Mechanic ethics/reasonableness question for ABS Brake Issue


#1

Brought my car to a reasonably well trusted mechanic in town with a written list of 5 problems.
Two of the 5 were:

  1. Fixing weak brakes
  2. The ABS warning light being on and the brake pedal pushing back at random times which seemed to indicate ABS activating abnormally

They ultimately said they fixed 4 of my 5 problems (including the two above) and 2 additional problems that they found beyond my list.

A week or so after I picked up the car it became clear that the ABS issue remained but was a bit less severe than before. Warning light still activates at times and pedal does the same thing.

My invoice does not explicitly mention anything specifically related to ABS. I am pretty sure the verbal implication was that the other brake weakness repairs (new front pads and rotors) and general process of installation and checks would remedy the ABS issue.

==> My question: Should they fix this ABS issue now at no charge to me? If it requires parts, is it reasonable for me to pay parts only? What about labor?

If people’s opinion here is that it is probably a gray area and depends on the exact problem with the ABS, let me know.


#2

I’d need a lot more detail to venture a guess.
Exactly what’s on the shop order? What complaints, what repairs, and what comments?
What is a “weak brake”?


#3

ABS can be a troublesome expensive issue to fix. Year and make of car might indicate extended warranty repairs but a proper diagnosis will lead to a proper repair.


#4

I’d need more detail too.

Like year/make/model of the vehicle to even venture a guess.

Tester


#5

It’s a shame the mechanic didn’t run a diagnostic on the brakes and mention the trouble codes on the invoice. It is easy for a mechanic to look first for obvious worn out and faulty parts and replace them, then test drive the vehicle and find all the complaints are corrected and ASSUME that they were cured by the needed work. In normal brake service the wheel speed sensors are usually cleaned and the wiring inspected and also the system is usually bled somewhat thoroughly which often eliminates common trouble codes.

But the shop deserves to be paid for all the necessary repairs that they made and they would expect to be paid for any additional needed work. The inverse of that would be the shop insisting they replace every component in the brakes. Who would want that?


#6

It sounds like they thought the worn out parts of your braking system were causing the ABS problem. You needed those repairs and you didn’t say in your post that they charged you for any work on the ABS so I don’t think they owe you any free repairs. You didn’t tell us the age of the car but if it is an old GM car I would just pull the fuse to deactivate the ABS. In my opinion those systems were more trouble than they were worth.


#7

It sounds like they thought the worn out parts of your braking system were causing the ABS problem. You needed those repairs and you didn’t say in your post that they charged you for any work on the ABS so I don’t think they owe you any free repairs. You didn’t tell us the age of the car but if it is an old GM car I would just pull the fuse to deactivate the ABS. In my opinion those systems were more trouble than they were worth.


#8

Here are more details/answers:

  • My “order” to them says “ABS light on - pedal vibrates & pushes back” and “brakes need to be checked”
  • Their invoice lists relevant parts for “brake discs”, “brake pads” and labor for “change front brakes”. It is very brief in terms of wording.
  • Nothing is written down anywhere other than the above
  • Weak brake means that when you depress the brake pedal, it took a lot of force/motion to brake compared to when the car was new, and the brakes did make some scraping sounds at times. Plus, the pads were obviously warn down very far by eye. That is all fixed now.
  • The car is a 2008 Smart Fortwo (US)
  • I did already pay them for the repairs, but plan to bring the car back soon to have this ABS problem looked at again. Hence my original question.
  • @“oldtimer 11”: yes that is what they thought.

#9

So they charged you only for brake rotors, pads and labor on these?

In that case, if they didn’t charge you for ABS related repairs, then you didn’t get ripped off. The problem is they did not pay attention to the complaint and did not fully investigate and fix it. You might want to move on to a different shop.


#10

It sounds like oldtimer’s understanding is spot-on and they did nothing to the ABS system, maybe under the assumption that the worn out brakes were causing the ABS code. That being the case, you’d need owe them for the additional work to diagnose and repair the ABS. That may be just a bad wheel speed sensor, but it’ll need looking into.

It’s a safe bet that the “weak brake” was caused by the worn out pads.

In my opinion they should have looked further into the ABS complaint. Perhaps another shop is in order.


#11

I’ve a feeling this is more of a misunderstanding than anything else. One complaint I would have is with sparse information on a repair order.

Just my 2 cents, but every repair order should clearly spell out what was done and relevant info related to certain procedures.

For instance. If someone had the A/C inspected for cooling, or lack of, the shop should notate system pressures both at idle and elevated RPMs.
If a compression test is performed those readings should also be notated in their entirety.

Those details can certainly help prevent a lot of haze later on.


#12

I found that the ABS interupter rings on the Smart Fortwo are somewhat notorious for failure and unless the shop was familiar with that car they wouldn’t know to look for a crack in them. But I am totally unfamiliar with that car and the problem needs to be diagnosed by someone who is familiar with them and equipped to do so.


#13

In addition to all of the good advice that was already provided, I want to add that the OP’s tires could be a possible explanation for the ABS activating when he thinks it shouldn’t.

Tires that have a lot of wear on them (even if the “wear bars” aren’t yet showing) can have much less traction than when they were new. Additionally, some tires don’t have particularly good traction, even when they are new.

What can the OP tell us about his tires, including make and model, and the amount of tread remaining?


#14

@VDCdriver

“The car is a 2008 Smart Fortwo (US)” :wink:


#15

@db4690 , I think VDCDriver was referring to the make and model or the tires???

Yosemite


#16

^
I was referring to the make (brand) of tire, and the specific model of that tire, as well as how much tread is remaining.


#17

:trollface:


#18

@VDCdriver: The tires are brand new and were just put on by the same mechanic as part of the same job. They are Kumho SOLUS KH16 (155/60R15 74T)


#19

They are Kumho SOLUS KH16

When Tire Rack tested the tires that are available for the Smart car, they noted that this Kumho model had less traction on wet surfaces than several of its competitors, and that these tires also resulted in longer stopping distances than other tires.

Are those deficiencies enough to cause the ABS to kick-in?
I don’t know the answer to that question, but this is some information for you to consider in the overall scheme of things.


#20

I’m going off-topic and I’m also going to say something not nice

155/60R15 is pathetically small for a modern car . . . I don’t care if it is a smart

That MIGHT be appropriate for a Tercel, Metro, Festiva, etc :smirk: