Labor cost for brake flush + rotor + pad replacement?

  • 2009 FORD FUSION
  • 3.0L
  • V6
  • FWD
  • 55,000 MILES
When I bought my used car the brakes we're slightly spongy but were tolerable but recently I hit a pothole and they became a lot more spongy making me believe that it loosened something at the time of impact that snuck air into the brake line. I've monitored the brake fluid level and looked for leaks and haven't seen any changes so I was going to get the line flushed, and since they're already working on the brakes and my rotors are shot I figure I'd replace those too. What would be an estimated labor cost for the inspection, flush, and replacements. I already have a liter of brake fluid, front and rear hardware kits, and all 4 brake rotors and pads, so the only additional cost should be labor? I just don't know the time it would take.
Do you
have the same problem?
Monday, December 21st, 2015 AT 10:24 AM

1 Reply

We don't get involved with costs here because there's way too many variables. I don't even know what services are going to be performed.

It is not common to supply your own parts. That's like bringing your own food to a restaurant and asking to have it cooked for you. As with any other retail store, when the shop supplies the parts, they add a markup to cover the cost to the shop if a new part is defective, or if it fails during its warranty period. If the mechanic makes a mistake and has to do part of the job over, he does that for free. He doesn't get paid a second time, and you don't get charged a second time. However, ... If a part fails due to no fault of the mechanic's, he WILL get paid the second time to do the job over, but you will not be charged again since the failure wasn't your fault either. It isn't fair to expect the shop owner to pay for defective parts either. That's where the profit on the parts comes in. Part of that goes to cover the mechanic's time. It does not make up for the lost time when he could have been working on the next customer's car. That's where the shop takes the loss. The mechanic can't make extra time, (pay), by working faster or more efficiently. The shop can't get that one extra customer taken care of. Both of those are offset by some of the profit they made on the parts. Providing your own parts denies them that safety margin.

Many shops will not allow you to supply your own parts. The issue is not the apparent greed for those few extra dollars. It is because we've all heard too many horror stories resulting from you taking on the responsibility for what to do when one of those parts fails or is the wrong part. When the shop supplies the parts and one is defective, wrong, or the mechanic breaks it, the shop bares the costs associated with getting a replacement ordered and / or delivered, and they cover any additional time the mechanic needs to correct the problem. You take on that responsibility when you bring your own parts. If one of them fails in the next few weeks, you can expect to be charged a second time for the same service. This is where we've all heard about angry customers who don't understand this situation. It is simply easier, and there's less arguments and misunderstanding, to refuse to install customer-supplied parts.

The exception to this is when the needed parts are rare or hard to find. To save the shop's resources, and cost to you, they may ask you to do the research involved in finding the parts and getting them to the shop. When this becomes an issue, someone will discuss these options up front, but to clear up any gray areas, you should ask how charges related to a failed part will be handled.

To address your concerns about air in the hydraulic system, there had better not be any. If air can get into the sealed system, brake fluid can leak out too. It is much more likely a caliper shifted on its mount and is sticking which can prevent it from self-adjusting. The causes of that potential sticking are addressed during a routine professional brake service. That includes cleaning off any rust or dirt on the calipers' mounts, and lubricating those mounts with a special high-temperature brake grease.

If you have drum brakes on the rear, a rusted or broken self-adjuster can allow the shoes to get out of adjustment from normal wear. That will result in a low brake pedal. There's two clues to help identify that. First, even though the pedal goes further to the floor than normal, once the shoes hit the drums, the pedal will be firm and solid, like it normally feels. It just went down too far. The second clue is if you pump the brake pedal rapidly a few times, the pedal will become higher, then once you release the brakes for at least a few seconds, the pedal will be low again on the next application. That's because it takes a few seconds for the return springs to slowly retract the shoes away from the drum. If you press the brake pedal again before the shoes have had time to fully retract, the next pedal push will take another bite of fluid and will push the shoes out further. When you do that quickly enough, the third or fourth pedal application won't have to move very far before the shoes hit the drum.

When you have air in the lines, the brake pedal will always be low and feel like you're stepping on a mushroom. Well, ... Maybe a pillow! No amount of pumping will make it get higher or harder. Air can be compressed. The harder you push the pedal, the more that air compresses, and the further pr pedal moves.

If the standard brake service doesn't restore the proper feel to the brake pedal, (which it typically does), the cause of the problem will have to be diagnosed. The diagnostic time can be the largest expense. Often the remedy takes just a few minutes more. There is no way to know that cause before the job is started, and that adds to our inability to quote costs. Most states have something in place to protect you and the shop. Here in Wisconsin, we prepare a written work order that includes three places to sign agreeing to let the car be worked on. You sign the one that denotes your wishes. The first choice is "I want an estimate before the work is done". That is rarely used because you're expected to pay for diagnostic time, and there's no way to know how long that will take.

The third choice is "I don't want an estimate; just do the work". This is used mostly for warranty work where the manufacturer is paying the bill. Other than for that, we hate that choice. You're leaving us with your wallet wide open, and we know there's going to be hard feelings at some point. The only people who should use that option are those who are are regular customers AND who know the shop can be trusted.

By far the most-used choice is the second one, and you should look for something like this too. "Go ahead and do what is needed, up to $XX. XX. You write in the dollar limit after discussing the repairs with the person writing up the repair order. Commonly the amount selected is enough to cover one hour of labor, at which point the mechanic has to inform the service adviser, and / or you, of the progress he made, or what his diagnosis has uncovered. At that point you will be presented with a second, or revised estimate. You must initial or sign again indicating you've given your approval. The mechanic can go over those time limits, but if he does, he is doing it for free. If he does that because he is close to finishing the job, the shop may ask you to pay that additional amount, but they can't force you to. This won't happen very often because that costs the mechanic some dollars, and productivity that should have gone toward the next customer's car, and it costs the shop owner by not getting to the next car in a timely manner. When these lost hours start to add up, the mechanic can expect to be requested to have a chat with the boss. The biggest concern is avoiding making customers angry who have been waiting for work to start on their cars.

All new-car dealerships use a repair order that makes the charges very clear so it avoids confusion and frustration. That doesn't mean the charges are a good value. It just means you won't be surprised with a bill higher than expected. A lot of the more reputable independent shops use something similar. I'd be nervous about leaving my car with any shop that doesn't provide a written estimate. You'd have no proof and you could be held up for a pile of unexpected charges.
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Monday, December 21st, 2015 AT 4:28 PM

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