View Full Version : What's a fair price for a four-wheel brake job?

06-03-2002, 09:10 PM
The local Toyota dealer wants to spend $435 (parts and labor) to replace the brakes and flush the brake fluid on my 1992 Toyota Celica. My dad thinks this is a little much, though the rest of the price list seemed fair to him (the car is getting its 60,000 mile maintenance). Should I shop around? To break it down, that's $195 each for the front and rear brakes, plus $45 for the fluid flush.

06-03-2002, 09:58 PM
I paid $60 for a rear disc brake job a few weeks ago. New pads and resurfaced rotors only, I didn't have the calipers or fluid replaced. I'd expect to pay $120 to have the same thing done on both axles.

What exactly are they replacing for $195 per axle?

06-03-2002, 10:11 PM
I'm not certain what they're replacing - the parts price per axle is $55.44, so that leaves $70 per for labor. The brake flush is listed at $45, and it claims two hours worth of labor each for the axles and one hour for the flush.

Chris Luongo
06-03-2002, 10:20 PM
You'd be surprised how simple and inexpensive a brake job is. I'm always shocked at the prices shops are charging for it.

First, call around and get a few other prices to use as a point of reference. I think last time I made the mistake of trusting Pep Boys to install tires on my car, they had a sign advertising a brake job for $129/axle.

If you're curious about what the parts really cost, make a quick call to your local AutoZone, Pep Boys, or whatever. You'll find that a set of front brake pads is around $20, rear shoes maybe $25-30.

I do all my own brake work. Maybe 40 minutes to do both fronts, about an hour or a little more for the rears, and that's with me taking my time, enjoying the car radio and a soda as I work, and I'm using just a jack and stands; no lift of course. And brake tools aren't expensive; I've invested about $25 there.

So from my point of view, I'd rather spend $50 and a Saturday morning, making sure the job gets done right, and put the remaining $385 in a nice stereo or something.

But if you're just comaring the $435 price to what you'd spend at Midas or Pep Boys, stick with the dealer if the price difference is only minimal. The dealer will (probably) use factory Toyota parts, and the mechanics there know your car well.

On the other hand, routine brake service is a simple job that any qualified mechanic should be able to do well. If you can find someone willing to do it substantially cheaper than the dealer, and you think they're trustworthy and careful, you'll likely end up doing pretty well.

Billy Rubin
06-03-2002, 10:39 PM
Last saturday I did all four wheels on the wife's Honda Civic. Rotors and drums were not warped or scored, and I really dislike the shops that claim you have to resurface them every time- it's just not true.

Brake pads and anti-squeal cost a total of 38 bucks, whole job took 23 minutes. I have a good floor jack and jackstands, so it's easy.

Part of the issue may be the labor involved in removing and resurfacing the rotors/drums. If you feel a pulsation during braking or if the car "pulls" to one side or another during braking, you may well need to have your rotors/drums turned, and taking them off for this procedure can be expensive and time consuming. If not, think about finding another shop. It's common practice to resurface drums/rotors, need it or not, and it's often not. Plus, after being turned several times they just have to be replaced, which is even more expensive. YMMV. Hell, with that money,you can buy a floor jack and jackstands and a pretty nice tool set and do it yourself. It's not the exclusive territory of big, burly guys with their names on their shirts, anyone can do it.


Gary T
06-03-2002, 10:41 PM
I'm sorry to say your question is unanswerable without more information. There is not a universal standard definition of "brake job." Mr2001's question is quite relevant.

45 for a brake fluid flush and fill is quite reasonable.

It's generally understood that a brake job includes replacing the linings. On modern cars this would be pads in the front, shoes or pads in the rear (4 wheel disc brakes = rear pads, rear drum brakes = rear shoes). The majority of shops would also resurface( = turn = machine) the rotors ( = discs) and drums. For me to do this at my shop averages about 150 per axle on most cars of the type mentioned in the OP.

Now for the variations:

Prices vary across the country, and from urban to rural areas.
Sometimes rotors and drums are too thin to resurface and would have to be replaced, which costs more.
Sometimes there are problems with calipers (disc brakes) or wheel cylinders (drum brakes)--if so, extra cost.
Factory Toyota pads tend to cost noticeably more than even good aftermarket pads. But besides being top quality, they come with all relevant hardware (clips, springs, shims, etc.) where aftermarket pads do not. It may be arguable whether the hardware is needed, but it's not a bad idea to replace it and it makes for a better job.

The price quoted does not strike me as outlandish for replacing linings and resurfacing rotors/drums, though it is higher than I would expect most shops in my area to charge. If it includes replacement of calipers, wheel cylinders, rotors, or drums, I'd say it's a rather attractive price. If it includes replacing linings only, I'd say it's mighty high (I'd be very surprised if that's the case).

Be aware that quite a few places (typically chains) advertise low brake job prices, but make a practice of overselling ( = you didn't really need it) related work (calipers, rotors, etc.)--often at premium prices to where it costs more to have them do it than to have it done at a dealership or independent shop whose basic brake job price looks high. Some independent shops don't have the guts to charge more than the lowball places, so they do it cheap--and cheaply. Brake repair is an area where I'd be darn scared to get the lowest price in town.

06-03-2002, 10:51 PM
That's one of my concerns. This is in preparation for a roundtrip to Kansas City, so I don't want to get stuck in Bumfart, Tennessee, while Bubba laughs and asks for my credit card and firstborn.

Barking Spider
06-03-2002, 10:57 PM
At 60,000 miles, the rear brakes are probably not even worn yet.

Front rotors are easy to change out. As far as the brake flush, you can do it yourself for the cost of 2 large bottles of brake fluid. You can do it in less than 10 minutes with your dads help

06-03-2002, 11:00 PM
Okay, I looked up the part number that's listed on the estimate. For the rear brakes, it's 0446632010, and that came up as the brake pads for a 1988 Camry, costing $36.72. The front is also listed at a sale price of $36.72, and it's also a set of brake pads. Link (http://www.toyota-parts.com/page5a.asp?partnumber=0446632010) for the rear brake pads.

Billy Rubin
06-03-2002, 11:19 PM
AutoZone lists their best carbon/metallic pads for 41 bucks, Albany pads for 16.49, and both have lifetime warranties. They also have cheapos for 8.99 with a 1 yr warranty.

The rears they only show Albany drums, 16 bucks with a 5 buck core. Maybe your car was a transition year so it has four-wheel disks, hard to say. Whatever the case, if you're at all handy, try to DIY it. Fix the brakes yourself and have them flush them for under fifty bucks- it's always good to know how the stuff works anyway... And there's nothing wrong with using Genuine toyota brakes, the price seems fair, and the first set got you 60,000 miles, right?


I buy lifetime pads for all my vehicles. They get SO pissed when i bring them in and make them give me a free set!! They never suspect anyone ill drive a car long enough to get the free ones, and I usually get 250-300,000 miles out of a car, so lifetime warranties save me some scratch. Hell, I got a free new exhaust system on my Probe GT four times!!!

Gary T
06-03-2002, 11:29 PM
There were only 2 posts showing when I started my first post.

Originally posted by SanibelMan
I'm not certain what they're replacing - the parts price per axle is $55.44, so that leaves $70 per for labor.
That doesn't add up. 55 + 70 = 125 per axle. Did I misunderstand something?
...it claims two hours worth of labor each for the axles and one hour for the flush.
I think it's safe to say this includes resurfacing. It ain't cheap, but it's not unreasonable.

55 for Toyota pads sounds about right. If it's rear drum, that 55 might be for new shoes (aftermarket shoes are about half that, but are remanufactured).

Billy Rubin: "...I really dislike the shops that claim you have to resurface them every time- it's just not true."
Correct, but not cut and dried. Some (not all) car manufacturers say don't resurface rotors unless they are scored or warped. Brake pad manufacturers say the pads won't seat in optimally unless the rotors have the proper surface texture, which requires resurfacing (or replacement). Experience has taught repair facilities that annoying noises are much more likely if they aren't resurfaced.

They often don't have to be resurfaced in terms of stopping the car adequately. But when you guarantee your work, and people expect quiet brakes, you pretty much have to include resurfacing as part of the job. Some of the new pad materials designed to be noise free may help change this.

Okay, saw SanibelMan's 4th post on preview.

Kinda comes down to who do you want to do the work. At the dealership, it's a given you'll get top quality parts and a pretty safe bet you'll get good workmanship. It sounds to me like you'll likely pay more than at most good independent shops (but I don't know typical prices in your area).

If you have the time and inclination to shop around, I imagine you can get the work done well with good quality parts at a noticeable saving.

I happen to be in Kansas City. If you want to say howdy while you're here, I can e-mail you my phone # (need your e-mail address).

Billy Rubin
06-03-2002, 11:37 PM
GaryT, you are of course correct to point out that this is a judgement call, and one that might better be done by a qualified person, but certainly it's something SanibelMan should check with his repair facility about, at the very least. And a badly warped rotor makes itself immediately obvious.
As for the pads seating, I deglaze them with an 80 grit abrasive before replacing the pads, it's in every Haynes manual, and it works extremely well. And I don't have to buy new bloody rotors every hundred thousand miles. Sanibel, maybe you can wait till you get there and have Garyt do it for you- he sure has the right answers. How bad are your brakes?


06-03-2002, 11:39 PM
To what Billy Rubin said, I can confirm it has 4 wheel disc brakes. And thanks for the invite, Gary, but it's the last time I'll see my girlfriend for the summer, so I think we'll want to spend all the time we can with each other (I'll only be there for three days). As for the brakes, it's $70 per hour per axle. So $140 per axle for two hours, plus the $55 gives you $195. (Woohoo, the journalism major can do math. He hopes.)

06-03-2002, 11:49 PM
How are the brakes? They're great. I love this car, and they're half of the reason I do. They stop on a dime. And the car handles great. So yeah, the brakes are fine, no noise or loss of grip that I can tell. On a (possibly) related tangent, however, the wheel bearings sound like they need to be repacked or something - there's a "wum wum wum" sound that correllates with the speed of the car, though I can't tell where it's coming from. Pardon my automotive ignorance, but is that more critical than the brakes and should I get the bearings looked at/fixed before I go?

Gary T
06-04-2002, 12:11 AM
Generally with brakes, particularly at the relatively low mileage of 60K, the concern is how much lining material is left. For the most part, the pads work as well when they're 99% worn as when they're 1% worn. But when they get 100% worn, the pad's metal backing starts chewing up the rotor and things are quite different. So the question is, how worn are the pads? If they're 80% worn, they're not a high priority at the moment and may even last through your trip. If they're 95% worn, I'd say you're going to need them before the trip's over, and it makes sense to take care of it before hitting the road.

The noise you described could be a number of things, but it should certainly be evaluated before taking the trip. Wheel bearings tend to wear geometrically--the worse they get, the faster they get worse. It's not uncommon for them to go out on a highway trip. Now it could be a wheel bearing, tire noise, a symptom of a warped brake rotor--I'd sure have it checked.

06-04-2002, 11:41 AM
Okay, I called the other place we have our cars worked on, and they want $339.10. So now I have to talk to my parents and see what they want to do. If I had time before next Monday to do this myself, as some have suggested, I would - but I graduate on Friday and I have parties and family events scheduled around that. So I'll see what they want me to do.

Billy Rubin
06-04-2002, 11:47 AM
Sanibel, that sound might be as simple as out-of balance tires. Have them checked where you bought the tires. Might be a simple fix, plus thjey can rotate them for you while they're at it.

And yes, byt 'how are the brakes" I meant "how worn are they".


06-04-2002, 03:22 PM
Well, my dad called the mechanic here on the island that's done all of our other work, and he said he'd do it for $245. So I took it over there, and he looked at the rest of the estimate (timing belt, seals, water pump, spark plugs, distributor cap, etc) and said that seemed unnecessary at 60,000 miles, but he'll take a look.

06-04-2002, 05:00 PM
I didn't reply as GaryT already (as usual) gave you very sound, expert advice, but I was curious as to that last post: When you say the "rest of the estimate", the timing belt, water pump and tune up parts...surely they weren't included in that $435, were they? I don't think so, but I just wanted to make sure.

Gary T
06-04-2002, 06:08 PM
Originally posted by SanibelMan
...he looked at the rest of the estimate (timing belt, seals, water pump, spark plugs, distributor cap, etc) and said that seemed unnecessary at 60,000 miles, but he'll take a look.
Now this scares me a bit. There is such a thing as not doing enough, especially with a highway trip planned.

The recommended interval for timing belt replacement is 60,000 miles. If the belt breaks, the engine stops running, and you can add a tow and some (maybe a LOT) inconvenience to the cost. (According to my book, you do not have an interference engine, so it shouldn't do damage to other parts of the engine.) I've seen timing belts break at 60,000 miles, and I've seen them last past 100,000 miles, but NO ONE can tell you when YOUR timing belt will go out. The only prudent thing to do is replace it 60K. I sure wouldn't call that unnecessary.

I assume the seals mentioned are front engine seals (crankshaft, camshaft, maybe oil pump). They may not be leaking now, but it's a pretty sure bet they'll start leaking before the next timing belt's due at 120K. You have to remove the timing belt to access these seals, and it's really a lot cheaper to replace them when the timing belt's off anyway than to do it later--and if they leak profusely, the oil can ruin your timing belt, no matter how new it is. I routinely recommend doing them at the same time, it costs less in the long run.

The rationale for replacing the water pump is the same--you have to remove the timing belt to replace the pump. Now, the water pump is more likely to make it to 120K than the front engine seals, so I don't particularly recommend replacing it at 60K (I do advise the customer of the situation, a few opt to replace it for the peace of mind). If it's not replaced at 60K, I would very strongly recommend it at 120K.

Spark plugs are called for at 60K. If they haven't been replaced before, you want them, I assure you. The distributor cap is probably on the list as preventative maintenance--not a bad idea to replace it, but probably not necessary.

If you have your owner's manual, find the maintenance schedule and see what's called for at this mileage. It's generally less expensive and more convenient to do the maintenance than to let things get to where repairs are needed.

What bothers me about your statement is the mechanic saying stuff was unnecessary without having seen the car, and presumably without knowing what's on the 60K maintenance list. That strikes me as a rash thing to say.

06-05-2002, 07:47 AM
The total estimate from the dealer was $1,361, which included the timing belt, seals, water pump, spark plugs, spark plug wires, cap, rotor, accessory belts, coolant flush, induction service, and the brakes. I did have the car tuned-up in May of 2001, and at that time they replaced the spark plugs, distributor cap, and rotor, so I know those are good.

The mechanic said he did look at the rest of it and didn't see anything that needed replacing, so I don't know. And a lot of this decision is up to my dad, since it's his money. My mom already yelled at me about getting gyped by the dealer. I'm getting the sense that it's going to be a long, nervewracking drive for me if they don't do these things, even if nothing happens.

06-05-2002, 08:10 AM
The other thing that worries me is that this car is 10 years old, and the timing belt and seals and stuff are original. The car came from Minnesota, so from 1992-2000, it went through Minneapolis summers and winters, though it wasn't driven a lot (it had 32,000 miles when I got it). So I can just see some little, brittle crack in the timing belt, waiting to make it fly apart at 80 miles an hour on Interstate 24...


Gary T
06-05-2002, 08:54 AM
OK, assuming it has 60K or close to that mileage, I would recommend the timing belt, front engine seals, accessory belts, coolant flush, and whatever is found needed on the brakes. If there is any sign of leakage or roughness in the water pump, it should be replaced, but if it seems fine, there's no compelling reason to include it. Forget the spark plugs and distributor cap. I wouldn't worry about the plug wires unless a specific problem was found with them, but if they make it to 90K it wouldn't be a bad idea to replace them as preventative maintenance.

It appears to me now that the dealer has recommended the complete 60K service even though portions of it (e.g. spark plugs) are not needed on your car. Unfortunately, this is typical of dealerships in my experience--they have this package of maintentance, and they sell the whole package whether or not all of it is needed in any individual case. I hate that.

It sounds like your mechanic is being straight with you, and you should be able to trust his recommendations. IF, however, he is saying he doesn't see that you need a timing belt on this car with 60K, that's a problem. Timing belts defy inspection. YOU REPLACE THEM WHEN THE MAINTENANCE SCHEDULE CALLS FOR IT. Check your owner's manual, but my book says it's called for at 60K on your car. (And at 10 years old, some would say it's due timewise regardless of mileage.) If you're being advised that you don't need it even though it's due on the maintenance schedule, then in my opinion that's bad advice.

06-05-2002, 03:48 PM
Followup: I'm getting the timing belt changed, the seals changed, the tires rotated, and the wheel bearings checked, along with everything else. K.C., here I come!

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