Maintenance 1996 Nissan Altima

I am the owner of a 1996 Nissan Altima. I have nearly 135,000 miles on the car and bought the car when it had about 77,000 miles on it. I just started taking the car to a car repair place in Denver. The last two time I have paid about $600 for repairs (oil leak, engine mounts, 2 new tires, alignment, winterizing car, etc). Now they want me to replace the front brakes. I do have squealing, but only when the car is going down a very sharp decline. I have only noticed the squealing when I am exiting a parking garage. How do I know when I need the brakes changed? Also, can anyone recommend a reputable mechanic in the Denver area? My current auto repair place was recommended on Tom Martino’s Troubleshooters website and maybe I do need all the repairs, but I have concerns if I do need them

Brake pads do wear out. If you have never replaced those brake pads since you bought the car, surely you are due. The way to tell for sure is to remove the brake pads from each wheel and measure their thickness. If any are at or below a certain minimal thickness, it’s time for replacement.

Another good guide is to listen for the sound of the wear indicators. They make a squealing noise, most obvious when you are going down a steep incline or exiting a parking garage.

Finally, note that most of your car’s expenses that you mentioned are not strictly repairs. They are maintenance work or replacement of worn parts. Every car requires such maintenance or replacements at regular intervals. It’s a normal burden for all car owners.

Thank you for your comments. They were most helpful. It’s tough to know what needs to be done when you don’t know much about cars. I have had some bad experiences in the past so I’m a little paranoid.

If you are hearing noises from your brakes that you have not heard in the past, it is a signal to get them repaired, if necessary. You could have an unsafe car, now, or very quickly in the future. If the pads wear down to the metal and you have metal on metal only bad things can happen.

Squealing is not necessarily a sign that the car needs brake pads. Disc brakes are prone to squealing and this can occur even on pads that have 90% of their life left.

What should be inspected is the brake pad thickness to make sure they exceed the minimum thickness. If the pads are anywhere near the min. thickness then a brake job should be performed. This usually means replacing or machining the front rotors also. Replacement is often more cost effective than machining.
I can’t help you on a mechanic recommendation in the Denver area.

You can search the Mechan-X file on this site to find a recommended tech.