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Apple to Orange Pt 2

Apples to Oranges: Pt III

Post on December 6, 2019 by

This month, we’re concluding a series of discussions called Apples to Oranges. The intent is to give the inside scoop on automotive repair to help you sort through the confusion and large discrepancies when shopping auto repair. And it starts with the understanding that when you think you’re comparing apples to apples with prices and services, 9 times out of 10, you’re actually comparing apples to oranges.

Part III: Brakes

Another of the most common calls we get at Ultimate European Repair is, “My car needs brakes, how much is it?” The fact of the matter is that it can range from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand depending on your vehicle, options for your VIN, condition of your pads and rotors, and other components in your braking system that are impossible to tell without physically inspecting and measuring. An expectation of an accurate phone quote on what your vehicle needs without inspecting the vehicle is similar to calling your doctor and asking “My knee hurts, how much is it to replace it?” A brake job is the #1 job that will have a huge price discrepancy when shopping for the job.

Step 1: is having realistic expectations of needing to bring your vehicle into the shop to be inspected for an accurate price quote.

At that point, we can address all the variables first to obtain the correct parts quote: Do I only need pads? Are there pad wear sensors that need to be replaced? Do I need rotors too? Is there a bigger problem with a caliper seizing? Does this vehicle have a sport package? Are the rotors 320mm or 280mm or 360mm? From there, you can still find a huge price discrepancy on a front brake job from $300 to $1200 for the same vehicle. What gives?! Simple: quality of parts.

Step 2: is understanding there are significant differences in pad and rotor quality, materials, and standards from shop to shop, and brand to brand.

This is where most people are under the impression they are comparing apples to apples by price shopping brake jobs but are unknowingly comparing apples to oranges. At Ultimate European, we frequently have clients mention “By the way, I have this brake noise, or steering shimmy and pulling, or my brakes feel off and I just got new brakes so it can’t be the brakes, can you look into it?” Almost always, a pad and/or rotor quality issue is to blame.

Brake pads can be primarily organic, semi-metallic, or ceramic. The cost to manufacture these pad types is in order from least expensive (organic) to most expensive (ceramic). BMW factory pads are semi-metallic meaning a combination of metallic and organic material with emphasis on metallic material in their case. More metallic material in a pad equates to significantly more stopping power. The trade-off is significantly more brake dust and brake noise. The pad will also wear through faster. On average, BMW factory brake pads will last 30,000-50,000 miles. Organic brake pads are the lowest graded in stopping power and are generally found in two applications: your Japanese & Domestic branded import vehicles that will run quality organic pads that are quiet, moderate on dust and last 30,000-60,000 miles. Your cheaper quote brake jobs will run inferior aftermarket organic pads that will be very noisy, severe on brake dust, and last 20,000-35,000 miles. Ceramic pads have the best stopping performance, zero to minimal brake dust and will last 80,000-100,000+ miles before requiring replacement. The only trade-off is higher cost & when ceramic pads are cold, they can cause squealing noise until they are warmed up. Ceramic pads also feel different and require slightly more brake pedal effort. BMW and other vehicle manufacturers typically do not use ceramic brake pads except in performance vehicles due solely to cost. At Ultimate European, we always use OEM grade ceramic pads for the same price or less than BMW semi-metallic pads!

Brake rotors can vary significantly in materials and quality standards in ways that are not visible or testable to the eye, but can certainly be felt in driving performance after installed and paid for, which is when it is too late! Cheaper and aftermarket rotors will use inferior metal alloys in making the rotors which will cause noticeable differences in driving performance. Inexpensive rotors will also have poor quality control standards which means you may well be sold a defective rotor. Fairly priced rotors will be OEM quality. That is, they will be the same manufacturer that BMW uses direct, or will meet the same metallurgy in materials and same or better quality control standards. For example, Brembo prides themselves on quality so much so that they will discard an entire batch of rotors if one rotor in the batch is out of specifications…Here are a few examples of what we have actually seen in the shop from inferior rotor quality: rotors overheating within minutes of driving causing brake fade and transferring heat to other attached components causing the painted wheel finish to crack and flake off & the bearing to overheat, and damage. Rotors that are poor quality causing shimmy when braking just like old warped rotors would. And aftermarket rotors causing loud howling once warmed up every time the vehicle brakes.

At Ultimate European Repair, we use exclusively OEM quality or better rotors and premium ceramic brake pads for less than the dealership and brake shops can offer equivalent parts for in all cases. In fact, if you bring us an accurate quote detailing OEM branded rotors and ceramic pads from another shop, we’ll beat it by at least 10%!

To make sure you’re getting apples when you need apples and not oranges when it comes to your vehicle’s brakes, follow these steps:

1. Understand you will need to bring your vehicle into the shop to be inspected for an accurate quote of what components are needed for a brake job.
2. Understand the price discrepancy in the market on brake jobs being quoted always boils down to the quality of parts, which matter. Brakes and tires are the only things keeping your vehicle attached to and in control of the road. DO NOT compromise quality on brakes or tires to save a few bucks as your safety is worth far more than that.
3. Insist on OEM quality or better pads and rotors including clear answers to pad and rotor type and quality that is being quoted and installed on your vehicle.

Posted in Auto Repair

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