Brake Check – Check It Yourself

06 Aug 2011
Author: Joel The Great  |  Category: Rants  |  Comments (2)  |  Add Comment

A few months ago I bought me a used car. A nice 2001 [CAR] (I don’t need to tell you what I drive dammit).  Well, as it has over 100,000 miles certain things are bound to go wrong with it.  Recently there was a weird noise coming from my back tire(s).  I say noise because it was like a squealing, but not like a squealing. Like a grinding, but not like a grinding. I don’t really have a way to describe the sound.

After some thinking I decided it most likely was a brake problem (This should be no shock to anyone reading this, as the title says BRAKE CHECK in it).  So on my way home from work I swung by Brake Check.  For those of you who do not know, Brake Check is like a Jiffy Lube, but for brakes.  And for those of you that don’t know what a Jiffy Lube is, it’s a chain of Oil Change stores. Welcome to 2011.  From this point on I’m not gonna spell a lot out to you.  There will be all kinds of mechanical terms in relation to brakes on a car.  Go look it up if you don’t understand.

After a bit of a wait, they drove my car around the lot, jacked it up and tinkered around the tires a bit.  After a while the diagnosis was in.  The right rear brake caliper had “frozen*” and had been clamping down on the rotor. (*: I don’t remember the exact term used, so yeah.).

I asked them the question everyone will ask, how much is this going to cost me?  For them to do the BARE MINIMUM to fix the problem, they would need to replace the brake caliper, and the brake pads. Total price for just that, after parts, labor, and tax.  $370.  This is also with the suggestion that my rotor (the brake disk) be replaced, which would be roughly another $80 extra.

Me being the cheap asshole I am, and also a technical genius, and super smart put a plan of action in.  I explained to them that I don’t believe I could afford that, and let me make some phone calls to figure out what I could do.  I called the one person close to me that I could trust on this matter.   My Father-In-Law.

Why did I call him? He is a PhD, certified Firefighter, certified Paramedic, has over a dozen more certifications that I can’t list, has been in many publications, and has had more hobbies than most anyone I’ve ever known.  Also he has worked on similar brand of vehicles  for decades and has fixed many many car issues for his family and friends.  The man is a genius.   That is why I called him.

After some discussing, he agreed with my first thought, $370 is ridiculous.  The fact that Brake Check told me the Caliper alone was about a $200 part was complete bullshit.  He said he would look up the cost of the parts, and it would probably be best to just bring it to his house if possible.

After getting off the phone with him, I put phase 2 of my plan in action.  I used THEIR free Wi-Fi to look up the cost of the parts from AutoZone’s website.  Caliper, $140. Pads, $40.

At this point I would like to share what went through my head:


Let’s add to this fun.  They wanted $370 roughly for just the caliper and pads.  The Rotor they wanted to charge me $80 for, I could get one for $30.  I could also get some high performance rotor for $80…but I commute, not race.

I told them to get my car down as I couldn’t afford that, and I would have to save up and bring it back.  At this point I asked if I could get a print out of what needed fixed and how much it was going to cost me so I could make sure I saved enough up.  They refused.  Bastards.  I know it’s because technically I was walking away with a free diagnosis, but they couldn’t even take the time to write the total down on a business card.  Fuck them and their unfriendly highway robbery shenanigans.

I carefully took my car to my in-laws house, which is luckily not very far from where I live.  My Father-In-Law (FIL) and I jacked up the rear end of my car, took the tires off and examined the damage.  Brake Check was right in their diagnosis.

The caliper had stuck/froze and failed.  It was squeezing one pad onto the rotor, while the other was doing nothing.  And this is while driving, not when braking.  The pad on the inside part of the caliper had worn through to the metal bracket the metal/ceramic pad is attached to.  I was almost grinding away the caliper itself.

Thanks to Napa Auto Parts website, we were able to find all the parts I needed, order them for pick up, and drive to the Napa Auto Parts store not even 10 minutes away.

It cost me $270 to get the following:

  • New rotor
  • New set of pads (4 pads)
  • New caliper (I believe it’s technically a refurb, but built like new?)
  • Caliper Hardware set (just in case parts are needed)

Now some of you small brained people might be thinking….well that’s only $100 less, and now you have to do it yourself.  Shut up you jackass.  I’m not done with my story, there is a surprise coming up.

So my FIL and me started working on fixing the brakes, encountered a few issues, scraped a few knuckles, and fixed a small leak, were able to get the new caliper with new pads and the new rotor onto my car.  This couldn’t have happened without my FIL’s awesome knowledge and know-how in the field of auto mechanics.  It did take a combined 5-6 hours to get done, but that was due to finicky parts, and odd designs in my car. (Like the e-brake cable being in the way of a bolt, so you have to attach it last, not first).

After it was done and fixed I had the Caliper Hardware set to return, and then my FIL told me about the core return (I believe that’s what it was referred to).  Basically, the old caliper gets taken back to Napa Auto Parts in the box the new one came in.  Then you receive a small amount back as they can take it and refurbish it for cheaper than making a new one.

The caliper hardware set, and the money from giving them the old busted caliper gave me $107 back.  Meaning it only cost me about $163 to fix everything Brake Check was going to, plus I got a new rotor out of it. (Again, FUCK BRAKE CHECK).

The really messed up part.  Brake Check never mentioned anything about a core return.  On how they actually would make a little bit of money on my old part for their pockets.   So they mark up the price of the parts, and don’t tell you they are getting a few extra dollars off of it.  That’s what I call a rip off.

I know a lot of people don’t have access to a genius, or the proper set of tools to do what I did. But you should do some research and shop around for a place that won’t try to rip you off so bad.  Do some research before you hand over your hard earned money.

2 Responses to “Brake Check – Check It Yourself”

  1. Viktor van der Dekken Says:

    Oy. Check with your state Dept of licensing or Sec State’s office. In this state, (State of Confusion) a repair facility is required to provide a written estimate on work to be done, estimate of costs, and (best guess) of time & labor fees before any chargeable work is started. Failure to do so results in fines to the car repair joint.
    Turner’s Law #26: “A new part does not mean it is a good part. It just means no one else has used it before you.”
    Suggest you find a real auto care provider, one you can trust. Invest dozens of doughnuts in the repair shop. (Turner’s Law #5: “Doughnuts always work”). You become known to the service writer, the lead mechanics etc and insead of just anotherf body coming through the door, it becomes “Look who is here. Its Joel, the guy who brings us doughnuts. Hi, and how can we help you today?”
    Always good to get a second opinion. I had a soft and squishy brake pedal, would go mostly to the floor but could be pumped up again. Les Schwab’s guys said it was just low on brake fluid. It persisted so the next week I took the car (and a dozen assorted doughnuts) to my regular auto care provider, the one in whom I have invested hundreds of doughnuts. They discovered a blown brake cylinder main seal, fixed it and I was on the road again.
    Good deal you have a resident genius to assist you. Oh did you ever get a set of pink fuzzy dice for that sizzling sports car? I have an inquiring mind.

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