the door and noticed I might be able to slip between the house and garage. I drove across their patio area and around the back of the house. I turned to see my neighbor staring open jawed in the window as I drove across the back yard and back up toward our yard. I managed to slowly drive up alongside the tools I had left out and parked the car. After apologizing to the neighbor, I performed my second brake job and learned a valuable lesson on how not to test the brakes afterward.


[b]My first brake job was at sixteen. And forty years later, I still perform them. But not always on my vehicles.



First brake job I did was when I was 16 and still doing them 41 years later.

A funny story now, but not at the time, was when I was going to replace the front brakes on a 1969 Super Bee I owned. This was about 30 years ago.

I was going to do this in the driveway and was in a foul mood anyway along with the climate being a humid 98 degrees.
About the time I started a friend of mine from down the street came over and started yapping. He’s also the type who never shuts up.

I was in no mood for conversation and his babble caught me wrong, I grabbed the first thing handy which was a pair of Vise Grips and threw them straight down at the driveway while cursing for him to shut up.
The Vise Grips instantly disappeared and we both stood there looking at each other wondering “what the…”

A full 5 seconds later - WHAM! After about 5 minutes of looking around, it appeared that the Vise Grips had come down on top of a neighbor’s car which was sitting across the street a full 100 feet away.

The only thing we could figure was the spring loaded handle hit just right and gave enough momentum to go way airborne.
I waited until it was dark and went over and picked the pliers up out of the street; ignoring the dent in the hood they made.
I was reasonably sure their kids had egged my car one night so not a lot of sleep was lost over this.

No idea how high those Vise Grips went but considering the hang time and distance, my guess would have to be 40-50 feet. Who woulda thought.

The guy who irritated me so much and started this is still one of my best friends today even though I threw a cue stick at him over a game of pool one night. He tried changing the rules when the 8 ball was almost in the pocket. :slight_smile:


I did my first brake job at 18 when I was in the Army. It was my first car and I knew NOTHING about cars before that. But I couldn’t afford to have someone else fix it. Tough when you only make $150/mo.


First brake job was, hmm…I was probably 19 or 20 (which was all of six years ago). Last job was early this year, around February I think. I inspect them about once a month, but actual work was last done in Feb.

I started because it was cheaper than going to a shop, plus I was interested to know how it was done.


I was 17 years old,it was my first car,a 1971 Olds delta 88.around 6 PM i opened up the back drum pulled one spring and pop,all the guts of the brake system went EVERYWHERE.i was in my dads garage with a do it yourself book until 1 AM the next morning. since that day i can do brakes with a blind fold on…Dave


Thanks everyone for your answers and your funny stories.

Someone wanted to know WHY I needed to know – and now that I have collected the “data” I don’t see any harm in answering the question, although I can’t tell you the name of our client.

I work for Bates White, LLC – a litigation and economic consulting firm. We have a client who is interested in understanding the market for brake shoes and pads - how many go to the auto manufacturers to be put into new cars, how many to dealers for repairs, how many to chain mechanics (e.g. Meineke), how many to independent auto mechanics, and how many to DIY’ers. This turns out to be much more difficult than you would expect – b/c parts are always drifting from one part of the market into another. For example, the brake manufacturer can sell the brake to Ford, who sells it to a dealer, and then the dealer turns around and sells it to an independent mechanic, or even to a car owner. NAPA can source the same brake pad from one of several manufacturers, and might sell it to a mechanic, or a DIY’er, or even occasionally to a new car dealer. Back and forth go the parts, so that even the firms in the market do not understand exactly to whom they are selling or how the market is evolving.

So we are working on a model that uses consumer survey data – e.g. did you work on your brakes in the last 3 months? How old are you? How old is your car? etc. Taking the survey data and turning it into a usable estimate of brake jobs per year over time by whom and with what requires a model, but that’s okay, we’re trained professionals. However even a bunch of Ph.D. economists can’t make everything up. We need certain parameters, like average age of U.S. cars (around 10 years), average miles driven between brake jobs, and – since we are trying to model the evolution of the market, not just where it is today, how old was the average brake changing DIY’er when he (or she – but these are rare) first changed his brakes. Turns out this last number is one which everyone is pretty sure they know. People start young, in their teens and twenties. But (maybe because everyone we talked to was pretty sure this was the answer) no one could give us any real evidence for the age-at-first-brake-job.

I thought “Hmmmm, this is just the sort of goofy question that might come up on Car Talk.” So I came here and posted the question. I also posted the question on a few specialty car sites, just to see if the answers were systematically different.

Now I know this isn’t a random sample, so don’t jump all over me. I am not going to use your answers to build a statistical estimate – no standard errors or confidence intervals will be perpetrated on this data. All I will say is that an awful lot of people start messing with cars when they are teen-agers, a few between 20-25, and the occasional old geezer of 31.

And in case anyone is curious, I have not ever changed my own brakes. I know how to check my brake fluid levels, and add more fluid if needed. (I learned in my youth – my first car, a Dodge Reliant, would lose fluid if I did a lot of parallel parking. I went to school in Manhattan.)

Thanks again,
Becky Menes


I was 17 and I had a 57 Oldsmobile. I got brake shoes at a discount house for $1.50 per axle. I took both wheels off one axle (only had two jackstands), then used one side as a reference while changing the shoes on the other side.

In the intervening 40 years, I have always done my own (and family’s) brakes. Never had a problem until this last one. I have an 86 Toyota Tercel 4wd thats been in the family since new. The brakes are soft and this is the first time I’ve been stumped. I have done everything that is usually done, tried 3 types of pads and 4 master cylinders last weekend, but they are still soft. Gonna take another shot this weekend. BTW no leaks and no air in the system.

Can’t think of any funny stories doing brakes.


A good friend of mine owns a car dealership in upstate NY…and he knows EXACTLY how many parts go to DIY’s and mechanics. And MOST car parts places I know of have that data too. A good local parts store usually will have an account with the local mechanics. And most of them deliver the parts because these small shops can’t be spending all day just driving around for parts. So I suspect this data is easily available and faily accurate.



That information would not be statistically accurate either. How many walk in customers will go to the parts store and buy parts then take the parts to a shop to have them installed? How many small independent shops will buy brake pads for there friends and relatives, to save them money on the cost of parts, without actually installing the parts?

Although it is an interesting question I don?t think that you could ever come to a definitive conclusion on where the brake pads end up.



Although it is an interesting question I don?t think that you could ever come to a definitive conclusion on where the brake pads end up.

I’m 99% sure that 99% of them end up in vehicles of some kind.

Couldn’t resist. I know you meant who puts them there.


16 for the front discs, and 17 for the rear drums. That was 38 years ago, and the brakes still work. I’ve probably replaced them a couple of times since.

I did it because there were no MG mechanics nearby.