Should you need to take your vehicle into one of your local auto brake repair shops to have the brakes checked or repaired, this page will give you information on what questions to ask, what to expect while your car’s at the shop and how much it might cost.
If you currently take your vehicle to a mechanic for repair, hopefully, these online guides can convince you to do it yourself instead. With our step-by-step information, you can successfully do your own brake repairs and save money too – a lot of money. In fact, with the money you save by doing it yourself, you can buy upgraded components to make your brakes work better and longer. Doing it yourself gives you the power to know that the job was done right, the way you wanted it done and with the parts that you want.
If you don’t have the right tools or you’re just not comfortable working on your own brakes, at least the info on this website will give you knowledge about how the brake system is repaired and what to expect when you do take your vehicle in. You have a better chance of getting good service at a fair price if you have some knowledge about your vehicle and how it works when going to auto brake repair shops.
Be suspicious of advertising for bargain brake repair jobs. Quality of parts used and thoroughness of job completed will be sacrificed for a $60 brake job – it just can’t be done that cheap at a shop.
Do you need to take your car into an auto brake repair shop?
If you think there is a problem with your brakes, they need to be inspected. You can either do it yourself or take it to a brake repair specialist. Check out the brake troubleshooting page for common brake problems to see if you can determine what the problem is.
If you can’t figure out what’s wrong with the brakes, it might be time to go to a mechanic. Some places will inspect your brakes for free, but keep in mind most shops will try to get your business since your vehicle is already up on the lift and they have invested some time looking at your car. Some places will have a service charge for an inspection, so make sure you know what it costs before giving your keys to them.
Which shop should you go to?
One way to find the better shops in your area is to ask people you know – family, friends, etc… Another good way to tell which shops are better than others is by how busy they are. The shops with better service and reputation will have more customers and typically a long wait.
Tip: Look for auto brake repair shops before you need one, so you won’t have to do any last minute shopping.
You can always research a potential shop on the internet. Check for complaints with the BBB (Better Business Bureau). Make sure the mechanics at the shop are ASE certified. Ask what kind of warranty the shop provides on their repairs.
You can always take your car back to the dealer, although most of the time they will be more expensive. The dealership will always use factory parts, whereas a brake repair shop will typically use factory replacement parts.
Setting up an appointment
You should ask when setting up an appointment how long it will be until they can look at your car. The wait time might be a determining factor if you should go somewhere else if you are on a time constraint.
Getting an estimate
Estimates for some repairs can be given by auto brake repair shops over the phone. Shops might not want to give out an estimate without inspecting the car first – they want to take a comprehensive look at the vehicle before quoting a price. Regardless, it’s important to get a written estimate before giving them permission to work on your car.
When your car is inspected, the mechanics will usually look at other systems at the same time. Other “problems” are good to know about, but keep in mind that they are also looking for more ways to make money. Whether these problems really exist or that they should be a cause for concern will need to be determined.
The mechanic’s typical approach to car repair is basically replacing the broken or questionable part with a new one. That way, they are less liable down the road if the car breaks down 200 miles later because a part wasn’t replaced. They are also making more money on the deal.
Do mechanics replace everything’s that broken?
Once the inspection is complete, the mechanic should contact you about the repair. Unless they were given preauthorization, they need to get your approval to replace each part. They just can’t throw a bunch of new parts on the car and expect you to pay for them.
You have to be careful here, what you agree to could end up costing you a lot of money! Some repairs might be needed to be done right away, some don’t – some are legitimate, some not. And if you are unsure about some of the repairs that they are suggesting, then decline that particular repair and get a second opinion or inspect it yourself.
What kind of parts do they use?
Most shops use mid-priced factory replacement brake parts. It’s not in their best interest to use the cheapest parts for brake pads, for example. They don’t want you coming back in a week because your front pads are squealing.
Of course, to keep your repair bill down and their profits up, shops won’t typically use the very best brake parts available. Ask the shop what brands they carry. Make sure you are getting quality replacement parts, you don’t want to have to replace parts prematurely because they use cheap components. See the Buying Guides for our recommendations on factory replacement and performance brake parts.
Most auto brake repair shops don’t have performance brake components on hand if you’d like to upgrade from factory parts. If you want the shop to install a particular brand of brake part, consider buying the part on your own. Ask the shop if they will install parts that you’ve already purchased.
How long will it take?
Make sure to find out how long the repair will take and when you can get your car back. Depending on how busy the shop is, how many parts need to be replaced, how long it will take the shop to get the parts, can all affect how long the repair will take. The shop can give you a rough guess on the repair time based only on what is being replaced by the estimate.
How much will it cost?
The estimate should give you a rough idea of how much the repair will cost. Other problems might be found while your car is in for repair, however, driving the cost up. Of course, the mechanic will need your permission before completing any additional repairs.
Auto brake repair shops have different ways they determine their billing which affects car affect the repair cost. Some shops charge a per hour fee – you’ll pay their per hour fee multiplied times how many hours it takes them to complete the job.
Other auto brake repair shops have a flat rate pay that is based on industry average labor times for each type of repair. If the book says the brake pad change will take 1 hour, they will charge you an hour’s worth of labor – even if they can do the job in 20 minutes. On the other hand, if the 1-hour brake pad change takes 2 hours, you will still only pay for 1 hour.
Most auto brake repair shops will charge anywhere between $60 to $100 an hour, although this can vary greatly depending on location. You can save a lot of money by doing the repairs yourself.
Paying the bill
Don’t pay the bill unless your satisfied with the work that was performed and the parts that were used. Make sure they used the particular parts you requested. Be sure to get an itemized list of what parts were replaced. This will be good to have as a record for warranty reasons. The invoice might also contain service or parts that were not performed or replaced with a price quote which can be taken somewhere else for a second opinion.
Some auto brake repair shops will show you the damaged part they removed from your car to show you that it needs to be replaced. You can request to look at the parts and even keep them if you prefer. After all, you paid for them!