Car brakes broken?
May 18, 2012 1:43 PM   Subscribe

Car Experts ahoy! 2009 Sonata with grinding rear brakes. Dealership says its normal wear and not covered under warranty... I'm skeptical....

So My wife and I own a nearly-matching pair of 2009 Hyundai Sonatas. She bought hers six months after I got mine. Both cars are still under the bumper-to-bumper warranty. She has 17K miles on hers.
Last night the brakes start grinding when applied, and this behavior seems to be triggered by braking on a downhill slope. We took it to the dealer and they said the rear brakes need replacing and it's normal wear. I have no information as to what condition her front brakes are in.
Meanwhile my nominally identical car, with double-to-triple the (city)miles on it, has never needed brakework of any sort.
We're taking her car to another local mechanic whom we trust for analysis but they can't look until Monday.
I'm inclined to think that her brakes wearing out like that is the result of a manufacturers defect and even if the pads and other consumables are not covered, there is a root cause to this problem that should be addressed, but the Dealers did not even discuss that possibility with us. Am I full of it?
Other data: She has never had extraordinary brake problems in 20 years of driving, so we are disinclined to believe it's some bad driver habit causing the wear. Both cars purchased and driven in Minnesota for what it's worth.
posted by BigLankyBastard to Technology (8 answers total)
You can't compare the two vehicles and expect them to perform the exact same.
It probably isn't even "bad habits".
All it takes is one "emergency-stop" situation in your wife's car to have increased the wear on the brakes. That could have been having to slam on the brakes on the highway, for instance.
posted by smitt at 1:56 PM on May 18, 2012

Remove the wheels and take the pads out of the calipers. Are the pads worn down to metal? Is any metal starting to show through the pads?

This will take about ten minutes per wheel and will let you know right away if it's the pads or not. If it is the pads, then there's probably not much you can do as far as getting the dealership to pay for their replacement. Pads are meant to wear out.

Hopefully, you haven't damaged the rotors. If you have, you can either pay to have the rotors turned or you can pay to replace the rotors. Neither option is very expensive (I recently replaced my rotors for around $60/pair).

You can pay to have a shop replace your pads and rotors, but you'll save a lot of money doing it yourself. The parts are cheap and the labor can be completed before you finish your third beer.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 1:59 PM on May 18, 2012

Meanwhile my nominally identical car

Emphasis on "nominally." Car manufacturers source parts from many different vendors. They're made to the same specifications, but vendor-to-vendor differences can be significant.

Now, while the big-ticket items, like the engines, would be the same, it's possible, even likely, that the two cars rolled off the same assembly line (six months apart) with consumable, "ancillary" parts like brake pads/shoes sourced from two different vendors.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 2:33 PM on May 18, 2012

Calipers are mechanically pretty simple to it's not probable that they are defective. I'd guess that the rails on the caliper that the pads slide back and forth on are dirty and causing the pads to drag on the rotors and wear prematurely. OR the pads may have been installed improperly, either with the springs missing, backward or not totally connected. Either way, it's a maintenance issue and not a manufacturing issue.

I would take a look down there to see if you've got any caked on mud or something and get a brake job.

Also, if it IS a defect it's not only happening to you. I'd google around to see if anyone else is have similar trouble.

Good luck!
posted by snsranch at 3:15 PM on May 18, 2012

Yeah probably dirty stuff, or bad pads. Problem is, if it was some kind of bigger manufacturing issue, it would be pretty hard to pin it on them. Pads are definitely not going to be warrenty material. Changing brake pads is probably one of the most straightforward and easiest things you can still do on a new car. I'm sure a youtube vid can show you. All the things you need to change brake pads for the first time, will cost you about as much as one brake pad change at a auto shop and then you can do it yourself forever. C clamp, tire iron, car jack, car stands, and a wrench for the calipers nuts. Many new setups you only have to loosen the bottom nut and take the top one off and the whole brake mechanism will slide away from the rotor exposing the pads. If you need new rotors, most people just buy them now, everything is machined to such wussy factors now that turning is a liability and rotors can be had for about 30 bucks each.
posted by couchdive at 4:52 PM on May 18, 2012

Meanwhile my nominally identical car, with double-to-triple the (city)miles on it, has never needed brakework of any sort.

It is likely that the fact that your car is used more regularly has helped the life of your pads. If your wife's car sits for a day or so and then gets used and then sits... This can promote earlier wear. Corrosion of the disk and pad is common and the pad will have to grind off that corrosion before it works next time it is driven. The longer it sits, the more corrosion gets worn quickly off before the pads work again.

This is likely why your lesser used car has more brake wear. It is unlikely that defective pads lasted 17,000 miles.
posted by Brockles at 5:14 PM on May 18, 2012 [2 favorites]

Good point about the corrosion, Brockles. I did a quick search and found that there are no recalls and the only complaints that I could find were from the American Mid-West where winter conditions and the use of salt on roads are the major contributing factors.
posted by snsranch at 5:41 PM on May 18, 2012

17k is a little quick to go through pads, so what Brockles says above makes sense. I would suspect that the caliper slides are stuck - I'm not familiar with how Hyundai seals it's caliper slides but if road salt gets in it will cause them to seize and then syptoms like grinding, brake pedal pulsation and chatter will quickly develop. Any decent brake service should include an inspection of the slides and they can be cleaned up and regreased if things haven't gotten too bad. As others have said, this is one of the last satisfying and possible jobs left for a shade-tree mechanic. New pads for your car could be had at any auto parts store for 17-40 USD.
(MN resident here).
posted by werkzeuger at 12:34 PM on May 19, 2012

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