I Can’t Get “Lifetime Warranty” On Brakes Unless I Spend $687 On Repairs

by golbguru on March 19, 2007

brake-rotor carsMy 105K+ miles old Nissan is biting me very hard now-a-days. I have whined about it earlier on this post “Holy Car! $806.22 For Repairs“. At that time, my regular repair shop quoted an estimate of $382.69 for a brake job (which I thought was very high). Last month, I took the car to a JUST BRAKES (JB) location for the brake repair (because they advertised a *lifetime* warranty and $100 brake pad replacement) and those guys gave me an estimate of $687.38!!

Of course, there was some cost of procrastination involved. I should have replaced the brakes long back when the screeching sound started. However, I delayed the repairs by a couple of months…and that caused one of the front rotors to get scratches on it. So, in addition to brake pads and shoes, I was expecting the front rotors to be replaced (the earlier estimate of $382.69 by my regular repair shop included the cost of procrastination…that is the cost of new rotors). But these JB guys were pointing out a lot more issues with my car brakes as compared to what my regular repair guy told me.

The manager and the mechanic-in-charge took me around the car and showed me all the things that appeared *broken* (in their opinion). I have an engineering background related to mechanical stuff and asked them a lot of uncomfortable questions; and even with that, I was having a hard time trying to understand why certain parts need replacement or repair. I don’t know how people with non-engineering backgrounds tackle these repair shop guys who tend to use a lot of jargon when they tell you what’s wrong with your car. Anyways, after the inspection, the manager gave me a long list of things that he termed as “required repairs” and estimated the cost of repairs at @ $687+ (including part of sales tax). Wow!

However, I did not agree with more than half the things in the list, and after a prolonged discussion (haggling) with the mechanic, we cut down the list of repairs to the bare minimum (just the potentially hazardous issues were agreed upon, and all other preventive maintenance stuff was removed)…which, incidentally, came back to replacing just the pads/shoes and front rotors. :) Below is an image of the list that the manager gave me and the items that I declined to accept (it’s a bit hard to read). I found it difficult to believe that all items turned out to be *required* repairs.

declined repairs

The “declined” items in the above list reduced my repair costs from $687 to $268.93 (including taxes).

just brakes

However, there was another cost associated with this. JB was no longer giving me the “lifetime warranty” on the brake job. According to their terms:

For the JUST BRAKES LIFETIME LIMITED WARRANTY to apply, the entire brake system must be restored to it’s proper operation at the time covered parts or labor are provided.

Apparently, by declining some of the repair items, I voided the above clause and hence there won’t be any lifetime warranty on my brakes. However, the clause makes me wonder if they usually inflate the list of repairs deliberately, to sucker you into accepting large repair estimates in return for that lifetime warranty. Also, even if I do get the lifetime warranty by paying for all the $687 worth of suggested repairs, I am positive that the next time I go for a brake job…they will pull up another long list of things (not covered under warranty) to repair and the cost will be very high again.

I am still not sure if I did the right thing by declining some of the repairs and the lifetime warranty on brakes….time will tell.

Sometimes, I think the most worthwhile investment ever would be to work in an automobile repair shop for a few years and learn the tricks of the trade.

Brake rotor image source: www.trustmymechanic.com

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{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

1 WBL 03.19.07 at 2:00 pm

Those bastards!

The guy I go to is the other extreme. my brakes have been squeeling for 6 months and every time i go, he says they’re just dirty and should last a bit longer!

2 ispf 03.19.07 at 6:58 pm

If driving an older car, I think finding a mechanic like the one WBL mentions is a must. Over the past few years my car has been periodically coughing up aging trouble. I have tried several national stores (firestone, aamco, just brakes, sears etc) but I find it too stressful to haggle with them to do only the “really” required repairs. I used to dread the next time a problem would show up. Last year, we decided to try a local mechanic. This guy is awesome - he listed a bunch of issues and told me the ones that needed immediate repair, the ones I need to keep an eye on but can be postponed for the time being, and the ones that are quite harmless and can be entirely ignored! He even assured me that I could use my car for atleast another 2 years since the engine is in a pretty good condition! I dont think I will go back to a national store again (not as long as I am driving this car atleast)!

3 Savvy Steward 03.20.07 at 9:27 am

I used to hate going to different mechanics to get a minor service done. They always try to upsell and try to get more money out of you. I asked around and finally found a local mechanic I can trust. The shop also gets good customer reviews.

If you’re not sure about a company, make sure to check out the Better Business Bureau for ratings. A lot of auto shops get really bad ratings.

By the way, you couldn’t just get your rotors resurfaced?

4 Tammy 03.20.07 at 1:06 pm

I’m learning the hard way that putting things off just plain cost MORE - and car repairs always make me incredibly cranky. Unless you know how to fix them yourself and know when they are just trying to make money off you.. there is a little voice in the back of your head saying “don’t trust a word they say!”

You’re right - knowing how to do it yourself is the way to go - hmmm… depends on how much it would cost for the tools and a place to work on the car.

Good luck with the repairs!

5 golbguru 03.20.07 at 1:36 pm

WBL and ISPF: I wish I had a mechanic in town who was as honest as yours’. Till date, I have tried 5 mechanics here…2 local shops, 2 dealers, and one national chain location and I am not really happy with them.

One of the local shops was really good in the beginning (I almost trusted those guys), but at about an year or so, I started to have a feeling that they were taking me for granted. In fact, at one point, I decided to take a second opinion (from a dealer) about a certain repair…he flatly told me that there was nothing wrong with my car and I don’t need the repair that the shop recommended. May be, it’s possible that the repairs were recommended by an inexperienced (new) mechanic or may be it was just a judgmental error…but either ways I couldn’t trust them any more. Except for this brake job, I usually go to a nearby dealer for repairs…and occasionally take second opinions from other repair shops.

6 golbguru 03.20.07 at 1:49 pm

Savy Steward: “By the way, you couldn’t just get your rotors resurfaced?” …I knew someone will ask this. These Just Brakes guys measured the rotors and they turned out to be *over-machined* already (the thickness was less than the allowable specifications)…apparently, they are not allowed to resurface rotors if the resurfacing reduces the thickness below the specifications. So that went out of the window. Resurfacing would have saved me $163 :(

Tammy
: Thanks for the wishes. Yeah, I have had that feeling :) …it’s also mixed with feeling of helplessness.

Btw, there are shops that *lend* tools for automobile repairs (I have heard it turns out very cheap…if you know how to use them). However, place is always a problem..I don’t know how people who stay in apartments could fix their own cars.

7 Cal 03.20.07 at 9:40 pm

Buy your rotors and pads off ebay. A Brembo blank rotor (the best in the business) is between $25 - $35 vs the rip off price of $81 for a no name rotor.

8 rossdive 03.21.07 at 5:51 am

Cal has a good point… even an autoparts store like NAPA sells good rotors for $35. And like your estimate shows - there’s no labor involved in installing them (while you’ve got the tires and calipers off already.) Brakes are easy, especially if you have an engineering background. Don’t be afraid to dig into it yourself if you really are interested in saving money

9 Josh 03.21.07 at 10:15 am

What’s the chance of getting a shop to do the labor with parts you bring in?

10 golbguru 03.21.07 at 10:28 am

Cal and Rossdive: thanks for the suggestion. I haven’t tried that with my car parts. However, with my motorcycle (which I sold sometime back)…I did buy some parts on eBay and installed them myself. But, the process was fairly simple for the motorcycle. For the car, I am worried if I mess things up and then the cost of fixing the mess will be a lot more than before. Plus there is a question of a lot of time..especially if I don’t have the correct tools. :) But, I will look into this option and check if it’s feasible.

Josh: You raise a good point. At least one shop I visited (for something else, not for the brakes) were OK with the idea of me buying the stuff and they installing it (eventually this thing didn’t work out because I could not find the part online within a reasonable time frame). I suppose most shops will be OK with this. The shrewd ones will compensate (partially) by charging you extra for the labor…so look out for that. :)

11 gt 03.21.07 at 2:33 pm

just thinking about this makes me sick. i took my jetta to the dealer to get the overpriced 30k mile job done. well they call me up to tell me it’s double, or $1300 cause the brakes need to be completely rehauled. i balked and told them dont do the brakes. (they werent making noise or anything). so i took it to another national shop and he wanted 800 for the brakes (rotors, pads etc). i did read that the jetta’s rear rotors need to be replaced around 30k, so i took that as a third opinion. i talked him down to 650, but i still know i got screwed.
what else can i do, get third, fourth opinions? sorry, i am already doing that with dentists around here- Nova

12 golbguru 03.21.07 at 2:41 pm

GT: Now that you mentioned dentists…I find dentists and car mechanics extremely related - you go in with one problem and both of them send you back with a list of 100 other problems. Both of them empty your wallets and both of them make sure that you will come back with more problems in future. :)

Sorry about your trouble. I guess this has probably sinked deep in our culture…the habit of trying to squeeze every penny out of the customer…by hook or by crook.

13 Jackie 03.23.07 at 4:46 pm

It’s really hard now-a-days to find a good dealer, though there are a lot of dealers out there. Based on my experience, only a few of those dealers I’ve tried had my satisfaction. Where I had my Nissan Brake Shoe was one of them. I took a great search of the dealers for every part I need.

14 Yan 03.23.07 at 4:57 pm

My wife’s Mazda disappointed me last week. The place I was using to change oil quoted me with over $1000 in maintenance and minor repairs. Every time I get upset with these numbers I calm myself down by thinking about how much I save by driving an older car.

A car is just a means of getting from A to B. I will drive it as long as it doesn’t give me too much headache with repairs. So far so good.

15 Tim 03.26.07 at 6:49 am

having had a major bad experience with Just Brakes, I’d told you to run away, fast and far. Simply put, they like to add lots of unnecessary parts (as you noticed, but so do many other chain stores) as well as not necessarily do brakes well (go figure, i had a complete brake failure after having had my entire brake system replaced by them). Should read what BBB has on them.

At any rate, the amount for the JB recommendation is about 3 times what you paid, and about 2 times what you intially got from the other place. so in the end, you would be able to do the same repair for the same price. moreover, JB probably prorates cost based on wear.

16 golbguru 03.26.07 at 9:08 am

Yan: “Every time I get upset with these numbers I calm myself down by thinking about how much I save by driving an older car.” …that’s exactly what I have been thinking…however, sometimes I think may be the stress and the regular repairs are compensating for all the savings of an old car.

Tim: I got lucky after haggling with the manager…they were sure not happy to let me go away with just 1/3rd of what they recommended. :)

17 Tampa Tom 03.29.07 at 6:44 pm

Well, I hope nobody makes the mistake I did and take their car to Firestone and buy off on it when they tell you need brakes. I got ripped off major. See my tale of woe at http://www.firestonecitruspark.com and tell your friends!

18 wush 04.11.07 at 7:46 am

I have a repair shop and I’d like to give you another point of view. We would be considered one of the “local mechanics” that some of your respondants refer to. We advise people what truely needs to be replaced and what can wait. A lot of the major chain stores are under the gun to sell parts & labor. We know of one where the service writers are instructed that they should be able to get an extra 300 to 400 dollars on every car that hits the door. To me, this is just wrong. As far as supplying your own parts, and keeping the savings, where do you believe the money that is the mark-up on parts is used? Somewhere along the line the lights, heat, insurance and other assorted costs have got to be taken care of. It can not all come out of the repair cost. As to the point of “lifetime” brakes, this is a selling point only and a come on for people to enter the door. How would anyone with any common sense arrive at the conclusion that a business could “guarantee for life” a part that under normal usage wears out. It has a limit to how long it will go before it is worn beyond use. Someone HAS to cover the cost of replaceing it. It is a bad practice and should throw up a red flag to anyone who sees it, yet people still fall for it and complain about the cost or not being satisfied somewhere down the line. People should wake up and use some sense about it but they want to get second most costly investment most people make in their lives, done for cheap. I don’t get it.

19 Goldtimer 05.02.07 at 6:57 am

“Just Brakes” is a ripoff operation. There are many complaints about the company at RipoffReport.com.

See numerous already filed reports here:

Google search results for Just Brakes

On my 2002 GMC Denalli pickup, with only 48K miles, excessive pressure was being applied to the left rear disc brakes, causing the pads there to wear faster. The rotor scratched very quickly once the pad wore out. The pads on the other 3 wheels still had significant thickness.

Like you, I was enticed by the $99.88 radio ads for replacing pads on all 4 wheels and turning the rotors.

I smelled a con job when I saw the fine print on the form I had to sign, and almost walked out. Wish I had. Should have trusted my instincts. The estimate was $661 recommended, $331 required. I went with the $331, which replaced the pads on all four wheels, bought me a new rotor (they said it was worn .0005 in. too much), and replaced the brake fluid (something they insisted on).

Wish I’d said, “Give me pads on the four wheels and turned rotors for $99.88 as advertised, plus $90 for the replacement rotor, and that’s it.” In doing that work for any car, they should adjust things so they work properly.

Since I declined all the work (mainly rebuilding the calipers on a truck with only 48K on it), they wrote on the form that the brakes still were not fixed. But, he said I qualified for the lifetime deal (like I’d want it).

Now, the brakes stop OK, but make funny sounds when backing and are rather clunky in operation, when they used to be smooth to the point of not being noticebable. I’ll probably pay the GMC dealer $200-300 to get them right. Wish I’d just gone to the dealer in the first place.

Trust me, don’t worry about not getting the free labor on future jobs deal. That’s like getting free future service from a rapist. This is a ripoff company which needs to be driven out of business!

Had I done just 5 minutes of internet “readsearch” beforehand, I would have avoided spending $331 for a slipshod job. I’ll probably now have to spend $200-300 to get the brakes adjusted right.

It’s imperative that anyone reading this who has been burned by “Just Brakes” go to RipoffReport.com and file and report. If enough do, this ripoff company might be driven out of business.

Goldtimer

20 coklrider 05.21.07 at 9:20 am

Goldtimer, I agree with your assesment of Just Brakes. 1/04 I took my 72 Ford Bronco in, brakes were bad and I left there $1100 lighter. Now, with less than 3000 miles since the brake job, it’s in another shop getting 2 wheel cylinders and front shoes replaced. I’ll never go to these crooks again.

21 Jason 10.18.07 at 7:55 pm

When you say Engineering, did you go to Uni and do a Bachelor of Engineering? What was your major?

I lost all confidence when you said “Mechanical Stuff”.

The reason they only offer a Lifetime Warranty on full repairs is, you’ve declined to repair parts that are faulty. They can’t be sure that the faulty parts you told them to leave won’t affect the replaced parts and their handiwork.

If your toaster was broken and you took it in for repair and the toaster guy said that the heating element is damaged and the power cord is shorting. Would you expect him to offer a lifetime warranty if you told him only to fix the heating element? Even though the element likely broke due to the shorting of the cord?

Same deal.

Get over it.

22 Russell 01.15.08 at 12:14 pm

After reading your post I had to chuckle. This “mechanical stuff” is fairly easy to grasp, just do some research. Your brake system uses brake fluid which every car maker recommends replacing every 12-30K miles, more if you are in humid areas. Why? Because it deteriorates and absorbs moisture! Use that degree of yours and picture all the machined components in your brake system being exposed to moisture, sediment, and heat every day, 100 times a day (during brake applications). And, springs do wear-out. It’s something to do with metallurgy. Why don’t people call doctors rip-off artists? Because they rarely know what the doctor is talking about. Yet, these same people will blast the guy in the mechanics jumper when they don’t understand what he is talking about.

23 golbguru 01.15.08 at 5:11 pm

Jason, Russell: Just because I say “mechanical stuff” doesn’t mean I am novice. :) People are experts in their own fields - and when they deal with others they have to talk in a language which others would understand - easily.

“The reason they only offer a Lifetime Warranty on full repairs is, you’ve declined to repair parts that are faulty. They can’t be sure that the faulty parts you told them to leave won’t affect the replaced parts and their handiwork.” - that’s a idealized version and that sounds like someone who works in such shop. Come on, did you read the rest of the post? How easy is it to claim something is not working right/ or something doesn’t “look” right just to extract some extra money from you?

Russell - although you explain it nicely, I think you are oversimplifying the issue. Just with that knowledge, one still won’t be able to explain the functions of all the parts involved in the braking system. It’s not just the brake fluid, pads, and springs - there are other components/sub systems that work in tandem, and unless you have dealt with one you won’t know which things “must” be replaced. People don’t have all this knowledge by default (they are not born with it) - so it’s easy to tell them ” hey, this spring is not supposed to be so stiff, I think it has hardened and become brittle because of modified microstructure due to heat. Give me $300 to replace this spring or I won’t give you lifetime warranty because you didn’t follow my recommendation”. How exactly would you know whether he is telling the truth?

And by the way I will blast a doctor if he doesn’t tell me things in a way I understand.

24 David 01.31.08 at 4:38 pm

I too made the mistake of leaving my truck with a JB in Garland Tx. before doing my homework on the trusty computer. The initial phone call, after 4 hours, was for 1200.00 “GAG”! with some bickering and genuine distrust I agreed to a 698.00 job. Then it hit me to go googling and to my surprise[not] all these hate blogs pop up. I had to ask for the parts they removed but my concern was that I went in for a $99 dollar job and came away a lot lighter in the old hip pocket than expected. Now my big gripe is they charged me for bleeding and filling the system, $40,don’t they have to do that on the $99 dollar job. they charged me the $99 plus hard parts plus the $40 for bleeding and filling plus pads etc. So what the hell is the $99 for, because I was charged for everything anyway so whats the $99 cover??????I’m going back tomorrow and find out.

25 Steven 06.26.08 at 4:46 am

I went to just brakes, and i wanted an inspection. I told them that my brakes was making a funny noise, but not a grinding noise, or scratching noise, like rotor or drum squeeling. They said,sure, we will inspect it for free. So they inspected it, and said that my brakes needed adjusting, and i needed to change all of my brake fluid. So they did. About a week later the noise came back, so i took it back to them, and they said that i have a caliper bolt that was locked up. But they never told me this before. So then they said its going to cost me approx. 400.00$ They also want to replace bother calipers.$$$$$$$$$and on and on..$$$99.95$? thats only a setup!!

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