I’ve never taken my car to a dealership, and the only time I even go to a mechanic is to get a wheel alignment or to have tires installed (since these require precision machines — yes, the tape-measure method for tire alignment works, too, but it ain’t precise). I do everything else myself. As a result, when people ask me for shop recommendations, I cannot help them, and when they ask me if something is a “fair price,” I once again have little to offer. In my world, vehicle service prices come from the junkyard, car-parts store, or Rockauto.com, and not from a service manager. So when my friend told me she was at the Lexus dealership, and I asked her to show me the service-quote, what I saw made me immediately respond: “Forget that! I’ll do it! Just let me fix your car!” It took a little convincing, but I did some wrenching yesterday on a 2017 Lexus RX350, and it was actually a pleasant experience.
I know, I know. A Lexus RX350; it’s not an enthusiast’s car, sure, but after driving it I’ve come to appreciate it solely because of its “performance of intended function.” The car is nice inside, it rides well, it’s reliable, and it’s actually quicker than you think. My friend loves her car, and I bet most other RX350 owners do, too, so I have to appreciate Lexus’s ability to nail the “comfortable, sensible, no-bullshit luxury SUV” formula. Anyway, this isn’t about the car, really, it’s about the situation. Let’s talk about the service quote:
That’s $563.58 for the front brakes and $557.20 for the rears. Together that’s $1,120.78 plus tax, so about $1,200 all-in. For a brake job!
I’m not the only one who’s a bit sour about this whole thing. Multiple Autopian writers have been feeling the pain of brake jobs recently. Here are some receipts from Matt Hardigree, who opted for the warranty so he won’t have to pay for this all again:
That’s $1,100 after tax with a brake flush, so about $450 an axle (plux tax) including the warranties you see above. That’s cheaper than my friend’s $560-ish quote, which really seems to be about the standard. Here’s a quote from the Bishop, who also recently got taken to the cleaners by bad brakes:
And here’s Mercedes’ wife Sheryl, who had both axles done on her rusty-but-trusty BMW 5 Series wagon:
Also $567 per axle!
Anyway, I couldn’t let my friend pay more than a Postal Jeep to replace four pads and two discs. Just out of principle. So I bought some of Advance Auto Parts’ best pads and discs for a total of about $380. Add in brake caliper grease and blue thread sealant (which I like to use on the brake bracket bolts), and we’re basically in $400 in parts.
Then I got to wrenching. The front discs, which are all I’ve done so far, were a joy to do. I have to hand it to Toyota for including a threaded hole in the brake disc “hat.” This allows you to thread in a bolt and us it to press the discs off. This is a big deal for me, as I recently had to WHALE on some Jeep discs to get them off, ruining them in the process.
Look at this cleverness:
The pads include a pair of springs, which I assume are there to keep them pressed up against the calipers. I’d never seen these before:
The calipers were dual-piston units; since I only have a C-Clamp and no special caliper tool, to press the pistons back in I just shoved an old pad against both pistons and cranked down on the clamp. It was all so easy, especially since this vehicle has been in California its whole life. The bolts threaded out like butter! I haven’t used my MAPP gas torch in months!
Honestly, the job was a joy! It took me probably three hours to do the front right, since I took my time and researched all the torque specs, and was very careful. The front left took me only one hour, roughly.
The rears include an electric park brake, so that requires a little bit of wizardry for the electric motor to all the piston to retract. I’ll finish that off soon:
My friend wasn’t thrilled that I came in with so much grime on my hands on behind my fingernails. I have to admit: This is the first time this has ever been a problem. For basically a decade, grimy hands have been nothing but respectable among my peers. A sign that I’d been wrenching hard. But now I have to figure out how to clean them? Please advise.
Anyway, I saved her $400 so far for something I enjoy doing anyway, and another $400 in savings will be had tomorrow. Absolutely worthwhile for what I anticipate will be about a total of six or seven hours of work. Of course, if this were michigan, that might be 12-13 hours of work, mostly breaking bolts, drilling them out, re-threading them — and don’t forget the requisite 30 minutes for cursing. Those are important.