Midas is famous for that but they have hooks. It means the next time you need a brake job and they do the work, you be be charged for rotors if needed, all the normal labor costs associated with the brake job, and any other needed parts and services, but you will not be charged for the pads. That can still be a good deal or it can be less than a good value.
I used to be asked to provide lots of second opinions when working for a very nice family-owned Chrysler dealership right across from a Midas shop, and I was always a lot less expensive. Midas offered the lifetime pads too but they would only honor that if you have all needed parts and services done at that time, and they found darn near everything in the whole brake system was "needed" except for the rubber pad on the brake pedal!
The legitimate goal of any brake service is to put the braking system into exactly the same condition as when the vehicle was new. When that can be accomplished by reusing the front calipers, rear wheel cylinders, master cylinder, valves, steel lines, and rubber flex lines, it is okay to do that. If there are signs of a frayed outer jacket on a flexible hose, that needs to be replaced, but all the other parts simply need to be inspected. Your mechanic is not doing his job if he doesn't inspect some of the parts, but he is not looking out for your best interest either if he recommends parts that aren't needed. That was what happened at our Midas store, partly because they have to sell enough extra parts to make up for those "free" pads, and partly because each mechanic was also the salesperson and they earned a commission on their sales.
My average brake job in the '90s was for around $200.00. The typical repair estimate I was shown from Midas was over $600.00 for those same cars. Seems they always wanted to replace the master cylinder, all wheel cylinders and calipers, and all four hoses. Their argument was "to insure the quality of the repair". Problem was those same parts were usually needed at the next visit too. Three of my four hoses are still original on my '88 Grand Caravan daily driver and they are fine. It becomes obvious those guys were pushing parts that had no reason to be deteriorated since the last brake job.
Getting back to your free pads, the reason they offer that is so you will come back to their shop the next time you need brake work. That's no different than a company offering you a coupon for groceries, an oil change, or a day at the spa. It's a way to get you to come back instead of going to a competitor. Some people will spend the $500.00 at Midas to get their "free" pads rather than go to a different shop and get the needed brake work done for much less. Obviously that is not the best value for their money but they're too short-sighted to see that. Some people think they're "sticking it to them" by making them give them free pads. They don't stop to think they already paid many times over for what they think they got for free.
To be fair, we had other chain muffler and brake shops in my area that appeared to be quite honest and ethical. I can't say anything about Midas stores around the country, but the one in my city, two independent shops, and three new-car dealers all owned by the same fellow are well-known to be crooks. We have over two dozen other new car dealers and about 60 independent repair shops that have earned excellent reputations. They all use coupons or offers for free stuff to get you to come back, but those things won't work if they don't take care of you and your car once you're there.
Few new-car dealerships that I know of pay their mechanics a commission on sales so there is no incentive to sell things that aren't needed. You also have to understand that the more stuff they make you think you need at each visit, the less attractive their new car in the showroom looks. You want to own a car that DOESN'T need lots of service and parts later. It's in the dealer's long-term interest to keep your cost of repairs down. That is something GM hasn't figured out, but Chrysler has.
When you do finally need those free brake pads, I suspect they will be provided by Chrysler to the dealer for no charge or low cost. That is one way Chrysler can help the dealer's repair department stay busy. You can be sure at least a few of those freebies will turn into a new-car sale later, so you can think of that offer as an investment from their marketing department.
The lifetime warranty means they will replace the pads when needed as long as you own the vehicle, and as long as you stick with their repair department. That dealer will have a record of all previous repairs they did, but you may need some paperwork if you're out-of-town and have to visit a different dealer. That warranty might recorded with Chrysler too so any dealer can access that information. That I don't know. I left the dealership in '99.
Tuesday, February 26th, 2013 AT 6:05 PM