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Disc brake service the right way

Like so many ‘routine’ repairs, it’s an eye for detail that separates ‘good’ from ‘great.’
Thursday, August 28, 2014 - 07:00
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When was the last time you looked at your work from the consumer’s point of view? A recent repair to my personal Toyota Corolla (a fine 2007 vintage bare-bones sedan) put a $350 hole in my wallet for a battery and alternator replacement.

And I did the diagnosis and repair myself.

For many of my neighbors, $350 represents a large portion of their weekly income, and the last thing they planned on spending that money on was a car repair. That’s a fact of life we in the business know all too well. Spending on needed repairs is not high on the list of preferences for most consumers, and spending that money on preventative repairs ranks even lower. So when they do, they expect their money’s worth.

And when it comes to performing routine disc brake services, giving your customer their money’s worth (and avoiding unnecessary comebacks) requires attention to detail.  

In the Lot
“Customer requests complimentary brake inspection.” How many of those repair orders have you been assigned? In all the shops I’ve ever worked in, I’ve never had a customer take time out of their day just to have their brakes looked at. There always is an underlying reason, usually noise or pedal feel, that brought them into the shop.  Make sure your service writers get the whole story or that simple courtesy brake check may miss the real problem that brought them to you.

Once I have the repair order in hand, I head out to the car. Over the years, I’ve developed certain habits that I perform on every car before bringing it inside. Notice the operation of all warning indicators during the bulb check. Are any staying on that shouldn’t be? If so, make a note of it now. I also like to check the operation of all the interior controls to see if there are any hidden issues I should know about. Before starting the car, I like to pump off any accumulated vacuum in the brake booster (that should only take a few pumps of the pedal) and get a feel for the brake pedal’s firmness and height. I also hold light pressure on the pedal for a few minutes to see if it tries to sink down, indicating a loss of pressure somewhere in the system.

Next, while still holding light pressure, I start the car and see if the pedal drops slightly as the booster vacuum builds. With some confidence that the hydraulics haven’t gone south at this point, it’s time for a short test drive.

First, I want to confirm the customer’s underlying complaint. Most of my work orders, for example, would only say there was a “noise” and not much else. But you and I know that brake systems can produce a few different noises and they all have their own unique causes.

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