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Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Braking Point

“Okay, I want you to tell me how this can happen,” a guy in his mid thirties growled at me from the doorway where I had just opened the big rollup door.

He held out a set of disc brake pads worn down past the metal. Having done a few disc brake jobs, I recognized the pads, at least what was left of them. They were off a GM vehicle. I didn’t know this guy, at least I didn’t think I knew him. I’m getting to the age where I’m not real sure about anything. I’ll call him Unhappy Brake.

“The disc brake pads wore down. They weren’t replaced in time to save the rotors, which must have been ground down to scrap,” I state the obvious; because I have no clue where Unhappy is going with this. “Where’d you have the brakes done?”

Mr. Brake named a place in Oakland I wasn’t familiar with.

“This is after only eight thousand miles!” Unhappy raises the level of dialogue, at least in volume.

“Why are you here, and not there?” I asked.

“I need a second opinion. Those assholes tell me the pads wore out because I refused to replace the rotors when they did the job. No way pads wear out this quick for any reason,” Unhappy informs me authoritatively.

Au contraire, Mon Ami.

“May I see your invoice?” I asked, not wanting to shoot my mouth off before discovering a few more facts. Mr. Brake digs the receipt from his jacket pocket and hands it to me. I look it over, and what do you know? The shop wrote right at the bottom of the invoice: ‘Rotors below minimum thickness, customer refuses recommended replacement. This will cause premature pad wear.’ I pointed it out to Unhappy. “They did warn you what would happen if you didn’t replace the rotors, Sir. What they wrote is true. Another thing is you kept driving, even when this sensor on the pad was singing in your ear down the street.”

I showed him the pads with spring metal sensors; which ride against the rotor to warn the driver with a squealing noise the pads are at replacement thickness. They were worn to nothing. It is a noise no one short of the deaf can ignore. Dogs will follow your vehicle, howling for your blood if you ignore the sensor noise.

“You’re in it with them! All of you people…”

“Hold on there, let’s keep from saying things we might regret,” I interrupt. “I’ll tell you exactly what happened. You didn’t want to spend the money for rotors. This shop was nice enough to let you dictate to them how to do the job. They warned you what would happen. You drove till the pads destroyed the rotors once and for all, thinking you could pull off the old ‘look what your pads did to my rotors’. Instead of apologetically replacing everything, they pointed at the note on your invoice and said have a nice day. How am I doing?”

Unhappy’s mouth worked for a moment with no sound. He then grabbed his receipt from my hand, and off he went without another word. Off I went to the backroom to share Unhappy’s experience at my shop. I hope the other shop takes Unhappy’s feedback to be a warning: don’t let customers dictate how brake jobs are done. If not, I'll have to get in touch with all my 'people', and get this straightened out before some other Unhappy outs us to the public. :)

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