Brake Job: Comeback or Regular Service

All shops should want to see customers again, but not because of a recurrence of brake problems. What is the magic mileage that separates a comeback from a repair situation? In my opinion, mileage is a minimum of 12,000 miles. Even fitting new pads, rotors and calipers will not ensure lasting brake work. Lasting brake work is a process. 
A quality brake job requires the mindset of management and technicians to ensure the quality of the work. They must realise that a complete brake job is different for every vehicle and customer, but has the same goal.

  • To restore the vehicle’s braking performance to like-new or better condition.
  • Even brake pad wear over 12,000 miles.
  • No significant noise problems at 12,000 miles.
  • Friction material should match the customer’s braking habits.

12,000 miles represents the average number of miles a consumer will cover in a year. It is not a guaranteed number, but simply a guideline for what customers can expect in terms of brake service and quality at any price. If a shop cannot provide trouble-free service for 12,000 miles or more, customers may come to you to complain, or they may never come back to you.


No matter what type of aftermarket friction material or rotor you use, it is essential that the brake provides safe, reliable braking power. Most manufacturers of friction products do extensive field testing and experimentation to ensure that they do this.

Pad Sets

The friction material you choose should usually have the following characteristics, with the best combination of providing stopping power, resistance to fading, noise and wear. When talking to your customers, find out what they use their vehicles for and what they expect in terms of brake performance, and target them with recommendations for the right brake pads. The important thing to remember is to never be afraid to sell your customers premium brake pads.

Corrosion is terrible and can cause the edges of some brake pads to buckle or rust, even after a short period of use on the vehicle. This corrosion failure can then lead to noise, vibration and roughness for a short period of time. In addition, this condition can also cause the friction material to separate from the backing plate, resulting in loss of braking power and vehicle instability.

Shims and Anti-Rattle Clips

The brake pad shim is used as an insulator between the brake pad and the caliper. It helps to change the frequency of vibrations and thus eliminate braking noise. Shims are usually a sandwich of metal and a rubber-like coating.

Shims can be attached directly to the brake pads or supplied as a separate part. To ensure that the shims on your replacement brake pads match the original pads, when servicing a vehicle with individual shims, the shims can be reused if they are in good condition, or they can be replaced.

Do not reuse the old shim if its protective coating has worn away or if the shim is rusted and flaking.

Other shims are designed to be mechanically clamped to the back of the brake pads. These types of shims ‘float’ between the caliper and the brake pad, which can help isolate noise and vibration when braking occurs.

Many ranges of brake pads are beginning to include anti-vibration clips and spring packs. Anti-vibration hardware applies tension to the brake pads so that they fit snugly against the mounting bracket. These clips are essentially small springs made of steel. They are subjected to the same heating and cooling as the rear brake hardware.

In many cases, it is not good enough to do a simple cleaning and reinstallation of the brakes. Some people add an extra step where they tighten the clips by bending them slightly. This may work for a short time, but it will not provide a long-term solution.

Caliper Hardware

Most vehicles will use single piston floating calipers. The rubber bushings or sleeves in these calipers allow the caliper to move freely as the brake is applied and released. The pistons will wear over time and also increase the production of brake noise. When re-inspected, a careful inspection should be carried out and replacement recommended or requested based on the results. If the bushings or sleeves are too loose, the caliper can be moved too much. Calipers with a lot of room to move will increase the occurrence of brake noise problems.


Part of the ‘complete brake job’ is in the detail. Using the right lubricant in the right place has an impact on the overall life of the brake job. Lubricants have other benefits too, helping to isolate vibrations and even reducing the wear of brake pads.

The staying power that a special purpose brake lubricant should have when the brakes make things hot. The temperature during braking is related to many factors. For example, the front brakes on many all-wheel drive cars and large SUVs can become very hot when braking hard or repeatedly. When ordinary cars are driven in mountainous areas, driven aggressively in stop-and-go traffic or off-road, towing trailers, hauling heavier than normal loads, etc., the operating temperature of the braking system can rise.


Calipers should be replaced in pairs, even if one side of the caliper is intact. The piston seals of the calipers will not always be useful and once they start to leak, the calipers and brake pads will have problems. Fluid leaks are a dangerous thing as they can lead to a loss of hydraulic pressure in the brake circuit, which can lead to brake failure. Leaking brake fluid from the caliper can also contaminate the brake linings, causing them to catch or pull.