Not long ago a friend came by concerned after he was told his car needed new brakes. He was right to question what he was being told because 6 months earlier he had new brakes installed. We put his car on the hoist and inspected the brakes. His mechanic was right; the brakes had to be replaced. However, only the inboard pads had worn. The outer pads had very little wear on them.
The person who had installed them had made a mistake when installing the parts, they forgot (or chose not to) clean and lubricate the brake caliper slider pins. This caused the caliper slider pins to corrode; the calipers then jammed at an angle and resulted in the uneven wear seen in the photos below. This was a costly mistake that could have been avoided if the job had been done right. Not only did I have to replace the brake pads and rotors, but I also had to replace the slider pins and boots.
This sort of wear problem is all too common. Every time the cause is the same; improper or irregular brake maintenance. Apparently there is a misconception about the seemingly new brake service that almost any service shop offers. The action of servicing the brakes is not new. It used to be included in the yearly recommended major service done at most dealer shops and reputable service centers. What has changed is the brake service has become a standalone job. The reason of course is money. By separating this part of the job shops can charge more hours and make more money.
To those who still think this just another money grab, let me assure you that I am a licensed technician and I urge everyone to have their brakes serviced yearly. Personally I perform this on my vehicles twice a year, when I swap from winter to summer tires and back again. This consistent inspection and lubricating keeps my brakes wearing evenly, ensures the brakes perform properly throughout their service life and lets me find problems before they become more costly or dangerous.
What should a brake service include?
A brake service requires the wheels be removed from the car. The brake calipers and pads will be removed. The technician will then remove the slider pins from the brake pad carriage to clean, inspect and apply fresh lubricant to them. Before the pads are reinstalled the technician may file the edges of the pads, to eliminate or prevent noise during stopping; as well as clean and lubricate the carriage surfaces where the brake pads rest so they will move freely. It may be necessary to remove the rotors and eliminate any rust built up on the edges which can cause a rather nasty squeal. With the job done, the wheels will be reinstalled and torqued, which may require you to return for a re-torque.
Brakes are perhaps the most important parts on your vehicle. These parts operate under incredibly harsh conditions, especially here in Canada where they have to deal with the salt and sand spread on the roadways. By regularly servicing them, even when they are newer, you will prolong their service life thus saving money on unnecessary repairs.