If you are considering a DIY project the next time the brakes need to be replaced on your car, you just might want to think again. Sure, you could save a few dollars doing it yourself – maybe – but changing your own brakes might not be in your best interest. While brake replacement is not the most complex car repair operation, procedures often differ from one vehicle to the next. And changing brakes without the right tools and training can compromise the performance of the most important safety feature on your car.
Before you dive headfirst into a brake job, take a look at these five reasons to reconsider.
1. Brake replacement is more complicated than it may seem
Think about it. If you are deciding whether or not you should replace your brakes yourself, you probably do not have a whole lot of prior experience. Sure, you could watch a YouTube video or two, but unless you have auto repair experience already, changing your brakes will likely end up being more than you bargained for.
Why is that? Well, first of all, not every brake job is performed the same way. The components of a brake system are similar from one vehicle to the next, but there are often differences in, say, the hardware for the brake pads, or how to compress the brake caliper or remove the brake rotor. On some cars, if you do not disengage the brake system electronics, the brakes can actually clamp down unexpectedly while you are working, even when nobody is pressing the pedal. You can cause a good deal of damage if you do not know the nuances of the parts and procedures relative to your specific vehicle.
But more than that, if you are not all that experienced, you may well overlook other issues with your brakes. You might, for instance, be tempted to simply “pad slap” your front brakes (where only the brake pads are changed out for new ones) when what your car really needs is a new set of brake rotors. Inexperienced DIYers do not usually know how to measure the old rotors for thickness and runout. And they cannot tell when to replace or resurface a rotor. And what about when a brake caliper has gone bad? Or if the mounting hardware is reluctant to come apart? What do you do when everything does not go according to plan?
2. Brake service done right requires expensive equipment
Here again, if you are not an experienced and frequent flyer in the world of auto mechanics, it is unlikely that you have all of the materials, tools and equipment necessary to change your brakes yourself.
To do the job right, you are going to need more than the brake pads you buy at an auto parts store. You will also need items such as anti-seize compound, anti-squeal spray, brake cleaner, penetrating oil, and brake fluid. You will also need the brake pad hardware components specific to your vehicle (those may or may not come with the brake pads).
The list does not stop there. To change your brakes, you will also need a lug wrench, socket set, torque wrench, caliper compressor, mechanic’s wire and more. To do it like the pros, you will also want an air compressor and an impact wrench. Oh, and personal protective equipment, like gloves and safety glasses are essential.
When you add up the cost of all of those items, brake repair can become quite costly. And that is simply for changing the pads. If you need to replace the rotors, you may need more tools, nevermind if your car also has drum brakes – or if there is an unforeseen problem that you need to attend to.
Oh, and then there is the little issue of the equipment used to lift the vehicle for service.
3. Lifting it right
Of course, before you even get started with brake maintenance on your car, you first need to get that four thousand pound plus vehicle up off of the ground and keep it there. To do that, you will need either a vehicle lift (hoist) that costs thousands of dollars or, at a minimum, an automotive floor jack and a pair of jack stands.
But lifting a car the wrong way, even with the right equipment, gives you plenty of opportunity to damage your car or cause severe injury, even death. Lifting a vehicle safely takes training and practice. Every year, thousands of people are injured as a result of lift accidents. Professionals train and practice safe habits, and they use quality lift devices that are inspected regularly. They also know where to place a lifting device on a car – something that is different with nearly every make and model on the road.
Thinking about using the little emergency jack in your trunk? Forget it. That thing is only designed for urgent and momentary use to replace a tire on the side of the road, with the other three tires of your vehicle on the ground. It is not sufficient for auto repairs!
4. Mistakes can cost you dearly
Your brakes are the most important safety feature on your car, truck, or SUV. Do you really want to compromise your safety and that of your passengers (not to mention everyone else on the road) because of an improper brake repair? Understanding the tools, parts, and procedures related to changing your brakes is essential to your safety.
For instance, if the brake caliper bolts are not tightened properly, the system could come apart at any time when you are driving and your brakes would fail. If the caliper slides are not lubricated properly, the brakes might not engage as they should. If you allow air to enter the brake lines and you do not properly bleed your brakes, hydraulic pressure would not build up enough to stop your car; so the next time you go to step on the pedal, it squishes to the floor and your car fails to stop.
What led you to believe your brake pads needed to be changed in the first place? A squealing sound? A grinding noise? The brake pedal getting too close to the floor? If your diagnosis is not correct, neither will be your remedy. Miss something and your brakes may not work the way you want them to.
5. A DIY brake job might take more time than it is worth
Finally, it is worth considering that a complete brake job done by a professional at a trusted repair shop takes roughly thirty to sixty minutes. Doing it at home with little to no experience? It could take hours. The pro at the shop has all of the tools and training necessary to diagnose and repair your car properly. And if for some reason something goes sideways, the mechanic has the means to quickly make it right, including access to parts and more tools. At home? Well, that brake job could end up taking a lot longer, since your vehicle is inoperative the whole time (you will need a second car if you need to return to the store because you got the wrong part or need another) and you might not know how to dig deeper into any problems you find.
Learning how to fix your brakes, amassing all of the tools and materials needed to do the job right, and taking the time to do the job may be more trouble than it is worth. Cheap brake service – whether done by you or the shade tree mechanic down the street – just does not pay. On the other hand, taking your car to a professional for brake repair is a smart option that will cost you less in the long run.
Columbia Auto Care & Car Wash | Author: Mike Ales | Copyright This article is intended only as a general guidance document and relying on its material is at your sole risk. By using this general guidance document, you agree to defend, indemnify and hold harmless Columbia Auto Care & Car Wash and its affiliates from and against any and all claims, damages, costs and expenses, including attorneys’ fees, arising from or related to your use of this guidance document. To the extent fully permissible under applicable law, Columbia Auto Care & Car Wash makes no representations or warranties of any kind, express or implied, as to the information, content, or materials included in this document. This reservation of rights is intended to be only as broad and inclusive as is permitted by the laws of your State of residence.