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I will not resort to cheap brake puns.
February 12, 2011 10:56 AM   Subscribe

My wife's car's rear brakes need replacing. I'm not a car guy.

I know you're not my mechanic, but I have a general car-brake question. The rear brakes on my wife's 2002 VW Jetta need replacing, and that's far, far beyond either of our DIY capabilities. So, I have a few questions.

1. The dealer quoted us about $340 to do the job. Is this high (I live in Portland, if it matters), or is this about what it should cost? I have an institutional distrust of car dealer maintenance pricing for some reason, but I have no basis for comparison since I've never really done this before.

2. I was thinking of going to a Les Schwab also, but is there a dropoff in quality when you don't use dealer parts?

3. What about a neighborhood mechanic? How can I find out if a shop in my area is trusted and does good work - is there a Yelp for mechanics?
posted by pdb to Travel & Transportation (18 answers total)
 
Don't ever go through a dealer. Even the big chain automotive repair places, while they will overcharge you, will not rip you off as badly as the dealership will. I don't ever go through a dealership or use dealer parts, and I have seen no noticeable problems with quality.

That price sounds steep to me if it's just new break pads and not a completely new break assembly. If you're having the actual breaks replaced, though, and that price includes both parts and labor, it's a little closer to reasonable.

A neighborhood mechanic is the way to go. Unfortunately, the best way to find a good one is word of mouth. Ask your friends. Ask your relatives. Ask the people you work with.
posted by infinitywaltz at 11:03 AM on February 12, 2011


That price doesn't sound surprising for a dealer, but you can probably do better elsewhere. I believe that car has disc rear brakes. They're probably going to have to replace the rotors along with the pads.

As to finding an alternate, search here.
posted by jon1270 at 11:04 AM on February 12, 2011


In case you don't get any personal recs, plug your ZIP code in to Car Talk's Mechanic's Files (I just plugged in a random PDX ZIP code, so the results in the link may not be particularly near you) - they seem to all be reviewed by people who have used them.
posted by rtha at 11:05 AM on February 12, 2011


is there a dropoff in quality when you don't use dealer parts?

Yes, there is. But dealers labour rates are higher, which is why they cost more, not just the parts cost - there is no reason why you can't demand OEM parts (or even supply them yourself) from an independent shop but after market brakes are rarely as good. I'd go to a VW specialist that is not a dealer. They're usually in every decent sized city and often use genuine parts but don't have as high labour rates.

They're probably going to have to replace the rotors along with the pads.

That is not possible to conclude based on the information provided. It's not accurate to assume that discs/rotors always need replacing with pads.
posted by Brockles at 11:39 AM on February 12, 2011


A couple I found:

http://www.stevesimports.com/volkswagenrepair.html

http://www.doublejmotorwerks.com/content/view/19/56/

No recommendations, but there are people that use genuine parts for most likely less than a dealership.
posted by Brockles at 11:41 AM on February 12, 2011


350 is ballpark, dealers have high mark ups, but most reputable independent repair joints get their genuine parts from dealers, or the same distributors the dealers use.

You can do your own research and buy your parts online and have them sent directly to the repair shop. The shop I use even suggested this when I needed my struts replaced.

I used Tire Rack they should definitely have brake parts, you just have it shipped to a repair shop who agrees.
posted by Max Power at 11:47 AM on February 12, 2011


Brockles: It's not accurate to assume that discs/rotors always need replacing with pads.

I don't presume that. My experience (more limited than yours, I know) is that rotors on newer cars don't seem to have much extra metal on them even when new. In my area, it's difficult to find a shop that will turn rotors anymore because replacement is so much more common. Also, the last time I did brakes (on my wife's '01 Jetta), the rotors were shot. So I'm making an educated guess.
posted by jon1270 at 11:48 AM on February 12, 2011


The Yelp for mechanics is Yelp.
posted by jacquilynne at 11:53 AM on February 12, 2011


According to RepairPal, a 2002 Jetta rear pad/rotor replacement in 97201 should run between $260 and $350 [about 50/50 parts/labor].

In addition to the suggestions above, I'd try craigslist. Around here in MN, anyways, there are many mechanics supplementing income by doing evening and weekend work on their own. My usual shop quoted me $600 to replace the water pump on my daughter's Contour. I searched craigslist and found a local fellow who works at a shop during the day and does extra work at home. He quoted me a third of that for labor, and I bought the parts from Amazon. He was happy to give me references, and provided they give him the thumbs up this job will come in way below $600.
posted by chazlarson at 12:00 PM on February 12, 2011


Jon: With respect, making a guess based on one single piece of anecdotal evidence needs to be presented as precisely that - without mileage numbers, even, it's a total guess. To suggest that it is 'probable' that rotors would need replacing with pads (as a matter of course) is very different than saying, for example, "It's possible that you may need to replace rotors as well, which may be why the price is high".

Your comment needed clarification, particularly being as it turns out to be based on very little direct experience.

For places that make money on marking up parts costs, the tendency is to try and up-sell work such as these by saying that rotors should be replaced with pads every time. To add more weight, even in good faith such as your advice was, to this perception for non-techy people is not helpful. I hope that makes sense.

Incidentally, I would never consider turning rotors at all. It's false economy, in my experience. I'd just run them until they needed replacing. Modern discs very, very rarely warp (it's a bit of an urban myth borne of very old brake tech that they do) and turning is actually pretty hard to do properly and there isn't really that much meat on them to do so, as you say.
posted by Brockles at 12:03 PM on February 12, 2011


i live in portland and have a mechanic whom I LOVE and whom i have recommended to several friends who ended up loving him as well. memail me if you would like his info.
posted by violetk at 12:43 PM on February 12, 2011


Take it to Midas. We take our cars (VW GTi and Nissan Maxima) there for brakes and the prices have been as good or better than any other place.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:07 PM on February 12, 2011


If you have any warranty left, I'd read the fine print about who is allowed to work on the car. If you take it to a shadetree mechanic, it may come back to haunt you when the warranty servicing company asks you to fax them your regular service records. I know this firsthand, since I've been doing my own brakes since I learned how as a teenager. (incidentally, the parts cost to get them at the corner auto parts store is around $30 / axle. My O'reilley's will turn rotors for $10 each. And yes... changing pads without addressing the rotors ALWAYS, ALWAYS leads to premature pad wear.)
posted by PSB at 1:29 PM on February 12, 2011


Don't ever go through a dealer. Even the big chain automotive repair places, while they will overcharge you, will not rip you off as badly as the dealership will. I don't ever go through a dealership or use dealer parts, and I have seen no noticeable problems with quality.
Some people are willing to pay for ease of mind. When you take it to a dealer, you know they're actually going to do a good job of the repair. When you take it to a small independent, you don't know that you are definitely getting new parts, or "nearly new" parts that they took off another customer's car the week before.

My point to OP, ask around a couple of reputable garages, take an average of the prices. If peace of mind is important, go with the main garage. If you feel you can trust a particular garage even although they're independent etc, then go with them.
posted by dougrayrankin at 1:55 PM on February 12, 2011


When you take it to a dealer, you know they're actually going to do a good job of the repair.

Not necessarily true, in my experience.
posted by infinitywaltz at 2:19 PM on February 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


dougrayrankin writes "When you take it to a small independent, you don't know that you are definitely getting new parts, or 'nearly new' parts that they took off another customer's car the week before."

While I don't doubt this happens occasionally (there are always dishonest people in every profession and trade) the chance of it happening, especially on the wear parts of brakes (IE: pads, rotors, drums, shoes, springs, calipers) is so small you should be worried about being killed on the way to the shop rather than getting used brake parts. The new parts are not only cheap (jobber cost for medium quality pads for my van are only $19 for example) they are also easier to work with. Besides, how often do people get brake work done while the parts are still like brand new? There isn't any reasonable chance that "used but nearly new" parts are available even if the shop wants to play these sorts of games.

PSB writes "And yes... changing pads without addressing the rotors ALWAYS, ALWAYS leads to premature pad wear."

If by address you mean inspect and replace if out of true or below minimum thickness then yes. Otherwise there is no need to replace or even machine a brake rotor that is still within spec.
posted by Mitheral at 3:56 PM on February 12, 2011


GO TO HILLSIDE IMPORTS! I can't possibly recommend them highly enough. They are awesome. I had a ton of work done there over the 5 years I had my Jetta. Once after I got rear ended and didn't have the body work done, they pulled the bumper back out as best they could and didn't charge me.

They're family owned and have great rates - totally nicer and cheaper than the dealership. They only do Audi & VW and they know their stuff.
posted by peep at 8:51 PM on February 12, 2011


PS I have no affiliation at all with the shop or owners. It's been 5 or 6 years since I had the Jetta, and taking my car to Hillside is the only thing I miss about that car. I wish they serviced Hondas.
posted by peep at 8:54 PM on February 12, 2011


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