Are Brakes a Minor Car Repair?

Every vehicle, no matter how well maintained, will eventually need to get its brakes serviced. But are brakes a minor car repair? Or will you have to shell out a lot of money for extensive car care work?

Brakes are one of, if not the most crucial,  safety equipment parts on your car. As such, you must keep them functioning correctly to stay safe on the roads — no matter the cost. But every brake job doesn’t have to cost you a fortune.

Read on to learn which brake repair jobs are the most demanding and how much it costs to repair car brakes.

What Affects the Scale of Brake Repair?

Car brake systems are relatively complex systems. Many factors can impact the extent of repairs you need, how much it costs, and how long it takes to repair your vehicle’s brakes. Here are some of the most significant things that can affect the scale of minor car repairs.

The Type of Brakes

Most cars have two kinds of brakes — disc brakes and drum brakes. They have different parts, which can push the cost of repairs up or down.

Disc brakes consist of a caliper, brake pads, and a brake rotor. When you press on the pedal, the caliper squeezes the brake pads against the rotor, which stops the car. Many modern cars have disc brakes on the front wheels, but some sports vehicles have them on all four wheels.

Drum brakes have two brake shoes, a piston, and a bunch of springs inside the brake drum. During braking, the springs and piston press the brake shoes against the drum to slow your car. Drum brakes are typically cheaper than disc brakes since their parts are easier to manufacture.

Additionally, your car’s brake system has brake lines and fluid that may need repair or replacement.

The Car’s Age, Make, and Model

Brake systems can vary in complexity between car makes and even models from the same manufacturer. The car’s age will also play a part in what kind of brake systems it will have. 

Your car’s age, make, and model will affect the availability and cost of spare parts. Generally, spares for older cars and imported European vehicles — such as Volkswagen, Mercedes, or BMW — will cost more than those for new domestic vehicles.

Part Quality

Most brake parts come in three different quality grades — Economy, OEM, and Premium. Your choice of part quality can have a significant impact on their cost.

Economy parts are the cheapest but will wear out faster than higher quality parts. OEM parts mimic your car’s original features and provide a balanced cost-quality ratio. Premium components are the most costly, but they will perform better — although they may not last longer.

Degree of Damage

The wear and tear to your brakes will determine the scope of necessary repairs. The logic is simple — the more damaged your brakes are, the more repairs they need and the more it will cost.

A simple brake pad replacement won’t take long or cost you that much. But if all the parts of your brake system are damaged beyond repair, you can expect to pay a lot of money to get a complete overhaul.

How Much Does It Cost to Repair Brakes?

Now you know the most significant factors that determine the scale of auto brake repairs. But you might still be wondering about the cost. Unfortunately, there’s no simple answer we can give you.

When you get a brake job, you’ll have to pay for both parts and labor. The price of both things can vary wildly based on the abovementioned factors.

Brake pads and shoes are the cheapest components of the brake system. If replacing them is all you need, you probably won’t have to pay too much. Brake pads for one wheel typically cost around $100.

If you do get new pads, you probably also have to replace the brake rotor. New pads can struggle to grip a worn rotor, which could put you in serious danger. The average top price of brake rotors is roughly $150 per wheel.

Then there are the calipers, the most expensive and intricate part of your brake system. Manufacturing and replacing them isn’t easy, which is reflected in the cost. A single caliper could cost you as much as $175.

These are per-wheel prices, so if you need to get parts replaced on every wheel, multiply the prices by four. But you also have to pay for the labor to install the new parts. Labor costs depend on the auto repair shop you use and the local taxes and regulations.

In total, complete brake replacement service generally averages between $1,500 and $3,000 dollars, depending on your vehicle. Note that this is only a rough estimate, but it should give you an idea of the maximum budget you will need.

How Can I Limit Brake Wear and Tear?

As you’ve learned, brake repairs can be relatively minor car repair in certain situations. However, brake systems can wear down surprisingly quickly, causing minor problems to turn into major ones. This is particularly true in northern Virginia, where both the hot and humid summers and frigid winters can wreak havoc on your brakes.

Worn brakes are a serious safety risk (and can even be illegal), so you should get them fixed as soon as possible. Luckily, there is a way you can limit brake damage.

Regular Maintenance Preserves Breaks

The best method to keep brake issues from spiraling out of control is regular maintenance. If you’re an experienced DIY mechanic, you may be able to inspect brakes on your own and even do basic minor car repairs. But because of their importance for your safety, the best option is to take your car to a reliable service shop for maintenance.

Regular inspections will help you spot small problems with your brakes as soon as they appear. This way, you can address them before they become big problems — keeping the scale and cost of brake repair at a minimum.

How Often to Get Your Brakes Serviced

In general, you should get your brakes replaced every 20,000-80,000 miles. Check your car’s owner’s manual for the recommended brake service intervals. However, it’s best to ask your technician to check the brakes every time you take your car to a shop.

Additionally, there are signs that your brakes might be having issues. If you notice any of these symptoms, take your car in for a brake check immediately:

  • Squealing or grinding noises during braking
  • Vibration when you press the brake pedal
  • Loose or spongy pedal feel
  • Loss of braking power
  • A brake warning light turns on

4 Ways to Make Your Brakes Last Longer

You can also keep brake repairs minor by practicing good driving habits. Keep these easy everyday driving tips in mind behind the wheels to avoid straining your brakes. You’ll make your brakes last longer, save money on maintenance, and stay safer on the road.

  1. Don’t Slam the Brakes

    Brakes work by converting motion energy into heat. Sudden and strong braking produces a lot of heat, which will quickly wear down your brake pads, shoes, rotors, and drums.

    Pay attention to the traffic and start slowing down in good time. You should also learn to coast. Simply lift your foot off the brake pedal and let your car slow down on its own, applying brakes only when you have to.
  1. Drive at the Speed Limit

    It might be tempting to go slightly above the speed limit, especially if the road is mostly empty. That said, don’t do it. Not only can it be dangerous, but speed is your brakes’ worst enemy.

    The faster you go, the more your brakes have to work to stop the car. Driving at the speed limit keeps you safer and avoids excess brake wear.
  1. Don’t Double Foot

    Your driving instructor should’ve taught you not to double foot, but everyone needs a little reminder now and then. Double footing means resting your leg on the brake pedal when you don’t intend to brake.

    Pedals are very sensitive, and even slight pressure can partially activate your brakes — even if you don’t notice it. This wears your brakes down unnecessarily. When driving, always keep your foot off the brake pedal until you actually need to stop.
  1. Get Brake Fluid Flushed Regularly

    Brake fluid is naturally hygroscopic, meaning it absorbs moisture from the ambient air. Water in our brake lines makes them less effective, forcing you to brake harder and wear your brakes down faster. Get your brake fluid flushed every two years to maintain its condition.

First-Class Brake Repair Shop for Chantilly and Warrenton, VA

One good final tip for saving on brake repairs is to find a reliable and affordable auto repair shop. A good shop can address brake issues before they get out of hand, keeping both the scale and cost of repairs down.

Advanced Automotive has been serving drivers in Chantilly and Warrenton, VA, for more than 35 years. Our expert, certified technicians know the ins and outs of every car make and model. We will keep your brakes in perfect condition at all times.

We never do any work on your car before informing you of all the problems we find. You’ll get an honest opinion on what’s wrong with your brakes and can choose whether or not to address the problem. We also offer quote matching to ensure you get a fair price.

Book your brake service appointment online, or call our Chantilly shop at (703) 783-1409 or Warrenton shop at (540) 503-3335