Saturday, February 26, 2011

One way to fix squeaky breaks

A little part of me died the day we bought our first minivan. It was one of those moments in my life when I realized that I had crossed over into full fledged parenting. No longer would the family vehicle be without a sliding door. It was odd to be able to walk around inside. For my kids? It was like a play land.

A few years came and went and it was time for a new minivan. The dealer we went to was, well, persistent. They made an offer on the van we owned, and really low balled us on it. After talking back and forth a bit, my wife and I got up and left. It was obvious that we were not going to get what we were looking for.

A few days went by and we got a call from the salesman. He said they had found a buyer for our old van--and were able to offer us a much higher trade-in. In addition, they included an 8 year, 80,000 mile bumper to bumper warranty as part of the deal. Though we were a bit put off that it took us walking out on them to get a good deal, we accepted.

Over the years, the van would have issues now and again. So, we'd take it into the dealer, warranty in hand, and tell them what was wrong. Without going into a lot of details on the various issues, it seemed like every time we took it in, they found something else wrong with it as well. On at least a couple occasions, we had to take the van back more than once to get them to fix it right.

This last summer, the breaks started acting up. They weren't part if the bumper to bumper warranty, but we took it to the dealership none-the-less, sure that they would find something wrong in addition (which they did). So, we got new brakes.

It was at that point that they started squeaking. It wasn't too bad at first, but it continued to get worse. Finally, we took van back to the dealership in December to have them check it out. The answer we got? That the brake shoes had "glazed" over and had ruined the rotors. How do brake shoes get glazed over? According to the tech, because we had been riding them too hard and/or breaking too quickly. Again, we had had this van for 7 years, and now we were having this problem? If that is truly the was the case, wouldn't it have happened earlier?

The solution? All new brakes, including new rotors. Ug.

And that solved the issue, right? No--not so much. The brakes were now squeaking as badly as ever. So, in January we took the van back--again. What was this issue? The shoes were glazed over again. The tech insisted it was operator error. The only way for shoes to glaze over was from them overheating caused by riding them too hard and/or breaking too quickly. But, they agreed to fix the issue for free since we just had them done a month previous.

They put on new shoes and pads and resurfaced the rotors--rotors that were new just a month ago. And yes, they found something else wrong with the car as well at the same time--but it was unrelated to the breaks.

The dilemma we faced was that our warranty was about to expire. We had lost total confidence in this dealership. I went as far as to call the head service guy to nicely express my concern. When we talked about the squeaky breaks, his answer was this: "They have changed the material the pads are made from, so yeah, they squeak. The way to get them to stop is to break a bit harder now and again."

When I pointed out that breaking hard is what the tech said was causing the glazing issue, the head service guy said, "Well, don't overdo it."

For a moment there, I was reminded of the advice Ralphie from The Simpsons was given by his father, "Remember son, if your nose starts to bleed, it's because you are picking it too much--or not enough."

My wife was especially upset with this whole ordeal. What would they find next with the car? How much was it going to cost us once the warranty ended? For those that don't know my wife, she is amazingly patient (she has to be, to be married to me).

How were we going to fix these squeaky breaks? Then the answer came to us: simple--we are going to trade in our old van for a new one--from a different dealership.

And that we did. On the way home, I turned off the radio and asked my wife as we were slowing down, "Do you hear that?"

Knowing the way I think, she smiled and said, "Yes. That's the sound of breaks not squeaking."

1 comment:

  1. Sometimes that's what you've got to do! Glad you solved that dilemma.