Ripoff on brakes?

My wife took our 1999 Toyota 4 Runner to the dealership to have the brakes checked. She thought they weren’t performing as well as they used to and wantted them looked at. After a few hours they called and said the front rotors and pads needed to be replaced. She asked for the old parts if they felt they needed to do this and reluctantly agreed to the work at 600.00. It was also getting an oil change. We recently moved to a new area, had the vehicle inspected 5 months ago and had about 3000 miles since the inspection. On the drive home, the brakes didn’t seem any better and she realized the old parts weren’t given to her as agreed. When she went back to get parts and she had to wait about an hour to get them. When she got home later I looked at the parts and the rotors looked fine, there were only one set of pads returned in the car and measured them. When she got home the removed brake disks looked nearly new and measured between 21.65 and 21.70 mm. Minimum thickness is 20.0 mm and nominal new thickness is 21.7 to 21.8 mm. The pads were also far from the wear indicators and the pads returned had 4.7 and 6.7 mm shoe thickness remaining. I sent an email to Toyota motors North America and after a week was asked to allow them to originate a talk with the customer service manager at the dealer. We said OK but are not comfortable dealing again with a group who appears very questionable. Our gut feel is to avoid contact with the dealer. Are we overly sensitive, or were we ripped off?

Yes, it certainly looks like you were lied to. In addition, the brake problem is still there, which is potentially a serious issue. You should go to “mechanics files” in this website and find a recommended repairer near you. Dealerships do not have any special expertise in fixing brakes, and they tend to overcharge and do “remove and replace” until the problem is solved. You need someone who can understand your problem and solve it, not someone who will simply replace every part of your brake system, one piece at a time (whether it is faulty or not) until you either stop complaining or run out of money.

This work is still under warranty. I would take the old pads back and have them show you what was srong with them. Your other complaint also should be the repair did not make the brakes better than before. They should handle this as a warranty issue. If you don’t trust them at all, then take wentwest’s suggestion and write off the experience as a bad one.

I wonder just what the issues was with the brakse? Very few people who bring their car to a shop complaining about brake performance be it Dealer or independant escape with nothing being replaced.

This is probably what happened,the shop did not find any issues with your brakes as is but developed a mind-set that something is going to get replaced.

“not performing as well as they used to” is a pretty vague complaint. I myself would be very tempted to replace pads and rotors if no other problem was found,what would be my choice,tell you all is well? and then the next guy puts on pads and rotors?

Why would you take a 1999 model vehicle into a dealership??? That’s your first mistake. With a little effort, you could learn to service your own brakes and avoid all these problems.

Generally speaking, Americans are COMPLETELY ignorant about the mechanical underpinnings of their vehicles. This makes them little more than ducks in a shooting gallery…Dealerships don’t make any money “inspecting” anything. They make money replacing outrageously over-priced parts. You REALLY threw them a curve ball when you demanded the old parts back…How DARE you do that?

“not performing as well as they used to” is a pretty vague complaint. I myself would be very tempted to replace pads and rotors if no other problem was found,what would be my choice,tell you all is well? and then the next guy puts on pads and rotors? <<----"copied and pasted from oldschools post ************************************************************************************
My first ques. is the same as oldschools above. What EXACTLY does “not performing as well as they used to” actually mean, and what did the dealer ask or say when she said this?
Was the pedal pulsateing when applying the brakes? Were they pulling to one side or the other? Were they not locking up the tires during a panic stop? What??
As far as the customer service rep. from Toyota: He is your best bet to help you resolve this. He is going to try and find some common ground btw. you and the dealer so you go away happy instead of feeling screwed. Toyota of N.A. does not want the bad publicity that you could spread about this dealership because ultimately it spreads to them. Don’t avoid contact with the district service representative or you will end up with nothing, BUT do avoid contact with the dealership if the dist. service rep. is not there. Call Toyota of N.A. again and make an appointment to meet with the Dist. serv. rep the next time he is scheduled to be at that dealership. The ones I’m familiar with generally visit each dealership once a month, (and it is a regularly scheduled visit) Take your parts with you and show them to him (BUT DO NOT GIVE THEM TO THE DEALER IF THE D.S.R. IS NOT THERE!!) They might accidently lose them, or might switch them for a worse set to give back to you, especially if they think their mechanic made a mistake.
Without seeing the rotors/discs it is hard to determine if you were ripped off. You gave us the measurements, but are they "scored or rough? Are there any grooves that measure less than 20.0 mm?? If yes, then this is why they didn’t try and machine them down. What did you use to measure the rotors? A micrometer or a vernier caliper?
I don’t think you are being overly sensitive. $600.00 is a lot of money…

Your wife “thinking” the brakes “were not performing as well” is a pretty hazy complaint and she approved the brake replacement.
If they had told her nothing was wrong and she took it to an independent shop which then performed the repair would the insinuation be that the dealer was clueless?

You measured the rotors at X amount. Since a proper brake repair (as opposed to the backyard method) requires rotor servicing maybe those old rotors are not going to be acceptable AFTER machining.
Since labor (machining only) is often an hour per rotor the cost of machining can be prohibitive and new rotors may be a better option.

Some of the pads are at 4.7 MM. A general rule of thumb is replace pads when they’re worn to an 1/8 inch and preferably a bit before then.
Since an eighth inch equates to 3.2 MM those pads ain’t that far away and considering the tech is presented with a repair order that states the brakes are not performing as well then it seems to me he did what was required under the circumstances.

And you can’t “look” at a rotor and determine that “it’s fine”.
So who measured these rotors and pads down to the tenth of a MM? Do you have your own micrometers and/or calipers?

I disagree with the postings that are taking this family to task because their complaint is too vague. As far as I’m concerned, their behavior was OK. Something wasn’t right and they knew that much, so they went to a place that held itself out as being capable of solving their problem. The problem did NOT get solved, and this poster had the ability to measure the old parts and found them not to be worn out. So, what did they do wrong? They don’t know how to diagnose their own brakes - so what? Most of us know a lot about a little, and for some it’s mechanical repairs. For them it’s not. So, don’t criticize them. The dealer clearly got them for $600 for a front end brake job they did not need.

Vague is right, my wife said the brakes did not feel right and didn’t want me to drive it - don’t know why. Pictures of the rotors, shoes are at: and I used an analog set of calipers to do the measurements. Based on comments I re-measured with digital calipers and the measurements at 90 degrees on the circle for each rotor are 21.55, 21.80, 21.80 and 21.54 mm on one rotor and 21.42, 21.84, 21.53 and 21.81 cm. The shoes measured 6.78, 7.12 on one shoe and 4.52 and 4.49 on the other. Pressing my wife on what was the problem, she said there was some vibration and taking longer to stop. When she got the brakes back they were still longer to stop. Guessing one part of the problem were wet brakes (had long period of rain) and looks like the rotors were not true. Thanks for the comments.

I had an old set of calipers and double checked the measurements with digital calipers after a few of the coments. The measurements at 90 degrees on the circle for each rotor are 21.55, 21.80, 21.80 and 21.54 mm on one rotor and 21.42, 21.84, 21.53 and 21.81 cm. The shoes measured 6.78, 7.12 on one shoe and 4.52 and 4.49 on the other. Pictures of the shoes are at:

THE NEW INFORMATION you have given us about the “vibration” and “looks like the rotors are untrue” sheds a whole new light on this case. In your first post you said there was no improvement in the brakes after they were repaired, and you did not mention vibration. Did the brake pedal feel like it was pulsateing or going up and down when you applied the brakes BEFORE you had it repaired? Did this problem go away AFTER the repairs?
IF the dealer told you the rotors are untrue AND this has fixed the “vibration” problem you were feeling when you applied the brakes, then you did need the rotors/discs

I/we meant no offense to Stanishr or his wife when we said she was “vague” in her description of the brake problem, and I was not takeing them to task. However COMMUNICATION between the customer and the auto repair facility is MOST IMPORTANT.
I have never known of a service manager complaining about “getting too much information” It’s the same as on this site. We need ALL the information we can get to try and help them to solve their problems. I think mis-communication or “lack of communication” is the root cause of 99% of the misunderstandings between customers and automotive service departments. I don’t think you can ever have too much information when you are trying to solve a problem on someone car.
The additional information he has given us today about “the vibration” and “the rotors being untrue”, has totally changed my opinion on this case as far as whether the dealership did or did not do a proper repair. (see above)
Personally, I was impressed with him haveing the initative to go get a caliper and measure the rotors, and finding the specifications on the internet and determining for himself that they were not below specs.

Think of it as pads age their performance changes,perhaps this was the motivation for changing,perhaps a different composition of pad was used to change brake performance,not every pad is changed due to being close to damaging rotor ( if that even is a worry in these rotor replacement days).

I would fault the Dealer if a fluid replacement was due and you were not presented the option, were you?

Remember we are searching for a fix for a concern that was most likely not duplicated, was it?

My wife mad no mention of vibration until after I specifically asked and it was several days after getting the car back - after the posts that an acknowledgment that they seem better.
The dealer didn’t say the rotors were untrue, just they needed to be replaced because they were too thin to machine down. I think we both communicated poorly, my wife and I out of ignorance and the dealer maybe looking for an easier solution.
Probably she didn’t want me to drive it because I probably would have said it’s not that bad - but she wanted it fixed no matter what the cost - it’s only my money. Anyway she ‘feels’ safer now and it only cost me $600. Probably if I took it somewhere else they may have turned the rotors and let me off a few hundred dollars richer.
For my part - we moved from Texas this year to Maryland and the dealers in Texas where we would take the cars were less likely to fix something unless it was pretty obvious. Here we’ll need to be more careful.
When I looked at the rotors I thought they looked as good as new, and the faces were not scored and appeared to have plenty of metal left. I would have opted for resurfacing if given a choice, but she wasn’t and maybe there was a reason but I’ll need to talk to the service rep to find out.

Why would you take a 1999 model vehicle into a dealership?..Because they chose to and there is nothing wrong with that.

Why do you believe going to a dealer is a mistake?

With a little effort, you could learn to service your own brakes and avoid all these problems. …You cannot accurately say this as some are not capable of car repair HELLO, this is brake repair, kinda important!!!

Generally speaking, Americans are COMPLETELY ignorant about the mechanical underpinnings of their vehicles…this is such a stupid and shallow thing to say, there is no fact to this at all. The people who don’t know about the mechanical underpinnings of their vehicles are those who simply don’t know and that can be said about people from any country. Is it a sin they don’t know? No it is not. Remember, ignorance is simply not having knowledge and Will Rogers said “Everybody is ignorant, only on different subjects”.

The real problem is not that someone does not know about their vehicle but that a business is apparently lying to gain money for services not rendered. I suspect the returned parts are not even from the posters vehicle.

I don’t understand why your better half did not want you to drive or inspect the car but those figures you give show the rotors are not just out of whack, but astronomically out of whack.

The 6 and 7 MM pads are acceptable for a while but the 4 MM ones are very close to being due and since the rotors are junk (they’re too far gone to surface) it was time for a brake job.

I saw the photos of the rotors you posted, and in the 3 that have the light reflecting off of the surface where the brake pad runs they look very smooth, not rough, or grooved so I don’t think they would have needed machineing for that reason. The measurements you gave are above specs. so how does the dealer say they were too thin? They didn’t need machineing if they were not untrue, and if the surfaces were not grooved, which they do not apopear to be, so I don’t understand the dealers “double speak” on that part.
I still think you “might” have a case (for a partial refund) with the D.S. Rep. but it all depends on what your wife told the service manager. If she said something like “do whatever you think it needs” or something like that, then maybe not. It all comes down to what she said and what he told her.
Two questions for you: Where did the phrase (looks like the rotors were untrue) come from? Who actually said this?
Is your wife satisfied that the vibration went away? If so then it was a good repair.

FYI I found out years ago that I couldn’t “share” a car with my wife ha ha ha
As soon as we could afford a second car we bought her one :slight_smile: