Morons need brakes too!


Old 06-04-05, 07:26 PM
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Morons need brakes too!

Hello all,
I recently had a grinding sound from my brakes. I brought the car to Midas for an estimate. I am only planning to keep the car (95 Altima) for another three or so months, and I stated this to the attendant before the estimate. I told him to give me a base price to get the grinding to stop. He hit me with a $740.00 quote. He told me that the calipers are too rusted to take off to replace the pads, so I need new ones ($340 and $70 labor)... fine, he also said the rotors are done and I will need to replace those as well ($140 plus $50 labor). Then there were charges for brake system flush ($59.95), a "Midas VSD NAO Brake"($120.00), disc hardware ($41.00! FOR HARDWARE!) and finally and this is the kicker, $121.00 for a Valve Cover Gasket w/ labor. Now I may not know much about cars, but a valve cover gasket is to stop oil from leaking out of your "valve cover" under the hood, and has nothing to do with the brakes, right?
Now, my questions,
1. Can I buy and replace these parts myself? I do have a limited too set and am pretty good with mechanical stuff. I put in a cold air intake in about 10 mins.
2. I know if I replace the calipers I will need to bleed the break fluid. Do I need any special tools to do this? Should I not attempt it myself?
3. How can I tell if the rotors/calipers need to be replaced? Could this just be a break pad situation?
4. Can I replace just one side (caliper, rotor, pads etc) or do I need to do both at the same time.
5. Should I buy the parts myself, and have a mechanic install them?

I would appreciate any info on this situation, or a link to where to find a good tutorial. Thanks for listening to me vent.
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Old 06-05-05, 05:36 AM
cuedude's Avatar
Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: Key West, Fl.
Posts: 348
Hi Jammiman,

Not being a mechanic, all I can do is make recommendations to your questions. I can respect the limit you have set, as I live pretty much that way too. I'll try and answer your questions as best I can.

#1. Sure you can go out and get the parts yourself, install them yourself, and seve some cash. Consider this before you do this though: Doing the work yourself, you have no one to turn to if they fail on you later on. I would say don't take chances with your or someone elses life.

#2. It is best to have a second person there with you to "pump" the breaks while you bleed them. Here's a method I learned a long time ago. Have the second person pump the breaks a few times, and hold pressure on the peddle. The trick to this is in using a piece of tubing that fits on the bleeder valve, and runs into a container about half full of break fluid. (Bottle, can, what ever). Just make sure the end of the tubing stays in the fluid, and doesn't come out. This is to keep air from entering the system while the bleeder valve is open.

#3. Without seeing your calipers/rotors, I can't say.

#4. This is a no-no. Never replace just one. Allways replace them in pairs. This helps you get even breaking, and helps keep the car from swerving off course and maybe into someone else.

#5. As stated earlier, I believe this is the best way to go about it. In the event something bad happens, you have someone else that can correct it for you. And also, if something does happen resulting in an accident, you have the option of calling this person in to verify what repairs were done to your vehicle. Also, they are responsible for the proper working of the system. (This will not be for the life of the car of course, maybe 30-90 days). Breaks are too serious an item to work on.

Again, I'm not a mechanic, but I hope this gets the ball rolling for you.


Last edited by twelvepole; 06-05-05 at 12:59 PM. Reason: Quoting entire post is distracting and redundant
Old 06-05-05, 06:10 AM
the_tow_guy's Avatar
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Location: SW Fla USA
Posts: 11,574
I would get a second opinion for starters. Ask around for shops that friends and family use; see if anyone can recommend a good, NON-FRANCHISED garage and tell them what you want. There's a chance that all you need is new pads, maybe a $100 job. On the other hand, Midas might be right and the entire brake system might be wasted. The fact they tried to sell you a valve cover gasket fix (for $120??? and why did they even open the hood when you brought it in for brakes?) would make their assessment of the brakes somewhat suspect to me.

My $.02 worth.
Old 06-05-05, 06:28 AM
Lugnut's Avatar
Join Date: Jan 2001
Location: Kansas City, Missouri.
Posts: 1,172
[QUOTE=jammiman]Hello all,
1. Can I buy and replace these parts myself?
2. I know if I replace the calipers I will need to bleed the break fluid. Do I need any special tools to do this? ...
3. How can I tell if the rotors/calipers need to be replaced?
4. Can I replace just one side (caliper, rotor, pads etc) or do I need to do both at the same time.
5. Should I buy the parts myself, and have a mechanic install them?

1. Yes, it is a DIY job for the mechanically inclined person.
If you do it yourself, you might be able to purchase a 'loaded' caliper for your model. If so, it will save you repair time, but will cost the same as buying calipers and pads separately.

I recommend you buy the Haynes repair manual, $20 and read the procedure before you commit yourself to the job.

2. The only special tool you will need is a special torx socket to remove the caliper. Auto supply sells these, but you must know which size for your car, otherwise buy the complete set of sockets.

3. Strictly speaking, there are published specifications for each rotor that state the minimum thickness, runout, etc of a new or freshly turned rotor. Repair shops always abide by those specifications and error on the side of safety. DIY'ers on the other hand will do whatever pleases them to save time or money in the short run.

4. I don't understand the 4th question. If your going to replace both, then why not do them at the same time?

5. Some shops will let you buy the parts for the shop repair. Most won't. Sometimes it saves you money, sometimes it don't. One problem with this is that the customer sometimes buys the wrong part, and the clock starts ticking and the circus of buying, exchanging and delivering parts begins. In my opinion, this is not a desirable course of action for either the customer nor the shop.
Old 06-05-05, 08:09 AM
Join Date: Dec 2001
Location: nc
Posts: 616
As cuedude said, safety is a critical factor here. If you make a mistake anywhere and the brakes were to fail. or stopping distance increased, resulting in a wreck, it would not be worth doing yourself. However, you could save some money by calling around to different shops, getting quotes on the different parts mentioned. Forget about the gasket if you haven't noticed any great loss of oil seeing that you won't keep the car for long. You'll probabaly need new rotors since there was scraping going on, can't say about the calipers, but if in doubt about any part, replace, keeping safety in mind.

If you do it yourself, I would highly recommend having someone there who has done this job several times and is knowledgeable about brake work to guide you and assure you it's done right. It's not that hard and it's a good learning experience that could save you a lot of money each time you do it, providing it is done correctly!

Problems you could run into that you should to be aware of are a rusted on bolt, bleeder screw, or rotor, getting air into the system resulting in loss of good braking. Can't think of any more. You didn't say if you have ABS. Observe all safety precautions, use a jack stand for the side of the car you're working on, set parking brake, block wheels, loosen and tighten lug nuts with the tires touching the ground so they don't turn and move the car.
Old 06-05-05, 07:32 PM
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Thanks guys, appreciate the input.

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