Checking brake pad wear is something many car owners can do.
Timothy Boyer's picture

Common Brake Repair Scam in Major Name Tire Centers

Here’s a common brake repair scam that everyone who has ever owned a car long enough to need a tire change can probably attest to having been approached with at least one time or another. Watch this must-see video of a popular Toyota Maintenance YouTube channel where the mechanic shows and tells what goes on in many major name tire centers.
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Tire Center Scams

How is it that you can walk into a Tire Center for a flat repair or installation of new tires and wind up going home with a complete new set of brakes and rotors that can run another thousand dollars or more on top of your original tire bill? It turns out, that it is pretty easy to do as this is one of the easiest scams many tire centers use that works for supplementing their tire sales.

Here’s the scenario that commonly plays: You walk into a tire center for a flat tire repair, a new tire installation service, or just a scheduled tire rotation to squeeze as many miles as possible out of your tires. Shortly after your car is on a lift, the manager comes to you with a clipboard---they all have clipboards, it gives them credibility like a doctor with a stethoscope---and tells you that when the wheels were removed during the service, the ever-vigilant tire tech checked your brake pads…and found some serious problems that need repair and replacement immediately.

This works for two reasons:

One, we all know that brakes wear out eventually and need to have the brake pads or shoes replaced. In worst case situations, you are told the brake pads wore down so far that the surface of the brake rotor---the disc or drum, that the pads or shoes respectively, rub against---was severely scored so badly that they either have to be “turned” to create a new blemish-free surface, or replaced entirely. Expensive stuff this is.

Two, it is almost always something we are told that has to be taken care of right now. Kind of like a timeshare salesman pressuring you with a deal that ends immediately if you want to wait until the next day to think-over a timeshare buying decision. That’s what it’s like. Practiced sales pressure tactics with the keen edge of a well-honed knife.

Why so much pressure for this type of scam? Well, apparently the word from those in the know about the industry is that a lot of chain vehicle repair centers---such as Tire Centers---pay their manager, the job ticket writer, and the mechanic a commission, for extra repairs they pushed whether the customer really needed it or not. It’s that simple.

One Real Life Example of the Scam

Here is a YouTube video of one mechanic working on a 2011 Toyota Highlander, who inspected the brakes of a customer's car after the customer came to him after he was told by a Tire Service Center that the rear brakes were done and that his rotors were junk and needed to be replaced immediately.

As always, this YouTube personality offers enjoyable and informative car repair advice that is guaranteed to leave you feeling a little more knowledgeable and empowered with car repairs and what to watch out for and what do when the need arises.

Brake Repair Scam

Look to Torque News for More

For more about car maintenance and repair, be sure to check out our past and future articles that covers both new and used vehicles (including Tesla and other Electric Vehicles) to help you have an enjoyable car experience and save money.

If you have a similar Tire Service Center horror story where you may have been pressured into buying service or repairs that you did not need, be sure to tell us about it in the comments section below.

COMING UP NEXT: Consumer Reports advises buyers to avoid these two midsized SUVs this year.

COMING UP THE NEXT, NEXT: DIY Oil and Filter Change You Can Learn How to Do to Avoid Car Service Center Scams.

Timothy Boyer is Torque News Tesla and EV reporter based in Cincinnati. Experienced with early car restorations, he regularly restores older vehicles with engine modifications for improved performance. Follow Tim on Twitter at @TimBoyerWrites for daily Tesla and electric vehicle news.


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Comments

Right after a new transmission was put in my car, I went to Jiffy Lube, for an oil change. Mr clipboard came out and told me my transmission fluid needed to be changed, as did my wiper blades. I never gave them a chance near the wheels.
Dodged a bullet there, you did. Sometimes I think they are so lazy that they will not even try to be believable. Thanks for your input! Good lesson here for everyone to be wary.
Why didn’t you have the transmission shop change your oil or maybe learn to do it your self.
VIP Yore Centers in Maine Notorious for recommending. Purchases that are pressing and unnecessary……
Anyone from Maine want to add in on this? Sometimes spreading the word is the best thing we can do.
Firestone complete auto repair is another scam company. In short; I purchased a 17 yr. old BMW and took it to BMW for an oil change and filter replacement. They also took a video of all of the work needing to be done. I took it to a Firestone shop, showed them the video and requested the seals, hoses and belts be replaced. They charged me for again changing the oil and filter (328 miles since being done), and one seal. Through four and a half months and 1619 total miles my car had to be towed, pushed, and brought back for repairs seven (7) times for repairs. The elapsed miles between repairs was seven and a half miles (7 1/2 miles), 56 miles, 122 miles, 124 miles, and 150 miles, for some examples. Things "broke" that the BMW dealership later told me that they had NEVER seen fail. The repair tickets that I was charged were for vehicles that I found out later had more than 50,000 miles on the repair ticket. I contacted Firestone more than 25 times before I got any response, and that was to see copies of the videos from the BMW dealership. I was told more than 30 times that someone from the corporate office would be back to me in 48 hours. Finally, after more than nine months and more than 35 contacts by me, John T. at the corporate office (615) 937-4024 told me that Firestone is going to do nothing. I didn't know if I would have room to say that I was requesting service that I was prepared to pay for that would prevent breakdowns. I am disabled and have limited movement without severe pain. I've now spent thousands, and still the preventative work is not done yet and the work they charged me for continues to fail.
Sorry to her about that. A "you've got one chance to get it right" policy might help avoid future incidences like this. There are good mechanics out there---in fact, a lot I believe; however, finding one is a problem. Good luck and thanks for your input. Much appreciated.
Being 65 I have hired techs from auto, plumbers and electronics, as a minimum 1 in 8 are worth hiring, it's sad how many incompetent service people are out there working on your stuff.
At Firestone for a routine tire rotation they reported thin rear pads and a frozen caliper piston. They estimated the repair cost around $650. Since I’ve always done brakes myself I ordered a set of pads and proceeded to diy. I found all 4 pads we less than 50% worn, with good rotors and no piston issue. I did put the new pads on simply because I’d already bought them but the old ones easily had 30-50k miles left. When I returned to the Firestone and showed them that the old pads were 2-3x the thickness they reported the manager said “well what do you want me to do?”. No apology. Couldn’t care less.
17 year old vehicle buyer beware buying a 17 year old car is like buying a hooker with 17 year experience learn to change you own oil.
Pgh,pa Mr.Tire rodi rd. Got a inspection done on my 04 silverado. Had it for 4 yrs, never failed inspection. This guy stated i needed rear backing plates, which essentially are dust shields on the back of the rotors. 20 bucks each. But to install them, you have to literally take apart the rear axle. Total cost 1320 for labor and parts. The shields, new seals and everything. Mind you, they were never on the truck in the first place. He tried to compare it to a newer gmc sierra. I Tried telling this guy i work on my own vehicles so i no what is needed and not. and you definitely dont need them. Went to a chevy dealership 3 days later, passed with no problems. Told them what happened at the shop, they told me with no hesitation "he was trying to line his pockets". Such ashame how people are now a days.
Yep, and unless there's been a recall regarding a particular model really needing whatever nice-to-have-but-not-necessary-part(s), I'd advise sticking with the stock job. You never know until later whether an add-on really is designed to fit a specific vehicle without problems---until it's too late. Thanks for sharing.
I went in my local good year store to have my tires rotated and balanced. The manager came and told me my brakes, rotors, and front wheel bearings were shot. Said, he would quote me a price for parts and repairs. I told him no thanks, that I would do the work myself. Well, he came back to me with a quote of $1,380. I told the man.he was crazy! I knew i hard a warped rotor on the passenger side. The wheel bearing were perfectly fine, I bought the rotor for both sides, and brakes for a little over $200. I was too buy the bearings they said I needed, the bearings and dust caps would have cost around $120, so you're telling me, the were gonna charge me around $700 in labor?
This is not a exaggeration my father in law had more brake jobs done on his mercury topaz than Mario Andretti of course Mario had his own mechanics and my father in law had Sears auto center whose wrench turners worked on commision.
This is not a exaggeration my father in law had more brake jobs done on his mercury topaz than Mario Andretti of course Mario had his own mechanics and my father in law had Sears auto center whose wrench turners worked on commision.
I guess Sears Auto Center is gone now. But I am not surprised, their tool department was pretty bad in my experience with them.
Big lawsuit and fraud charges against Sears over doing unnecessary work on vehicles a decade or so ago. That's how their wrench turners made money, commissions. I ran into the same problem with the shysters at Kost tires back in the 80s
I went to Big-o-tires down the road from Luke AFB. They told me that I was going to need need upper and lower ball joints along with inner and outer tie rods on a 2005 Silverado in 2008 that had less than 60k on it. They told me that because I lowered it it was causing problems. The problem was that it was completely stock 2wd LS ext cab 4.8 with a 4l60 and they thought I was an idiot. What they got was less business because I blasted them after going to 4 other places with no one telling me those problems and then telling people to avoid them for their fraudulent practice.
Sounds like they were pretty greedy. The things some people will do just because they think they can get away with it. Good for you. People need to hear these things otherwise it'll never stop. Thanks for input.
Female here. Nuff said. I've actually gone back to riding the Bus a few times because of this theivery now I'm facing a $2000 head gasket nitemare..just because of a coolant container leak... ? Another common scam ?? Only 70 some thousand miles so ?... Pretty much stuck. And is it kosher for them to demand half in advance ? I've used these guys before and it's been ok
Please, fix your brakes! Spend the money, Totally worth it! Yep new rotors and all yes yes yes.
One of the things that a consumer can do is ask for the old parts. By law they have to return them to you. Don't let them tell you that they have a core charge. Brake pads and rotors don't, calipers might. The shop may back off if you tell them upfront.
You are right---core charge is a pretty lame excuse. Even if there is one, there's no reason not to show it to you and even let you take a picture of it. Thanks for the advice.
I have a good one. My wife always takes her car to the dealer for the free oil changes. The last time she went, I received a frantic call from her that the mechanic said that there is power steering fluid leaking where the vehicle was parked. In fact, it is a major issue that must be solved post haste or she will risk losing power steering control of the vehicle. The mechanic puked up a long list of repairs that are immediately needed as seen from his inspection report. Wife calls me and I made a terrible mistake. I told her to tell the mechanic that her car has electric assist power steering and uses no fluid, hoses, pumps and other litter that he claimed needed to be replaced. What a fool am I. I should have had her use the AmEx card and tell the mechanic that she wants Everything replaced and fixed. That she doesn't want to ever have this problem with magic juice flowing from the steering system again. Of course it won't happen again because the car doesn't use hydraulics for the power steering. Then, I would take the invoice and my AmEx recipe to the local television news and other media sources. I blew it. Now another unsuspecting women (or man) is at risk.
I wonder how it would work out if you got scammed and found out after all the repairs and new parts were done, and then called your credit card company and refuse the charges with the argument they deceived you with bogus repairs and have the proof to show it. I have not done that with a garage before, but I did do that to FedEx one time when they decided some overseas shipping was miscalculated by a manager and went ahead and charged me an exorbitant amount that I did not agree to and did not bother letting me know of the charges---a good lesson why you have to check your statements every billing cycle. The credit card company did drop the charges and I never heard back from FedEx.
It's not just tire stores. A Honda dealer told me my backup car (2013 Accord) needed rear pads, rotors AND calipers! I checked them myself, and while the pads were close to done, everything else seemed fine. Just to be sure, I took it to an independent shop I trust, and they agreed.
You are correct. I used to put a lot more misguided faith in dealership garages, but not anymore. My wife insists that her car should only be touched by a dealership garage using one of their fill-in maintenance check booklets that came with her car when it was new. I've rechecked what they've done and have found that only thing checked was the little box on a lot of the items.
Many years ago my wife took our 1980 Trans Am to a transmission shop without my knowledge. When I came home she said we need a new transmission..$700. I had doubts. She said it was slipping and now it wouldn't shift out of first. She wanted to take it in the next day. But I started it up and went around the block. Then with the engine still running, I heard hissing. I pulled up on the curb so I could check it out. A vacuum hose had been pulled from the transmission. It was hard to get to, but I managed to reattach it. Then I test drove the car. It shifted fine. It must have been low on fluid so she took it in, whereby they simply pulled the vacuum hose off. I was livid, but I just told my wife don't just take it somewhere, let me check it out first. Women are easy targets.
That's the problem with many people today, if there is no fear of getting caught or having an alibi that can cause doubt, scum like that will do things like this. There's gotta be a better way of dealing with this kind of abuse. Thanks for sharing.
A few ago I took my small truck in for a brake job at a major chain for tires and brakes. The golden touch will give you a clue as the the company. After leaving I felt the peddle acting spongy. I took it back next day and was told they would need to replace the master cylinder obviously that didn't fix the issue. Next was the brake cylinder itself. After about $3000 dollars ( not including the original brake job) I took it to my mechanic who promptly reattached a servo that they failed to reattach.. I took a picture and video promptly returned to the store. They told me there was nothing they could do for me. Called the franchise office myself and told them about this they were gracious and attentive. I received ALL my money back including the original brake job. So there I got a free brake install. New master cylinder brake cylinder all for nothing. There's a silverlining

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