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I have a 2010 Honda Civic with 44,000 km on in. Yesterday the squealers on my front brakes started to make noise, so I made a service appointment for the following day.

I was somewhat surprised by the $270.00 bill for replacing the front brake pads, which included a $110.00 charge to machine my rotors.

Did the dealer really need to machine the rotors? I thought squealers were designed to prevent damage to the rotors. They said this is standard procedure, and that it helps prevent brake noise and pulsating when new pads are installed.

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Arlene

Machining of friction surfaces is quickly becoming a process that is used when brake vibration or other type of brake problem exists. Machining, or turning, brake rotors or drums serves two functions:

1. It ensures a true braking surface for the new friction pads or shoes to rub against. Newly machined surfaces are rougher than the smooth, worn-in surfaces of in-service brakes. This creates greater friction between all the new parts, thereby providing greater braking efficiency. When done as part of a complete brake job, there was little chance of the customer complaining about brake vibration or having to apply the brake pedal harder than normal during the break-in period.

2. This job is just labour, it doesn't require any new parts – so it's pure profit for the shop

Here's the rub; many shops will not guarantee a brake job unless they are permitted to machine the friction surfaces – and that's fine. Policy is policy and they are absolutely within their right to make this claim. On the flip side, if the metal friction surfaces are machined, will there be an issue due to the reduced thickness of the rotor or drum? Did the vehicle exhibit brake pedal pulsations before the brake job? Is the brake job being performed as a result of a problem, or is it just simple maintenance as a result of the "squealers" telling you the brake pads are getting thin and need replacing.

Along with answering the previous questions, I use the following criteria when diagnosing and repairing brakes:

Inspect all the brake parts for integrity

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Consider the driving habits of the owner

Does the owner drive in hilly or mountainous terrain?

Does the owner drive in the city?

Does the owner drive a lot?

Do they carry excess weight regularly?

Arlene, if I determine that the visit to a shop is purely a maintenance issue – and yours way – I will recommend that the metal friction surfaces simply be "burnished." That is, a scuffing or slight roughing of the metal friction surfaces will likely suffice.

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Sorry if this sounds like I'm sitting on the fence, but there is a case to support both views. All I can tell you is to shop around for a good full-service repair shop that offers good value for your money. You and your shop will build on a level of trust that will keep everyone happy.

Everyone has to remember that a car (or truck) is likely the most expensive investment that one will make (other than living quarters). Working on it or having work done to it, should always be a matter of respect – from the owner to the shop – and the shop to the owner.

Happy hunting Arlene.

Do you have car maintenance or repair questions? Send them to Globe Drive.

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