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Toyota Maintenance Mechanic Shows How to Cut Brake Repair Job Costs in Half

Looking to save money on your brake job estimate without compromising on safety and performance? Here are some tips from a Toyota Maintenance mechanic who shows how he cut the cost of a brake repair job in half by showing that not all dealership service department estimates are honest; and, that “only-OEM” advice has its exceptions.

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Recent Toyota Maintenance Episode

In a recent episode of the Toyota Maintenance YouTube channel, Peter---the host of the show---takes viewers along with the service work he has been doing on a 2017 Toyota Tacoma with over 180,000 miles. The vehicle was brought to him after the owner had the vehicle taken to a dealership service department and was given a list of repair estimates.

One of the estimates was for a front end brake job that included new brake pads and rotors, which are common targets in brake repair scams. In this case, the brake pads did need replacing; however, the rotors were free of scoring damage and well within normal specifications not necessitating rotor replacement.

The estimated cost of the front end brake work was put to the owner at $660. In the video, Peter places the estimate at half as much with a $330 quote. The difference in price is due to that the rotors were in good condition and could benefit with just a simple resurfacing of the rotors to insure that the surfaces for the new brake pads are the cleanest possible.

Resurfacing of rotors (the brake discs) before adding new brake pads is a common maintenance service due to that even the best maintained brake discs will have some pitting or corrosion on its surfaces from normal wear.

The Remainder of the Savings?

The remainder of the savings are largely due to the brake pad replacement. When the host looked to buy OEM pads as he normally does---and he typically recommends---what he learned was that Toyota no longer carried the original pads, but did offer another OEM pad for twice the price of the originals---at approximately $120!

In this instance, the host shows that going “only-OEM” is not always necessary by purchasing a set of Direct Import OE Replacement Parts brake pads at his local O’Reilly’s automotive parts store. The cost of the new pads was only $60, and thereby helped keep the brake repair costs well below the estimate given.

You can see for yourself the details of what transpired in this repair from the video provided below:

2017 Toyota Tacoma Brake Job Info

The Points of This Maintenance Piece

The take-home message to all of this is that it pays to always question a repair estimate given for your vehicle to insure that you are not over-paying for a job that should cost significantly less. In addition, the video was also a good example that absolutes---even in car repair and maintenance---such as the sage advice of going “OEM-only” does have caveats to it that can mean savings while taking care of your car without compromising on safety and performance.

Comments are Welcome---If you have found any instances of non-OEM parts that you can swear by, share your thoughts in the comments section below.

For more used car articles related to the topic, be sure to check out the following linked articles “Common Car Maintenance Mistake Owners Make When Diagnosing Their Car’s Engine Problems; and, “Two service center scams that are easy to spot.”

COMING UP NEXT: Car Dealership Scam Warning

Timothy Boyer is Torque News automotive 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 automotive-related news.

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Robby (not verified)    October 1, 2021 - 9:46AM

Mechanics tell me the rotors are made too thin nowadays and will pulsate the brakes if machined even once. Is this true or not?

Timothy Boyer    October 1, 2021 - 1:55PM

In reply to by Robby (not verified)

From what I've seen when it comes to thin rotors, it usually is about cheap Chinese-made knockoffs claiming to be OEM spec'd. So, yes, there are rotors out there that can be too thin and are considered to be more of a "one-use" disposable type than they are a machinable type. Here's a link warning about these types:
If the rotors are the originals with the vehicle, they most likely are thicker and do allow some machining, but you never know for sure until you research and measure the ones on your vehicle. Take a pair of calipers, measure the rotors and then compare that to the minimum thickness value that should be stamped somewhere on the rotor. You might also want to check some brake discussion groups about specific brands. Plus, it's not just thickness, but the actual materials used in creating the rotor---if the materials are inferior, it doesn't matter how thick or thin they are since cracking is a real concern if the brakes are ever stressed from heat and hard braking---the worst time to find out that those rotors are cheap time bombs! Great question. Thanks for the input.

John Goreham    October 1, 2021 - 6:07PM

Poll mechanics and you will find that resurfacing rotors is no longer performed by nearly every modern shop. Instead, rotors are replaced. The reason they are replaced every time is that a meaningful number of customers return with noisy brakes if they are not. Even when the rotors appear to be in acceptable shape. The reason is that one cannot discern with an unaided eye whether a rotor is flat and uniform in its wear. Brake rotors for a Toyota like a Highlander cost mechanics around $60 each. When the labor time to inspect, measure, remove, resurface, and re-install rotors and the cost to maintain a lathe are factored in, it makes economical sense to simply replace them. My experience is that aftermarket rotors always outlive the pads, but you may have more experience.

Timothy Boyer    October 1, 2021 - 6:25PM

In reply to by John Goreham

I think you are right, the resurfacing has become a thing of the past today for most garages due to the economics of it that you pointed out. In my eyes it's a shame though---just another move toward a throw-away society. However, for restoration purposes, it's still a handy skill to keep. Thanks for the input John.