Inexperienced do-it-yourself brake job

#1

I have the choice of paying $75 for my friend to replace my front brake pads or $125 - $150 for a big local service chain to do the front brake job and machine the rotors also. My friends say the rotors don’t really need machining from the looks of them. Is a front brake pad change pretty easy or should I shell out the extra money to have it done by “experts”?

#2

I should add… it’s a 2005 Pontiac Vibe with 49,000 miles

#3

Brakes stop the vehicle and if the vehicle does not stop when needed then things like crashes occur which can lead to the death of innocent people. If you do not have any experience in this then spend the extra money. It’s simple if you have done before, otherwise you will be stabbing in the dark.

#4

I’d not like either option. Unless your friend really, really knows what he (she) is doing, I’d find a polite way to decline. There are a lot of things that can be messed up with the brakes. Some of those things could affect the basic safety function, and some of then could only be expensive to fix. If your friend messes up the ABS, who is going to pay for it?

OTOH, the big national chains have a bad reputation here regarding their skill and knowledge. You are taking a chance, but at least they will fix something if they mess it up (IF you can prove that they did it). The general advise here is to find a good independent mechanic.

As to your friend’s being able to tell by looking that the rotors don’t need to be machined, see my first comment. Note also that on some cars these days the rotors are so thin that they can’t be machined anyhow; you just replace them. Perhaps one of the resident experts here will give you advice about your particular car.

#5

As others implied your friend lost credibility when he assessed your brakes by just looking at them. One needs to measure it. With newer cars and rotors, they don’t last long. When I do my own brakes I just change them. It is worth the safety and since I am not paying someone else I end up saving a lot of money anyways.

#6

Well…replacing brakes isn’t rocket science. However, I do worry about a person who evaluates whether or not rotors have to be turned by “the looks of them.”

You didn’t say whether or not your friend has ever worked on brakes before. And listen to the advice about the big chains - they’re often not the “experts” - rather often they’re just people like your friend who got hired somewhere by assuring people they could change brakes.

Anyway, lots of people do their own brakes and lots choose it as their first foray into auto mech. I would just say that if s/he is going to do it, read up about brake jobs on the web (do’s, dont’s, tips, etc) and buy a repair manual for the car (Haynes or Chilton’s off the shelf @ lots of places - The extra $20 you spend there will more than pay for itself over the years - probably on the first brake job).

#7

The majority of brake rotor problems are not visible to the naked eye and when doing a proper (key word) brake job the rotors should always be serviced. Serviced means machine if possible or replace them.

You can certainly replace pads only but don’t get upset at your friend if the brakes squeal, groan, or shudder.

#8

And he is getting paid much to much ($75.00) to simply replace pads.

#9

just so you know. the cost of two NEW brake rotors is 72.00. add this to your friends charge and you equal what the shop is going to charge. and what if a part gets mangled and you have to buy a new caliper or brake hose. whose fault is that? and will he/she still be a “friend” afterwards?

but i would doubt that the final bill at a shop will be just 150. i would think it would be more like 200 or 225.

you didn’t say, but is your friend qualified? how? how many brake jobs has he done? i have done probably 50 brake jobs. you have gotten advice from guys on here that have done thousands. it your life worth it from someone who may have done brakes once or twice? this is certainly not to say someone can’t learn. but the best method is to learn from someone who knows. not by yourself, one at a time.

#10

I’ll agree with that IF you’re doing major brake work. And I’ve only had to do ONE major brake repair on any vehicle I’ve owned in the past 25 years and about a total of 1 million miles.

Replacing pads is about as simple as it gets. Some vehicles real simple. I can replace the pads on my 4runner in about 3 minutes per side (one I get the wheel off).

To the OP…

What I would do is spend the $75 and have you friend TEACH YOU HOW TO DO IT. That way you can do it yourself the next time.

#11

I have seen bad brake jobs with the wear indicators hanging in space, with no anti squeal devices or compound. There have been pads installed without tightening the bolts and bad brake hardware left on. Remember to pump the brakes up before you try to drive.

#12

At 49,000 miles if the brakes do not pulsate now and if the swept rotor surface looks good, it is very doubtful that your rotors need to be replaced. When the brake calipers are removed, your friend can easily verify that there is no execessive rotor wear by looking for a “step” in the rotor at the transition from the swept area to the unswept area. He can do even better by measuring the caliper thickness and comparing that to the specification.

Tighten the caliper bolts with a torque wrench to the specified torque, bleed the brakes, stand on the brake pedal after reassembly with all the leg muscle that you can muster and then look for leaks. Check for leaks again in a week or two and if none, you should be good to go. Check your master cylinder brake fluid level when you change your oil.