Do I Need New Brakes On My Car?

This article might be a bit related to the rant and raves article I posted a while back. I’m writing this after working yesterday and having to deal with probably one of the most argumentative people ever.

It all started when I got the repair order for a vehicle with an ‘abnormal brake noise’. I was going to take the car for a test drive to see if they maybe meant a squeaking noise, or maybe even a brake pulsation. As soon I moved the car about 10 feet, I could tell what they were talking about. There was an extremely loud grinding noise coming from the front of the vehicle as I applied the brakes.

I brought the car in the shop, racked it, and removed the front wheels. A quick inspect showed that the front brake pads were worn down to the metal backing and were grinding into the brake rotor, basically destroying it. The rear brakes were almost as bad, as the pads were just about to the point of being totally worn out. The job was quoted for front brake pad and rotor replacement, as well as recommending rear brakes since they were worn past the indicator. The service writer brought the woman who owned the car out to my work area to inspect the damage with me.

Now, the front brakes have backing plates behind the rotors, and to see the inner braking surface is a bit difficult if you don’t know what you’re looking at, which she did not. I described the problem to her and the repairs that were needed, but she didn’t seem to quite believe me. Since the problem was so bad, and I highly recommended NOT driving the car in a condition like this, I offered to take the front brakes apart to really show her how bad it actually was. So, she stood there as I disassembled the left front caliper, bracket, and rotor. I showed her the inner brake pad and pointed out there was no material left and the shiny metal she was looking as was the backing of the pad getting scraped on the brake rotor.

Then I showed her the inside of the brake rotor. It was completely ruined, and had been ground down to almost nothing. I compared that side to the other side which was nice and smooth and told her it should look like this, not that. She was arguing that she could not believe it was so bad because it just started making noise a couple days ago. Now, after a quick chuckle, I explained that there was no possible way this noise just started happening.

By the way, this is something we hear from just about every customer, because no one wants to sound dumb, or be taken as someone who ignores problems on their vehicles. Deny, deny, deny, they always say! LOL!

I pointed out that a noise like this is the last stage in a number of different noises her brakes would make as they fail. She first should have started hearing the brake pad wear indicator hitting the rotor as the brake pads wore down. This would have been anything from a very light scratching or squealing noise. Then the noise would have sounded more metallic as the actual pad material wore down to nothing and then eventually the grinding noise she hears now once there is nothing left to stop the car with. She said that she was told by another shop that she only needed brake pad replacement, and that this was just a few days ago as well. Well, the other shop didn’t do quite a good enough brake inspection I told her. They probably just peeked through the wheel opening and saw the outer pad worn as normal, but it was the inner pads, and rotor surface that was the problem.

Then she informed me that she just wanted me to install new brake pads on the car, but leave the rotors alone. I was shocked! I took the time to take the brakes apart and actually show her how bad it was, and it was like she didn’t believe me. Why would I lie? I’m here to help the customer! She had a legitimate problem that I was trying to tell her the correct way to remedy it. After some more arguing, she was insistent on just getting brake pads installed. I told her that would just be throwing money away, as the new pads would be worn down to nothing in a matter of days if they were installed over the existing ruined rotors.

She didn’t believe that either and finally instructed me to just put the car back together and she would get pads put on elsewhere. I was just completely blown away that this woman was so ignorant to her problem, but hey, if she wants the car back together ‘as is’ that is just what she’ll get.

I laughed as I drove her car around to the front thinking how surprised she will be when another shop tells her the same thing that I just did. I hope she feels pretty stupid at that point. Oh well….some people you just can’t get through to.

As a general side note….I wish people would realize that I’m the expert here. They bring their vehicles to me to be fixed because I’m the guy that can do it. They are at the shop for a reason, and then want to argue about it or not believe the things I tell them? Come on people!