How to Navigate Your Brake Estimate
Your brakes play a significant role in the safety and functionality of your vehicle. If you can’t stop or slow down when you need to, you put yourself and other drivers at severe risk. For that reason, you should never put off brake repairs and replacements.
Whether you need a simple pad replacement or brand-new rotors, brake estimates can be tough to understand. We spoke with our expert technicians to learn how to navigate your brake estimate.
Before we dive in, let’s discuss why your vehicle’s brakes are causing you trouble in the first place.
When Do I Need New Brakes?
For some car maintenance items, like oil changes and tire rotations, figuring out how often to come in for service is easy. But with brake repair, there is no common mileage for service. Industry experts recommend that you replace your brakes every 20,000–60,000 miles—that’s a big gap! So how are you supposed to know when your brakes need to be replaced?
Two of the most common signs that your vehicle needs brake work are squealing noises and a vibrating steering wheel. Other signs to look out for are grinding noises, a spongy brake pedal, pulling to one side when braking and longer stopping distances.
Once you know your brakes need attention, it’s time to get a brake inspection and figure out which parts need to be replaced. Your brake estimate should help explain that for you.
How to Navigate Your Brake Estimate
Depending on the condition of your braking system, there are three different types of brake replacements you could see on your estimate.
1. Brake Pad Replacement
A stand-alone brake pad replacement is the bare minimum brake pad service available, and it’s not a repair we recommend at Virginia Tire & Auto. This service is a brake job where you reuse the old brake hardware and just replace the brake pads.
Often when customers are comparing pricing and services, they’ll come across an ad for a brake service that’s extremely low. Although this might seem like a lucky find, take caution. This may indicate that the auto repair shop is doing what the automotive industry calls “pad slaps.” A pad slap is not a complete brake job and certainly not a long-term solution.
Brake hardware holds the brake pads in the right place. If you don’t replace the hardware with the pads, the pads will be out of position, resulting in premature wear on your new pads.
At Virginia Tire & Auto, we don’t recommend just getting the brake pads replaced because it’s our goal to get you back on the road safely, and putting a Band-Aid or quick fix on your brakes isn’t the solution.
2. Brake Pad Replacement & Rotor Resurfacing
The middle-of-the-road brake replacement option is replacing the brake pads and resurfacing the brake rotors (brake discs).
Resurfacing (also called “turning “or “machining”) your rotors means taking a thin, microscopic layer off of the front and rear face of the rotors. This way, you get a nice, smooth surface along with the new brake pads. Resurfacing removes any grooves, pits, or hotspots that could cause problems. It also allows the new brake pads to wear evenly and optimally. Keep in mind, however, that resurfacing decreases the thickness of the rotors, and the thinner the rotor is, the faster it heats up and wears down.
Ultimately, resurfacing rotors when you install new brake pads is a middle price point and a good compromise if you don’t want to spend money on new rotors.
3. Brake Pad Replacement & Rotor Replacement
The most complete brake pad service includes fully replacing the brake pads and rotors.
Getting completely new rotors gives you better stopping power and more fade resistance. Brake rotors, like brake pads, wear out over time. Brake rotors have a recommended thickness that must be maintained to be considered safe. This measurement is normally stamped on the brake rotor itself. If the thickness is below the manufacturer’s recommended thickness, then you need to replace your brake rotors immediately.
Some vehicles always require new pads and rotors because the rotors cannot be resurfaced. In fact, 99% of German cars are this way. The rotors don’t have a high tolerance, so by the time the pads wear down, the rotors are already below what we call the “discard thickness.” This means that the rotor has already reached the minimum acceptable thickness and must be fully replaced.
However, if you’re on a tight budget, as long as your brake rotors are above the minimum recommended level and the vehicle manufacturer does not require that the rotors be replaced when new brake pads are installed, resurfacing the rotors might be an acceptable approach. But for optimum performance and safety, always choose to replace your brake rotors while replacing your brake pads.
Other Things to Consider
We provide standard pricing for some brake repairs, but other factors may contribute to the total estimate. These include the size of the vehicle (a heavy-duty RAM vs a Prius), the brand of the vehicle (European- vs. American-made cars), the type of brake parts you want (high-performance vs. standard) and any additional brake work that needs done (brake caliper repair, brake fluid exchange, etc.).
Brakes must always be replaced as a set—the front axle wheels and the rear axle wheels. Front brakes tend to wear out faster because they absorb more of the force when you stop. So, you may be able to avoid paying for both sets of brakes at one time, depending on the condition of your pads and rotors.
Need a Brake Replacement?
Bring your vehicle into Virginia Tire & Auto for all your brake inspection and repair needs. We’ll help you understand your brake estimate completely and feel comfortable moving forward with the diagnosis. Schedule an appointment at one of our 17 locations today!