Motormouth: Brake check: Aftermarket brake pads as good as automaker’s, and cheaper

McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

Feb. 12, 2018

Q: I have a 2012 Hyundai Santa Fe with 70,200 miles that is in need of brakes. My dealer says they use OEM brakes and rotors and I should pay the extra $300 for their service. My local mechanic says he can do the job for less and will use ceramic brake pads. I don’t know if OEM and ceramic are the same, or if there are better quality parts that I should request?

— T.K., Crystal Lake, Ill.

A: OEM stands for "original equipment manufacturer," so OEM brake pads are the same as those that came with the vehicle. The friction material on the brake pads may be organic, semi-metallic or ceramic. Brand-name aftermarket pads are just as good — and sometimes better — than OEM. Don’t waste money.

Q: Before starting the car, my brother-in-law always tells me to turn the key halfway and wait for the beeping to stop first. He says that this is important to do because it allows the computer to check all of the car’s sensors first. Any truth to this, or is this another urban legend?

— G.K., Chicago

A: Computers are so fast that everything is checked in less than the blink of an eye. But we do encourage you to pause and check all of the warning lights to make sure they are all working.

Q: During a recent cold spell my battery died after only 35 months of use. I should get a free replacement up until the 36th month. The Honda dealer pointed out that the warranty applies to a replacement battery, not the one that came with the vehicle. It makes no sense to point out the warranty in the owner’s manual about a replacement battery. Whatever battery I buy is going to have its own warranty. Very frustrating. You go to the dealer expecting a replacement battery at no charge and you end up walking out the door paying for it instead.

— B.H., Arlington Heights, Ill.

A: The owner’s manual is vague on warranty coverage of the original equipment battery, which comes under the basic 36 month/36,000 miles. Although you may be able to argue that there is no mention of the warranty being prorated, we would not press the point. Generally, battery coverage diminishes near the end of its projected service life.

Q: If you mix 50 percent 92-octane gasoline with 50 percent 88-octane gasoline at the pump, do you really get 90 octane in your tank? Do the different octanes mix together?

— T.R., Chicago

A: Yep. In fact, that is what happens at the gas station when you select midgrade gas. Fuel from both of the underground storage tanks is blended at the pump with the help of the blend valve. At one time Sunoco used to have several octane grades available for the motorist’s selection.

Q: Most cars today have the headlights come on when the engine starts. I routinely turn off the headlights if it is daytime. I was wondering if this habit would, after 15 years, result in any savings with respect to energy use of the car.

— G.B., Bartlett, Ill.

A: Nope.