It’s no secret that people can be quite bad at taking care of cars, and that mechanics often see some crazy things in the field (see “Just Rolled Into The Shop” on Reddit). Technicians see cars pull into garages with worn-thin brake discs, brake pads rubbed down to the backing plates, and the occasional stuck caliper. Vehicle maintenance can be absurdly expensive and times are tough for a lot of people right now, so some drivers neglect their cars’ needs to keep costs down — even when those needs involve crucial systems like brakes, which could put the driver and others on the road at risk.
One especially egregious example of heavily-“deferred” maintenance comes to us via Willie D. Jenkins, a mobile mechanic out of Eugene, Oregon. He recently had a customer reach out needing significant brake work on their 2007 Honda Civic; upon seeing the vehicle’s mechanical condition, Jenkins took an extreme step to keep the vehicle from being driven further and potentially endangering kids inside or the general public.
Jenkins has seen a lot in his line of work. He started his mobile mechanic business in March 2020, as the world shut down amid the worst of COVID, but when people still needed their cars serviced. Jenkins told us over Twitter messenger that he offers extremely low rates to a population of people who are often underserved and overcharged by shops in the area. His goal, he said, is to “make car care affordable to everyone,” and in addition to his low rates, he says he does a lot of pro bono work. “Elderly folks, college kids, poor people, that’s my clientele,” he told The Autopian. Here you can see his Craigslist post offering $45 per hour service; the listing features numerous photos of apparently-satisfied clients:
Back to the 2007 Civic. Given its age, it’s reasonable to expect something like an internal brake hose failure or, perhaps, even a seized caliper. However, the exact magnitude of “significant” when we mentioned “significant brake work” earlier in this article is quite a sight to behold. When Jenkins got down to see the vehicle, he realized that at least one brake disc wasn’t there anymore.
Take a look:
See that tiny rusty lip on the hub? That’s all that remains of this driver’s side rear brake disc. The black circle you see in the background is the backing plate. As for all the orange stuff on the wheel, those are, per Jenkins, iron filings from the brake rotor wearing down to nothing.
Here’s a closer look at the absolute carnage that Jenkins saw when he rolled up to inspect this 15-year-old Honda:
As Jenkins explained over the phone, “The rotor went away four months ago and [the customer] continued to drive it, and he was losing fluid and he continued to drive it, and he lost brakes altogether and he continued to drive it.” In fact, the driver of the Honda mentioned to Jenkins over the phone that he picked out pieces of disc to make the brakes stop making noise, and Jenkins genuinely didn’t believe that it was pieces of disc rather than shims or some other part.
Oh, and the other rotors aren’t in stellar shape, either. Jenkins said over Twitter messenger: “I forgot which one of the front ones is missing pieces also…every corner is scary in its own way.” Here a photo of a different brake:
Perhaps most surprising is that the customer, per Jenkins, intended to take his children to school in the vehicle the very next day. While most brick-and-mortar shops likely would have asked the customer to sign a release of liability, Jenkins decided to take matters into his own hands and temporarily remove the ignition and fuel pump relays, causing a no-start condition (but not harming the vehicle at all).
Officially the worst condition set of brakes I have seen in my professional career. Customer insisted on driving his kids to school tomorrow. It's not going to start when he tries????????. pic.twitter.com/KV5xHobTY4
— Willie D Jenkins (@WillieDJenkins1) December 5, 2022
It’s a dangerous thing to do ,as disabling a vehicle isn’t the most legal thing in the world, but Jenkins considered it the morally correct thing to do to keep the children—and anyone else around the car—safe. “It’s not going to start when he tries,” reads Jenkins’ tweet above.
It’s a tough situation and one we can’t endorse ourselves, obviously. Not to say this is what happened here, but we all know people who have deferred essential but expensive maintenance because they’ve fallen on hard times, yet still have to get to work on time and make sure the children get to school. Our car-centric society puts this burden on people, and it’s not an easy one to navigate when life throws some hard punches your way. Still, there is no denying that, based on hte photos we see here, this car appears utterly unsafe — a risk to its driver and the people in it.
I’d love to know what you, dear Autopian readers, would do if you ended up in this situation.
But there’s a happy ending here: the driver ultimately listened, made no attempt to drive the car, and agreed to repairs. Jenkins agreed to do the job as cheaply as he could; he broke down the parts he planned to use, sourcing them from RockAuto:
As cheap as I can do it. Core charges and shipping are similar. pic.twitter.com/BzxiEFpb0F
— Willie D Jenkins (@WillieDJenkins1) December 5, 2022
Jenkins says he started his mobile repair business to help people who can’t afford repairs, and that it’s quite likely that the owner of this vehicle wasn’t able to afford repairs from a traditional shop when the brakes started making noise. However, you’d think the driver had to notice the noise, lack of stopping power, or potential sparks at some point, which means that driving this around was a willful act. As Jenkins put it, “It don’t take a rocket scientist to say ‘Hey, that don’t sound right.’” It’s also far from the standard scenario that Jenkins is used to seeing:
Usually it works like this: The customer will get a brake noise or something, he’ll know it’s time for brakes ‘cause Les Schwab, our local tire place, will tell him, “Hey, it’s time for brakes.” And Les Schwab will write him a quote on that. Les Schwab does good work, but you’re looking at hundreds of dollars to get the complete brake job. They probably would’ve said $500 a corner on it by the time they were done. Normally that scares people to death, so they know they’ve got a problem, they drive home. Then I get the phone call.
Due in part to the customer’s deferral of maintenance, that Honda will now require new calipers, new pads, new discs — pretty much a new brake system at every wheel. It’s a tough lesson for the owner, who is apparently going trough some financial stresses, and while that’s sad, the good news is that — should everything go through — there will be one less deathtrap on the roads of Oregon.
Photos courtesy of Willie D. Jenkins
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