Penelope Brake Job

Penelope was due for her 95k oil change service and I had noticed some “chirping” noises in the wheels since I need to roll down my window to access the magnetic key fabs for my building. I had been ignoring that for quite a few weeks now because some days my 2002 Chevy Cavalier is a symphony of groans and squeaks.

That “chirping” noise was the front brake pad warnings – I should have known better since it went away when the brakes were applied. Apparently when they inspected the pads on the lift I had 3mm left therefore a brake job was in my future as well. I knew my rotors were warped since the car bounced around pretty well when braking was taking place so I had to bite the bullet and make the decision on the spot.

When I bought the car the dealer did a brake job for me at 65k so those pads only lasted me 30,000 km – which I found out from Scott at Richardson Chevrolet is near the norm depending on the parts used.

The rotors were already warped, having only 3mm of pads I didn’t want to drive it around since I could etch the rotors with the calipers if those 3mm wear out, I don’t have a jack, stands or a garage to do the work in myself. I was stuck, so I had the guys at Richardson do the work.

The Bill

Parts were $108 – $80 for a new set of pads and the rest for a GM cleaning kit and lube. The Labour was $250 for 2.5 hours of work. Since they were able to machine my old rotors into round again that saves me ~$100 for two new cheap throwaway replacement rotors.

The Do-It-Yourself Cost

I’ve been trying to convince myself that I didn’t chicken out and not do the job myself. So here goes. Since I didn’t have to buy cheap rotors I can shift $100 from labour to parts which increases the “do-it-yourself” price to ~$200.

Then I have to factor in my time. I figure this would take me at least an afternoon to get done since I’m a huge novice even with the help of someone more experienced. Lets estimate that at 5 hours, twice as long as the GM guys (probably a low ball estimate) at $30/h since I’m cheap on weekends for $150.

Then we need to factor in some beer for bribing someone more knowledgeable to come help – but that might cancel out since I went to Neds pub to get some work done using their Internet connection. I was required to buy a beer and a coffee in order to stay ;)

I’m not sure what it would have cost to take the rotors to a shop to have them machined, probably $50 so I could have saved a few dollars there, but you need two vehicles in order to do that.


I think I’m happy with my choice for now. It’s still really cold up here in Toronto so crouched beside a car for 5 hours isn’t really a productive use of my time.

I do have the Haynes book on how to do all this stuff and I want to start changing my oil every 4,000 km since this machine is approaching 100k km which means it’s getting on in age. Oil changes are the least I should be able to do to get “mechanical” and away from software for a little bit.

I also have a friend who just purchased a Cavalier in Hamilton so maybe I can convince him that we should learn together – rent a bay with a hoist in Hamilton and have at her. I definitely need to get a CAA membership so when I mess up some job they can tow me to a shop to get the proper work done.

In the end it all comes down to being prepared and listening to your vehicle. If I hadn’t ignored the warning “chirps” I would have had more options at the shop. I could have driven it around for a while longer and done the brake job myself some weekend when I was ready instead of right away.

2 Responses to “Penelope Brake Job”

  1. Ave Says:

    man, i had the exact same thing done today at canadian tire. I had to get it safety checked and emissions tested to transfer the car from my dad to me. Turns out my pads and rotors were also fubar’d, and it set me back a cool $400. I hate having a car!

  2. mcs Says:

    This happened to me in the summer- Cost me 700 bones. Moral of the story, don’t drive with loud music on all the time. Also you change jar(s) from University may have access of 700 dollars in them.

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