Many people these days price shop. We are blessed that most of our clientele are trusting of our expertise and integrity and don't generally go down this path (because we all know of the headaches that come along with trying to match prices for parts that aren't tit-for-tat). With this being said, we feel it is important to touch on the subject of brakes due to recent observations that a significant number of changes have occurred over the past few years; some of which have come back to haunt our team. What I am referring to is a noticeable reduction in the quality of parts throughout the automotive industry, and today focusing particularly on brake parts.
Addressing safety is our #1 priority. It takes precedence over all other things, and brakes are the most important parts / equipment that we replace.
Without naming brands, there are a variety of aftermarket equipment manufacturers that have outsourced their plants and entrusted quality control and manufacturing materials to offshore operations. As a result of this and a few other variables, American's spend billions of dollars more than they used to on brake jobs yearly according to a Frost & Sullivan study dating back to 2014, where at the time the prediction for this cost increase was far less.
In 2008, the automotive industry began to cut back on regulations which has caused this trickle down effect. We have noticed this over the years and since found solutions for many of the vehicles we see on a regular basis. Even still, we have found (after consulting with other independent service workshops and industry experts) that the pairing of high quality pads and rotors differs by manufacturer and ultimately the individual model of vehicle. Sometimes, original equipment parts are the only proper solution, and other times high quality aftermarket parts manufactured in Germany, Japan, Korea or the U.S. are better solutions than original equipment. There is also the subject of Original Equipment Suppliers, which are sometimes the exact same parts minus the individual manufacturer's marque being stamped on the part, and other times are parts that didn't quite meet the same level of quality control to be moved down the line to be sold as OEM through the manufacturer.
The difference in using a high quality part versus a questionable aftermarket quality part can quite literally be life and death. With higher speeds capable in today's cars and the amount of drivers who drive distracted, brakes become a lifeline we should not toy with. Less dramatically, the quality difference in a pad set and brake disc will also pay for itself in allowing you more time between the necessity for brake jobs due to the construction of the materials that make up the brake pad or rotor. Ceramic versus Semi-Metallic isn't the only factor in the 'type' of brake pad used. Design such as chamfered edging, ventilation engineering, and material qualities also play a large role in the life and effectiveness of a brake pad, as does the type of coating and metal used on a brake disc.
Going back to unforeseen changes in the industry, we recently learned the hard way that brake discs from a manufacturer we have come to respect and trust (using their discs and pad sets frequently) uses a different coating / metal than that of other similar competitors. This metal is softer than comparable parts, and distortion occurred due to excessive heat from an OE pad that this brake disc couldn't withstand. This is just another example of how we as a retailer are constantly learning and adjusting, and how while we are always looking out for the end user (our customer), we can still be blindsided with the need to adapt with the rest of the industry due to changes that occur outside of our grasp of control.
While we have, for most vehicles, streamlined the products we use; there is still, due to this unexpected change in manufacturing quality, a small amount of trial and error in pairing of parts. This is NEVER a question of safety, but can at times result in unwanted brake noises, and at other times premature wear of brake pad materials (rare but we have seen it). It is in our best interest and is also our intention to use the highest quality parts for all vehicles we service, and we will not falter in this practice.
- Rai Blanchette, Director of Operations