Well… my car was back at it again this month, as more repairs and maintenance were absolutely necessary given the winter and our CPA season of “busy season” coming on deck. I wanted to make sure a specific repair was taken care of before trenching through snow, ice and hundreds/thousands of miles of driving over the next 90 days. It’s an easy repair actually, but one that I have a tale of two cities, for lack of better words, to describe – Brakes and Rotors.
To begin, I purchased my used Honda at 43,100 miles back in July/August of 2013. It has been approximately 16 months and I have put on 25,800 miles since then, with some months driving like an absolute maniac from client to client, and other months very calm, putting on less than 1,000 in a month. Regardless, my car hit the 68K mile mark and I could feel the brakes being worn down, as the rear brakes made a slight grinding noise occasionally. From my mind I thought – damn… another trip to knowing you have endless liabilities owning a car again! However, this time I opted to take matter into my own hands and simply perform the repairs myself. Back when I had my Toyota Celica, with the help of friends/relatives, I repaired the following: Front Brakes/Rotors, rear pads and drums/shoes, fuel filler neck, O2 sensor replacement and a brake line. I would walk into my graduate school classes with cuts on my hands and slightly “ashy” from being outside during the cold working on a car. My peers thought I was crazy, as someone with education and on the embark of being in the business world was working on a car. I thought that was nonsense – I am an Italian who feels that when it comes to Man vs. Machine, that Man ultimately will win. It has worked this way for me in the past – so why not now? I figured I should do this to preserve my 60% savings rate challenge as well!
Endless Liabilities Owning a Car
I went to the glorious auto parts store and picked up my front brake pads and rotors, jack stands (since I didn’t have any), grease for the new pads and a socket set. I spent around $140 for these items and went to work, only to find out I didn’t have the right sockets/wrench for the job – and therefore, went off to my cousins garage who I knew had it, plus I was then able to use his helping hand. When there, we realized the front rotors were actually in pretty good shape – with some slight rust, but with no warping or no level issues; therefore, I decided to keep the old and take back the ones I purchased, which put $85 back into my pocket. With the help of my cousins – we replaced the front brake pads in no-time flat and with the extra parts that I will keep (jack stands, socket set, etc) cost me approximately $55. Since it was getting cold and my brakes on the front were finished – we called it a night to watch our Cavs play and to work on the rear brakes next time. I was pretty happy – new front brake pads for $55, which the actual parts for front brakes are only approximately $22-$25, as it was the extra tools that I intend to keep for a long time that cost me, jack stands I don’t feel are a bad investment if you do work on your car or simply need it to check things out. Onto the rear brake story…
A much different story here. It was Friday the 26th, day after Christmas, I ran up to the auto parts store and bought the pads and rear rotors, for a total of approximately $82. The rotors for the rear are much cheaper than the front. As I proceeded, I took the tire off the rear left and began taking the bolts out of the caliper only to find one bolt that was giving me quite the hard time. Such a hard time that I realized – that bolt was warped/stripped and no grip of any wrench I had at my family’s house had any lucky moving it, at all. After 2 hours of busting my ass trying every which way to get the caliper holder of the pad loose, I sadly tossed the towel in. I was frustrated and aggravated at the fact I couldn’t do it. My hands were cut up, completely greased and smog filled and I lost to a damn screw. I took the parts back and made a decision to myself – take it and have it serviced by a technician.
The Run Around
This took me to Saturday the 27th. I called 4 places, all “popular” chains that we are all well aware of, as I don’t know any mom & pop shop in the area I live in yet. One company gave me a run around saying, “We will have to jack your car up, take a look at the issues & problems and then get back to you on the fee estimate” –> I was not having or accepting that. I am knowledgeable enough to know – I need new rotors and brake pads in the rear, as those were all worn down much further than what my front ones were and I could feel grooves in my rotors slightly – that’s what I need and that’s what I wanted to pay for. I didn’t want to wait 2 hours for them to inspect just to go through the run around of saying I need 14 different things that I truly did not need. On to the next one. One service technician said, “We have availability now, we will reserve a spot in our garage for you since you called and I would estimate it to be $275 without tax” – to which I replied that it would be essentially $300 with tax. He responded, “Yes – that sounds right on, give or take a few dollars”. Another company said that it could range for them from $250-$350 and could get higher depending on what they run into and then I proceeded to call that same company at a different location and they said $400-$500. Scratched those 2 off and I went to the service center that gave me a direct response to what I needed done.
I took it there, dropped the key off, walked 4 miles on a 55 degree + day in Cleveland (which is unheard of) and received a call approximately 1 hour later. What do you think he said on this call? Gotcha! He actually said, “Lanny, your car is ready to be picked up”. Really? Just like that? No run around or different things you are offering me? I came in about 40 minutes later and the cost was $303. Right where we stated it. My feelings are two things – this shop was honest and respected the customer. Secondly – they also did the service that I distinctly requested.
Conclusion & Summary
However, I want everyone to see the comparison – Front Pads & Rotors at your nearby auto store typically can run, at least for my car, a total of $110. The rear pads and rotors run approximately $82. When I broke this down, I essentially paid $218 for an individuals hour of time and their access to the right tools to do this on just the rear brakes alone. The price of changing and replacing my rear brake pads (since they would not use the purchased items that I had from an auto store, therefore, a nice up-charge is added for their parts…) cost more than if I were to do both front and rear brakes myself (Cost is roughly under ~$200). The money I saved from doing the front essentially was used to have someone else service the rear. I am only mad that I gave up after a few hours of working on a bolt I could not widdle loose. I am relieved that it is over and done with, and should last me well over 1.5-2 years without having to go this route again, therefore, when amortizing the cost, it essentially isn’t too much. Lesson here is: When you try to do something yourself – if you figure out that you can’t do it, don’t be stubborn like me and waste more valuable hours trying to do it – ask for help or last case – the service center can always get it done. It’s amazing that our hands though have the ability to do this and there isn’t some auto center training that is needed to do this type of work. Trust in your ability to do it and you can make it happen. Because it was the day after Christmas – I did not want to bother any family to see if they had a tool to lug the bolt out – something that if it were a different time – I more than likely would – especially after going through the cost of this experience. All-in-all my brakes are set and ready to go for approximately ~$360 in total and should be good for 45-70K miles! Ah.. the endless liabilities of owning a car, was sad that I wrote another article about this topic!
What would you have done in this situation? Have you taken it somewhere and received the “run down” that your car is in need of a new everything, including an engine?! Do you do the work yourself or do you have others help you? Always curious on what others do in this situation! Thanks again for stopping by, talk soon.