My girlfriends brother is inadvertently ruining GFs car

In nursery school they said the most important thing they tried to do was to teach the kids to have an appreciation for reading. I’ve always had a good selection of manuals to read before doing something new. Sure I benefitted from the knowledge of neighbor dads, kids, and relatives but sheesh, read. It’s all there. We even have the internet now with pictures and sound if you can separate the good info from the bad. Sorry but no pass on this one.

On a personal level though, you have to evaluate a relation with a looney tune relative. Might be time to move on. They can be clustered in a family. Just sayin as all. I’ve known families with one crazy person and the rest were fine but then others where the whole family was nuts. Be gentle if they have guns.


Similar topic from a caller on a recent Best of Car Talk podcast. Caller says his gf dumped him b/c of a diy oil change job he did for her as a favor, done on her car. He was concerned the oil warning light on her car wasn’t working, so to test it, after he drained the oil out, he started the engine and let it idle a couple of minutes so he could verify the oil warning light turned on. It did turn on, so he proved it was working. GF heard about this incident and claimed idling for 2 minutes w/out oil ruined her engine, so ended relationship. Caller wanted Ray & Tom’s opinion. They said it probably did no damage to engine, but wasn’t the recommended way to test the oil pressure warning light.

As far as what OP should do, it’s the gf’s car, not OP’s, so she can do with it as she wants. Suggest to offer her the courtesy of your opinion about her brother’s car repair methods. If she doesn’t want to hear it, keep your concerns to yourself. & start looking for a new gf.

ex BF owes her an engine warranty for that vehicle.

I had a clutch get “oiled up” once. The distributor O-ring began dumping oil all over. The leak happened to be right above the interface of the transmission bell housing and engine so oil leaked down into the clutch. I didn’t realize what was happening until I was accelerating hard in gear and the engine RPM shot up because the clutch was slipping.

I replaced the O-ring which was only a few dollar part and hoped for the best. The slipping eventually went away and the clutch seemed normal again. Then about 6 months later it began to slip once again. The damage was done by the oil and the brake pads will likely end up the same way even if cleaned off in a solvent. Of course a solvent could also degrade their structure. Brake pads are cheap of course and easy to access compared to a clutch so replacement is a no-brainer.

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To you, me, and 99.9% of folks. We know who is the 0.1%…


Yep! I deal with the general public on a daily basis and had to establish filters to clear out the troublemakers. I deal with a couple a year now but used to deal with a couple a week or even daily at times. When they call with the most dingbat requests, I just let them know that there is a better and cheaper way to do it. They think they are somehow “saving money” but I always give them the worst-case scenario if they do it the wrong way.

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But, your “lubed-up” clutch wasn’t intentional. The GF’s brother lubed the brake pads intentionally.

Yes, he did it out of ignorance, but that ignorance goes far beyond that screw-up. I think that even most 10 year olds would understand that brakes work on the very basic principle of friction. And, if someone knows that a lubricating substance reduces friction, then–clearly–brake pads shouldn’t be lubed.

Does the GF’s brother not understand the principle of friction?
If so, he is operating at the level of a very young child.

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wet clutch systems do exist! How close to full throttle could you get before the clutch started slipping?

If it takes twice as much brake force to make the oiled brakes work, it might go unnoticed. If the power brake assist fails, then it would become a big deal, since it already is a big deal even with properly working brakes.

The brakes should be tested to ensure that the wheels can skid on pavement. If the front were oiled but the back weren’t, it’s a safety risk especially if the ABS were to fail.

Me thinks we have a future Darwin Award winner… :man_facepalming:


Who knows? Maybe he thinks it is like anti-seize or something??? I deal with the same crazy crap in my IT line of work as does anyone else in a service business so nothing surprises me anymore. I pretty much refuse to work on projects that would create an unsafe situation for the end user and put my business at risk. Another place in town has no problems doing this type of work and then I get the irate folks calling me. I let them know why they are having problems and usually they come to their senses but some don’t and want to repeat the same mistake again but with me doing the work. I just flat out refuse or price them out with a proper repair.

Have you ever watched any of the “Just Rolled In” videos? The DIY repairs that some customers attempted before taking their vehicle to the shop are sometimes mind-boggling in their wrong-headedness.

This is one of their videos, but there are a whole lot more:

There are also the “Customer States” videos which show vehicles with incredibly bad rust damage to the chassis, and also features repairs that were complicated by the customer skipping maintenance or by ignoring a problem for far too long:

I will have to watch these sometime. Unfortunately I have bought some used cars with these types of repairs and it can take a while to sort out the mess and correct it all.

A couple IT related things I have seen are a guy who thought he could screw his laptop to a desk with long deck or lag screws with big flat washers to secure it. He used four of them, one in each corner, and of course the unit no longer worked. He was like “I really need my data. Can I at least get that back?” One of the screws had gone right through the hard drive, penetrating the platters of course. He just ran them through with a drill.

Another guy removed some components from his motherboard so he could add some component due to a clearance issue. He just ripped them off with pliers and then wondered why the computer no longer worked.

Nothing surprises me with people anymore…


Anyone who has ridden their bike in the rain and tried the hand brake knows the effect of even water on a friction surface.


Yep, my first accident was trying to brake in the rain, bent up the frame of my bike when I hit. To consider greased brake pads as usable in any way is NUTS.

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And then there are times where your bike brakes are just a tiny bit damp and dusty, then they are extra grippy. Car brakes will do the same but I suspect a tiny bit of oil will not make them extra grippy.

Things aren’t so simple. When brake shoes are contaminated with gear oil, they will “grab” and cause that wheel to lock prematurely. Lubricant doesn’t always cause loss of brake friction.

I’m sure brake grease has been applied to the wrong side of brake pads before and without all the hysteria. There is a lot of hydraulic/mechanical force on the pads, most of the grease will be wiped from the rotors after a few dozen revolutions, the pads will produce an odor and smoke when hot.

If your car had hand operated manual brakes like your bicycle you would be in real danger.

Well, we don’t know how much grease, how the brakes are working, how much skill the driver has, nuttin’. So it’s far from hysteria to advise them to repair this ASAP, and it’s nuts in my opinion to advise them to drive on.


Maybe the brother was using a repair manual procedure. If so the repair manual may have said something like “apply anti-squeal grease to the brake pads before installing them in the caliper”, and whoever wrote the procedure just assumed the person doing the job already knew what that meant.

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How much grease? This is what the discount auto parts stores push with each brake pad sale:
Looks big in the picture, it is only 4 grams.

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If the brother didn’t understand brakes enough to let him do this, what else did he mess up?