Q: What in your
opinion should a brake job consist of? On my cars and truck, Iíve
had just the pads replaced, and sometimes the rotors turned or
replaced, but never a caliper replaced. Iíve tried a new repair
place, and they want to replace my rotors and install ďloaded
calipers.Ē Is this overkill or necessary as a car ages?
ó Sean T.
A: There are many
variables and approaches to this issue.
Letís say a vehicle
is ready for its first brake job at 46,000 miles (front wear sensors
have begun to sing, rear brakes still look good). If there are no
complaints of pedal pulsation or noise, the rotor surface finish
looks good, and there isnít noticeable corrosion of components, a
simple brake pad replacement will likely do fine.
This job would
include inspecting rotor thickness, brake hoses and fluid level, and
cleaning/lubricating caliper slides and associated hardware. If
brake fluid is more than three to four years old flushing/renewal is
recommended. With premium grade pads installed, the odds of repair
success are perhaps 90 percent
The second brake job,
letís say at 90,000 miles, likely includes the rear pads or shoes
as well. This time rotor finish is a little sketchy due to light
scoring, glazing or some hard spots. Assuming rotor thickness is
sufficient, machining (turning/refinishing) them is prudent.
Replacement is overkill unless after-machining thickness is too
thin. Replacement of caliper attaching pins, seals and so forth
should also be considered unless they look really good. Itís best
to flush/renew brake fluid again. Repair success odds, due to
additional variables, drops to perhaps 80 percent
At the next brake job
(130,000 miles?), itís possible the rotors have become worn and
their surface finish has deteriorated due to heating issues because
of their reduced thickness/mass, causing pulsation or noise. A
second light machining may be all thatís possible due to minimum
thickness rules, so replacement may be called for. My take on this
is a slightly imperfect original equipment rotor may actually be
superior to a cheap replacement part. If rotors are to be renewed,
step up and buy good ones! Repair success odds vary ó see caliper
(remanufactured calipers with pads already inserted) are a nifty
idea but, I think, overkill unless a vehicle is 10 or more years
old, itís operated in a corrosive environment, or one or more
calipers shows evidence of seepage. If the remanufacturer is QS-9000
certified and the pads included are of premium quality and fluid is
flushed/renewed/bled, this is much preferred over rebuilding a
caliper or replacing just one. The bottom line is caliper problems
are rare, if one maintains fluid condition.
obviously want to insure a safe driving outcome and minimize the
chance of a comeback, so recommendations to play it safe with
additional parts or services is understandable (Iíll leave profit
out of this). Performing a cheapo brake job can become a headache
for both parties!
On the other hand,
new part quality vs. the ďif it ainít broke donít fix itĒ
principle is tricky. A while back I renewed rear brakes on my Tahoe.
One drum was lightly scored, and they had a lot of miles on them, so
I renewed both. I stepped up for mid/upper grade parts and still
went through two pairs of replacements before achieving
pulsation-free driving enjoyment.