We recently repaired an older pickup truck for a customer before she took off on a summer journey across country. On the return portion of her trip she had an issue with one of her rear wheel brake cylinders failing.

She made her way to a repair shop who informed her of this brake cylinder issue.
For those of you who don’t understand how the brake system works, the wheel cylinders are an access point for the hydraulic fluid in the braking system. The brake pads and rotors work within the same system but when they fail the pressurized part of the system doesn’t fail. When a wheel cylinder fails, you will most likely lose all that pressure causing your foot to go down to the floor when you apply the brake pedal. The other thing to happen when the cylinder fails is that the brake fluid will also escape out of the system. When the cylinder and pads are changed the fluid is refilled and the pressure is manually built back up in the system.

Back to the story. They changed her wheel cylinder and also her rear brake shoes claiming the faulty cylinder caused the shoe to wear down to zero. First off, we had recently changed her brakes so there’s no way they were low. Secondly, the reason you change the brakes when a cylinder fails is because the leaking fluid gets all over them and it’s best to change them out, not because it eats away the meat of the brake shoe. They also told her that her brake fluid was contaminated and needed to be flushed. Now you’ll remember that I just told you that when the wheel cylinder breaks, the fluid comes streaming out of the system so what fluid was contaminated and what it was contaminated with I have no clue. He claims to have flushed her entire system and refill it, labor included, for a whopping $249, more than double what it would be here in NYC so in my mind it should be even less.

Yes the system needs to be refilled with some brake fluid but dang, that’s some expensive fluid. When I explained this to her she kept insisting that they were so sincere when they took care of her. “But they were these honest mid-western types blah blah” …. me: “uh huh, with years of experience in story telling”. Why didn’t she call me when she broke down so I could have walked her through it? Dead silence when I asked that question. So another lesson learned. I’ll repeat my mantra, find an honest mechanic and if you’re out of town, CALL THEM WHEN YOU HAVE A PROBLEM.

Questions: dontgetwrenched@gmail.com

About dontgetwrenched

Elayne Kling, was the owner of a downtown Manhattan auto repair shop for 25 years and recently in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, www.ZPAUTO.com. Elayne knows the particular ins and outs of the auto repair world and keeps up her blog because people will always need help navigating the potential pitfalls of that world. Due to the crazy NYC real estate market she has since closed down her shop and started a new business called Projects Unlimited Inc., helping other small businesses. www.projectsunlimitedinc.com
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