Reader Question: Brake Work?

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Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply!

K7C asks: Just read your recent post on (pre-festivities) vehicle maintenance and I definitely need brake-work. What is the best “type” of shop to get my brakes serviced/repaired/changed/etc?

I don’t know of any reputable shops where I live (relatively new to the area), so should I trust one of the brake-specialist chain locations (Midas, Meineke, etc)? Do you have a rough estimate I should be aware of for parts/labor to replace with all new (necessary) components for a 2005 Yukon XL w/ ~170,000 miles?

BTW – my wife and I have not worn a face-diaper once while anywhere here in NW Houston, TX……and I only wore a full head/face baklava in April at Costco in Boise, ID when the corporate-heads diktated it – so I could openly mock the fearful sheep (“Hey! how about 8-10 feet, buddy! Can’t be too safe, right?! All in this “together”, right?!……thank God for our government who truly cares for us so much!…..”, etc).  We will not be shamed, be made to feel guilty, or be fearful – we have young children we want to set the proper (though not always easy) example for…..and perhaps give encouragement to the maybe 1/100  that might me swayed to stand up as well. Thanks for your time, your writing, and your encouragement!

My reply: A personal recommendation from someone whose judgment you trust is generally your best bet, especially if it’s affirmed by others you know whose judgment you trust. I’d begin by asking people in your orbit who’ve lived in the area awhile who they trust and start there.

Chains aren’t necessarily bad, incidentally. They are actually franchises – and one outlet can be great while another . . . isn’t. Due diligence and caveat emptor.

Also, if you can avoid being in a pinch you greatly reduce the odds of a rip-off. Get estimates from several places before you commit to the work – which you can do if your Yukon’s brakes are still working. Once they’re not….

As far as the cost – this will depend on whether you  need just pads (and turned rotors, etc.) or new rotors… and calipers… and other potentially expensive things. If it’s just a routine brake job – new pads all around and turn the rotors/drums (if you have rear drums, which IIRC you do) plus bleed/refill the hydraulic system with fresh fluid, the cost ought to be no more than $200 or so in parts and labor. But if you need new rotors, calipers/drums or – praying not – a master cylinder/ABS pump – the cost could be a lot higher.

On the rest: Heck yes! The response I’m seeing is heartening. There are a lot of people who are tired of the Kabuki – and aren’t going to play their assigned part. It’s about time. Most of us have been incredibly patient, putting up with this catastrophic nonsense for much too long already.

It’s time to say no more.

As of today.

. . .

Got a question about cars, Libertarian politics – or anything else? Click on the “ask Eric” link and send ’em in!

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  1. Brake work especially discs is usually pretty simple unless you have let it all go to hell. About half the work changing pads and rotors is just jacking up and taking off the wheel & tire. It might be cheaper to just buy new rotors if you need them rather than having the old ones turned. That way you can just slap them on instead of having to take the old ones to a machine shop and then waiting to get them back.

    But then I’ve been working on things for almost fifty years so it seems really simple to me.

    • Most of the time used rotors are too thin to be turned anyway. I’ve miced brand new rotors fresh out of the box that barely have enough meat to be turned, add a few miles of use and you have a definite no-go. Factor in that many new rotors (without integral hubs) only cost a few dollars more than turning service and why would anyone bother?

      • Rotors heavy enough to be turned are no longer made because of the weigh factor. I have had a pickup with rotors that could be turned, nearly 39 years ago.

      • “why would anyone bother?”

        I haven’t, yet. Replaced two front sets on my car because I bought the wrong damn pads and the first new ones warped in a few thousand miles. Where I live so many miles from town, I just get everything new up front rather than spend the gas money to drive back and forth to the parts store. I intended to try to get the factory rotors turned but it’s not really worth it at this point. Rear brakes are still original at 120K miles. I bought new shoes but when I pulled the drums 2x they were still over 50% so I just put the new shoes on the shelf. I suppose I should check them a third time.

  2. Don’t forget to lubricate and/or clean the guide pins on the calipers. The;y are a critical part to even brake wear.

  3. An hour ago I would have been totally lost but I stopped by a shop for a schrader valve for the high side of my ac and a mechanic I know was cussing an 07 half ton Chevy because the springs and adjusters are on top and with no hole on the backing plate. He cussed hell out of it and finally got the drums off. He was telling me every time he did one like that he had to replace everything including springs and of course, wheel cylinders and this one is going to require new drums(wow, glad mine has discs all 4 corners). I’d like to say I haven’t been through the same thing but I have. Grit your teeth and go for the best parts you can get(GM more than likely, don’t accept jobber parts).

    If it were me and I hadn’t done plenty of them, I’d buy a book and do them myself and save a lot of labor costs but no labor. The first time is always the worst, at least, that’s what she said.

    I say I’d do it myself but only if I had the requisite tools. Got home with my schrader valve and a 15 is too small and a 16 is too big so there is evidently a specialty tool for it. I’m close to just using vice grips(have vice grips save my ass many times)and I haven’t ruled it out. I have a couple new pair of them since some of mine walked off, just ran off with the coyotes I guess, kind of like the expensive vice clamps I let a friend borrow and my ramps made from new crossties. Let a friend borrow a really large air jack with big arms and adapters so you could do large light trucks. No telling where they are. Good luck.


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