How much does a Brake Job Cost
A Consumer’s Guide to a Quality Brake Job
I’m often asked how much a brake job should cost. The answer depends on where you get it done. If you go to a muffler-type chain repair shop that advertises $99 brake jobs, I guarantee you that the brake job will wind up costing you over $600. That’s because NOBODY can make money by charging only $99 for a brake job. It simply can’t be done.
To make up for what they lost on the $99 price, the shops ALWAYS “discover” that you need rebuilt calipers. NOBODY gets out of the shop without that recommendation. Do you need rebuilt calipers? Most often, you don’t.
So how much should you pay? It’s 2013 and the going rate for an average brake job is around $275. That price includes installing a quality brake pad, machining the rotors (if needed), and lubricating the caliper slide pins with a high temperature grease.
That’s the simple answer. To learn more about brake jobs, read on….
What goes wrong with calipers?
The caliper is the part that squeezes the brake pads against the rotor. When you press on the brake pedal, the master cylinder (like a giant doctor’s syringe) squeezes brake fluid through the brake lines and into the bore of the caliper. The pressure squeezes a piston out and that’s what applies pressure to the pads. When you release the brake pedal, a square cut O-ring rolls the piston back into the bore of the caliper. To compensate for brake pad wear, the caliper slides on heavy metal “pins.” The car makers take precautions to prevent these pins from rusting. But if the rubber protection “boots” are torn, or the high temperature grease deteriorates, these pins can bind and prevent the caliper from moving. That can cause uneven brake pad wear.
If the shop tells you that you have that kind of uneven wear and they want to replace the caliper, ask them if the pins are binding. If they stare at you, you know they haven’t even checked the pins. Binding or
seized caliper pins are NOT a reason to replace the calipers. A set of brand new caliper pins costs only $10 per side. But a rebuild caliper costs almost $100.
So what is a good reason to replace a caliper. Well, if it’s leaking, you MUST replace it. Another reason is if the piston doesn’t retract after you release the brake pedal. That’s easy to diagnose because you would notice some brake drag as you take off from a dead stop. Plus, you would experience a decrease in gas mileage. The best way to avoid replacing a caliper due to piston retraction failure is to replace the brake fluid every few years. Fresh fluid contains anti-corrosive additives. That keeps the seals in good condition and prevents corrosion inside the caliper bore.
A good brake job requires quality parts
The biggest con job going today is to use cheap brake pads and rotors. I can buy cheap brake pads (in quantity) for as little as $10 per set. But a factory equivalent name brand set costs around $50. If I’m a chain shop, I can install the cheap
pads and give you a lifetime warranty. The pads won’t last long, so I know you’ll be back for a “warranty” claim. But when you do come back, I’ll install another set of cheap pads for free, but I’ll hit you up for the labor and I’ll also nail you for a new set of rotors, and, of course, new calipers. This scam will go on and on until you get wise.
The same con applies to rotors. If you watch the slide show on my home page, you’ll see the difference between an economy rotor and a premium rotor. Or click on this link. Trust me, installing cheap rotors is a really bad idea. It’s NOT a place to save money. An economy rotor will cost you far more in the long run. They don’t dissipate heat as well because they made will less metal and low quality metal.
Plus, they actually ADD to your stopping distance. That’s not opinion, it’s a FACT. So always ask the shop to
install name brand brake parts. Raybestos, Bendix, Wagner, NAPA/United, Carquest are all good brands. Even then, you should know that each company makes an economy, OEM (what the car makers put in), and a premium grade product. In the repair business, economy parts are called “service grade,” and the best parts are called “premium.”
Which type of brake pads should you choose?
Brake pads stop your car by converting rolling energy into heat. But too much heat can destroy the pads and rotors. During the 80’s brake pad manufacturers started adding metal fibers to the pad material to help pull the heat away from the rotor. Those pads are called semi-metallic or simply “semi-mets.” They perform their job exceptionally well. But they do have some major drawbacks. The metallic fibers grind against the rotors and wear them out faster. And, the metal fibers often cause annoying brake “squeal.” The fibers also rust and deposit ugly brown brake dust on your fancy aluminum wheels.
To combat those problems, pad manufacturers began adding ceramics to the brake pads. These pads are called “ceramic.” They are much quieter and don’t wear the rotors out as fast as semi-mets. Most brake shops tout these as “premium pads.” But ceramic pads don’t stop the car as well as semi-metallic and that’s why you’ll find semi-metallic pads in most large SUVs and trucks. If you replace factory semi-metallics with ceramics, they won’t last as long and may increase stopping distances. The other issue is that there is no single industry standard for what formulas qualify as “ceramic.” There are plenty of cheap ceramic pads out there that aren’t worth the price. So once again, you should rely on a name brand to guide your purchase. As a rule, always replace brake pads with the same style that was installed at the factory.
Do you need new hardware?
I could write a book about this subject, but I won’t bore you. The answer is YES, always replace the brake hardware. It’s cheap and the new slides and springs will make your brake job last longer.
© 2012 Rick MuscoplatPosted on by Rick Muscoplat