Thursday, December 10, 2009

A simple brake job isn't always as simple as it looks


Many people have suggested that they can have a quick lube or corner garage do the "easy work" on their high end car, while leaving the "tough jobs" for specialists like Robison Service. That sounds like a good idea, but how do you know what the easy jobs are?

Oil changes used to be simple, but that's out the window on many cars. BMW and Mercedes dropped the dipstick, so you check level through the dash. Most cars have some complex procedure to reset the oil reminder. Many require special oils and the other fluids (like coolant) are often brand or even model-specific too. Can your corner garage get that right? And who buys the engine if they don't?

I'm not suggesting you abandon local service. What I suggest is that you have talks with your various service providers and make sure they can actually handle what you want of them. Blissful ignorance and incompetence are the bane of the auto service trade.

I'd like to show you an example of how simple service has gotten complex on a modern Land Rover. Join me while we slap some brakes on a late model LR3 . . .



In this photo you can see the brake and strut assembly. The new pads and rotors are in place and the wheels are hanging, ready to fit the tires. Do you see the strut assembly inboard of the brake? It's full of air, and the air charge is sometimes lost when the vehicle if put on a lift for a few hours. Most of the time it recovers, but occasionally, it doesn't, and it goes into fault mode.

When that happens, the fix is simple. Just hook your $10,000 IDS or Autologic system to the car and reset air suspension. Presto, you're set. But what if you don't have an IDS or Autologic . . . .??



If that's the case, you have an even bigger problem, because you can't set up the parking brake without one. Here our technician uses one of our test systems to release the parking brake cables on this LR3. If the tester isn't used properly the result is usually a smoked parting brake a few hundred miles down the road, and a fresh $800 repair bill.

It's still possible to do some work on these new vehicles at home, and local garages can still handle quite a bit of general service. For example, anyone can swap pads only - no special tools are needed for that. However, these particular Rovers are notorious for eating up rotors. Here's a worn out one to prove my point at 25,000 miles . . . .



The trick is knowing the limits of what you can do without special tools. In one of my last posts I wrote about all the trouble I had over a wrong spark plugs brand in another Land Rover. Sometimes there is just no substitute for experience.

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