Car Repair Advice: Shopping for Brake pads & Rotors
October 4, 2006 1:09 PM   Subscribe

Car Repair Advice: '99 Infiniti I30. Needs new front & rear brake pads, rotors, struts, rear shocks, and drive belts. Mostly looking for advice on how to intelligently shop around for repairs, and mostly for brake-related repairs.

Lot's o repairs, not all that much money.

First on the list, and I'll be happy with just advice on this front:
*Brakes are at 3.5/2mm front and rear, respectively. (How thick are 100% pads?)
*Front and rear rotors are "way out of spec, we can't turn them"
*In terms of my usage, my front pads were replaced 6000 miles ago ("Premium organic pads" from Pep Boys)

Questions: The dealer wants $460 per axel to do the brakes. I imagine I can do significantly better with some place like Pep Boys. The dealer claimed that they do shoddy work at Pep Boys, and don't turn their rotors(eh?). Last time I brought it to a local place (The Brake Stop, I think it was called), they gave me all sorts of options on which brake pads I wanted, etc.

Educate me on how to shop around and get quotes on comparable services (For example, spending 25% less for brakes that last half as long doesn't seem clever). Are different pads really different? Etc, etc..


The rest:

I'm likely selling this car in 6-12 months. My car is at ~90,000 miles. Which of these services should I get before I sell it, either for my own safety, or as an investment in the selling price of the car? If I should replace these, give me similar advice to the advice above on shopping around intelligently:

Struts: My car's vibrating when I brake, and dealer said that its because the struts are old, but that he wouldn't replace them if he were getting rid of the car soon.

Rear Shocks: These have been leaking for 30,000 miles, I think, and I keep ignoring it because the dealer said that the only real downside is that my car will be more bouncy. I can live with bouncy, if that's true.

Belts: He said they looked a bit cracked and old. I think they were replaced once in the last 30000 miles.
posted by sirion to Travel & Transportation (4 answers total)
Best answer: Rear brake pads are about $27, retail.
Front brake pads are about $32, retail.

Rear OEM disc rotors are about $70 each, so $140.
Low end (Brembo) front disc rotors are about $51 each, so $102.

Plus tax, shipping, etc. off the Internet. You can spend more for performance brake parts, but if you're trading the car, what's the point? A shop is going to have additional charges for labor, shop supplies, misc. small parts (anti-squeal shims, etc.)

I don't have the Infiniti shop specs for pad thickness, but typically, new brake pads are in the range of 3/8" to 1/2" thick, so 10 to 12 mm. Wear is not a perfectly linear function of mileage, but yours would appear to be considerably worn, and near end of service life. Most pads are equipped with wear indicators, to produce a squealing noise when stopping, when it's time to replace, to try to prevent rotor damage. Yours may or may not be, if they aren't OEM.

Rotors can sometimes be machined to "true" their surface, but this operation, and normal wear eventually thin the rotor below acceptable thickness to work properly with the caliper. At 90,000 miles, it may well be time for front rotors (perhaps even for a second time), if you brake heavily, or drive the car hard. It's a little early for rear rotors to need to be replaced, because the front brakes typically supply most of the braking force, but they may be warped, or gravel scored, or have some other defect, causing the shop to recommend replacement. There is a minimum thickness before machining spec, below which shops cannot take the rotors for machining, so as to avoid unsafe brake action.

Pads and rotor quality and price do vary significantly, based on material and process. The very best components may last longer, but usually the extra money in performance brake components for a car like yours typically goes into reducing weight or otherwise improving brake performance (improved fade resistance, higher fluid boil point, etc.). Unless you drive hard, you may not see much benefit from the extra expense in a short period before you sell/trade the vehicle.

Worn struts and suspension parts not only affect the ride quality, but also the wear of tires, and the control you have of the vehicle in emergency situations. If braking hard causes your car to vibrate noticeably, the majority of that could be from warped rotors, and doing the brake job may improve that. But if the struts and shocks are shot, they aren't helping matters, and won't. Really bad strut and shock problems can ruin tires in as little as a few thousand miles.

But replacing front struts will cost several hundred dollars. depending again on the quality of the parts you choose. And there is a lot of labor involved in this job, as well as a need for a wheel alignment as the final part of the procedure. So, anything south of $800 for this operation may be a great deal. Rear shocks are less expensive and less of a pain to install, and if yours are leaking you should do this, if you can. Perhaps $300 would get this done, if you take OEM level shocks, and haven't worn through any mounts or bushings that would need to be replaced at the same time.

Belts should be replaced about every 2 years or 30,000 miles.
posted by paulsc at 3:46 PM on October 4, 2006 [1 favorite]

paulsc nails it. excellent overview.

The only thing i would add is the possibility you may find the complete rear strut assemblies and brakes at a junkyard from a low miles car. I picked up the entire rear hub and strut assemblies for my car from the JY for peanuts compared to the cost of just doing the rear wheel bearings (which were squealing pretty bad)

This might be a bit of a gamble, but a solid cheapskate option, especially if you're going to be selling the car soon.
posted by freq at 4:43 PM on October 4, 2006

If you get replacement parts, try to get OEM parts. Someone had a brake job done at Les Schwab in Portland on my car before I bought it (used) ... they provided the receipts. 10,000 miles later, the calipers that they'd replaced on the front were leaking BADLY. Les Schwab wouldn't honor the warranty because I wasn't the one who purchased the car. I took it to the dealership and they found out that when Les Schwab had put on aftermarket calipers, they'd ground down some of the mounting points on the struts so that the new generic calipers would fit.

That caused a front strut and shock replacement to go with the front caliper replacement.
posted by SpecialK at 5:04 PM on October 4, 2006

Response by poster: Many thanks.

Paulsc: Sounds like my dealer is not the best way to go for my needs. Pep Boys is offering $543.40 for the brakes w/ fluid flush, using ceramic pads and ridiculously cheap Prostop rotors ($20 front, $24 rear, each).

freq: Did you go to the JY yourself, or did you do it through a mechanic?

SpecialK: Ick..thanks for the warning
posted by sirion at 5:46 PM on October 4, 2006

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