Cooley On Cars
Everything you need to know about brake jobsCooley gives you the inside scoop on brake systems and why getting them replaced is so expensive.
Hey folks, Brian Cooley here, another one of your emails about high-tech cars and modern driving. This one comes in from Robbie R., who is irritated about a brake job on his Audi. He says he's got a 2012 Audi A4. He went in for an oil change, and was told the brakes need to be fixed soon. When he asked how much, they said more than a grand. He said the whole system was recommended for replacement, pads, rotors, and calipers, now that's a little weird. Unlike American or Japanese cars, he says, where you only replace pads instead of the whole unit. My question is why are Germans not able to make it like the other makes and why is it so expensive in comparison to other luxury cars? Now there's a lot going on here, my eyebrow does raise around the caliper part. I don't know the mileage on your car, you didn't tell us, 2012's not really very old. But maybe you drive it a lot and the calipers have got some kind of damage, boy calipers can often last the life of a car. I think with a rebuild. But in general though, brakes are an area of irritation for people, and I think it will become more so in modern cars, which might surprise some people. Think about it. Brakes and tires are about the only recurrent foreseeable big dollar expenses on a car, until something blows that probably shouldn't. And the difference with brakes is after you shell out your green, you go pick up the car, it doesn't look any different! At least when you buy tires, you can see where your money went. Trust me. That is a major factor in satisfaction around brake jobs. Here's some other things that are going on out there. Brakes wear out faster in many cases because cars have become heavier and faster at the same time. Who pays the bill on that? Your brake system. It's gotta get a heavier car down from a higher speed, more often. That can lead to more wear on the components in there. There's been a lightening trend on vehicles. Use less metal, wherever you possibly can. That could mean in some cases a rotor or a disk that is designed to have only enough metal for one use with a set of pads, not a piece that has enough metal on it that you can turn it or grind it down a bit to give it a new face which has been very common in brake jobs. But perhaps a little bit less lately cuz they wanna make a thinner, lighter, rotor. Still safe, but less metal there Eliminating guess work is an important thing for dealerships. They would much rather say look a break job is these parts, this amount of labor, done. As opposed to a mechanic saying well you've got this much rotor. If I put new pads on and turn the rotor you got I think you'll have enough rotor to last as long as the new pads. Dealers would rather not have that kind of thing going on. Just replace it all. Then, of course, they'd be happy to sell you more parts. And finally, cars have become rather bulletproof lately and dealers and their factories are in a constant dialogue of what are we doing in our service bay to help make our dealership profitable? Brake jobs are a great one. They can be cranked out very rapidly. C, eliminating guesswork. And then pretty high margin. Plus there's a lot of OEM parts out there. The factory is happy to supply as part of their business picture. Now let's talk about your car specifically. On your 12 A4, if you were to just do the pads, you're looking at about 130 bucks in parts. If it's just those. plus fluid, labor, taxes. Once you add the rotors, it gets exponentially more expensive. Those are $122 each, on top of the 130 bucks in pads and then labor, tax, fluids, and whatever else they find. Then there's that caliper issue. Replacing those would be $410 per wheel in parts alone. Or you could do a rebuild kit for $10 per caliper but more labor. And as we discussed, dealerships aren't crazy about that. So yeah, it could make a big difference, but I think you see now some of the reasons why brakes might be more expensive than you recall.