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.
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.