OT: Talking cars Tuesday

Submitted by Moleskyn on January 23rd, 2018 at 10:49 AM

Feel free to talk about anything related to cars, but I'm starting the thread this week out of purely selfish motives: I am approaching 75k miles on my brakes and associated parts, and I am reaching a point where I am going to need to sink some money to replace them. The only time I've needed brakes previously, I could only afford the cheapest/most cost effective option. I'm in a little different position now, so looking for some input on doing this the right way, even if that means spending a few extra bucks. Here are some questions I have (for reference, I drive a Chevy Malibu and live in the Midwest/rust belt):

  • Any recommendations for high quality brake pads? Any websites you would recommend that have good information along these lines?
  • I have read differing opinions about the need to replace rotors along with pads. It seems like it is a generally good idea, but not necessarily a necessity. Opinions on this?
  • Any other general recommendations or lessons learned based on your experience?

Happy Tuesday.



January 23rd, 2018 at 11:53 AM ^

Use the cheap brake pads. You aren't driving a race car. Stick to a known brand.

No need to replace rotors if they aren't damaged, warped, or worn. If it's cheap to replace or resurface, go ahead.

Don't pay too much. This is an easy diy.


January 23rd, 2018 at 11:04 AM ^

All brake options are going to have trade offs, dust, heat, noise, life and the major factors. I like vented steel rotors with a quality ceramic pad. Make some noise at times but they last. OEMs are putting on thinner rotors these days to save weight/cost so you should plan on replacing them. You can measure them with calipers to confirm if they have life but uneven wear would necessitate machining.




January 23rd, 2018 at 11:07 AM ^

I've always done the cheapest brake pads. The only real difference I can tell is that the cheaper ones produce more brake dust and get my rims dirty. Performance wise, I can't say I noticed a difference.

For rotors, I run my fingernail from outside to in, if it's smooth I don't replace the rotors. If I can feel grooves, I'll try to get them machined down so they are smooth as long as there's enough material left to machine down.

I don't personally mess with drum brakes.


January 23rd, 2018 at 11:17 AM ^

Disc brakes are a reasonably simply self-fix. Unless you are so generously employed that your time is literally better spent working while paying someone else 4 times as much to do it for you (and if you are I respect that) it's worth doing on your own if you can find some guidance on how to do it. 

I've never spent a lot of extra money on pads, and I don't worry too much about brand--any of major auto part store brands will sell you pads that are fine for a competitive price. Rotors are the same thing, and except for the occasional challenge of removing them from the hub, not that difficult to replace either.

PB-J Time

January 23rd, 2018 at 11:19 AM ^

So on the talk about anything mode: I just got a car a year ago. It is a traditional ICE family sedan. I don't put a lot of miles so will probably/hopefully have for at least 7-8 years. In that time, I suspect a strong move towards further electricfication.

Any hybrid owners? Any plug in owners? I think I'd be interested in plug in hybrid, as my commute is >10 miles one way and would likely be able to run electric only, BUT would like the gas back up to avoid the worry of being stranded from a drained battery.

I think I'll be similar to many customers in the US, reluctant to go full electric at first, so curious where y'all think this will head here. Some car makes (Volvo, Infiniti) are going full electric quickly, but other markets like China and European cities are demanding that. We certainly aren't, but automakers will have these electric cars so will of course be trying to sell.

What say you?


January 23rd, 2018 at 11:31 AM ^

I have a Fusion hybrid, and highly recommend it.  It averages ~45.5mpg, and it's nice to see something above 50mpg for a single trip (like this morning).  And no worries about getting stuck on a dead battery, or looking for a publically available charge station.

The all-electrics still don't have a nice range.  I think the Tesla advertises ~200 miles/charge, but I'm not paying ~$80K for that.  Not sure what the domestics say, but it won't be much.  Want to road trip to Mackinaw Island?  Don't bother trying it with your all-electric...


January 23rd, 2018 at 12:35 PM ^

It's a good car, but it's definitely the product of many compromises. Because the Fusion line is, first and foremost, a C/D segment Car for the Masses, it's obvious that the availability of two hybrid options was (mostly) an afterthought. Personally, I'd rather go with a vehicle that was either: a) always intended as a hybrid, or b) an all-electric.

Here are a few observations/lessons learned about my Fusion Energi:

  • Cold weather dramatically reduced the battery range (~45%); once the temp went below about 40F, battery-only range went from 24 miles (max) to 12-14 miles (the colder the temp got, the worse the range got).
  • The engine would start in cold weather regardless of available battery charge; this was largely due to the need to heat the car's interior. OTOH, the A/C would run in the summer without requiring the engine to operate (thought it would reduce the available range about 4 miles overall).
  • Forget about truck space; the Fusion Hybrid reduces truck space about 1/3rd to accommodate the large battery. The Energi reduces the truck space by >50%. You have enough space in the boot for one golf bag and a couple of smallish (and flat) items.

With the exception of a few display enhancements to give you an idea of your driving efficiency and remaining battery capacity, everything else about the vehicle is the same as the ICE version.


January 23rd, 2018 at 11:32 AM ^

To the extent that the electric cars rely on batteries:
1. What are the advancements in technology that will make them even more effective?
2. What are we doing with the batteries we have? I am concerned about the metals, particularly mercury that is in our existing batteries we are disposing of?

Optimus Hart

January 23rd, 2018 at 12:33 PM ^

But by far the biggest advancement needed is in charge/discharge rate.  That's the property that limits how much current you can force into or out of a battery before a 'runaway thermal event' where things tend to get uncomfortably explodey.  I've seen some articles on nanowires being used in the electrodes that seemed to have promising results, but no telling how far away that is from any affordable manufacturing solution.


The other main point for improvement is energy density, both in terms of size and weight.  That seems less urgent to me though, since the Leaf, Bolt, and Teslas can already get 200 miles from their battery packs.  If the charge rate can be improved to the point where they could be recharged from empty in 15-20 minutes then 200 miles is good enough range.


January 23rd, 2018 at 1:23 PM ^

I think you need to see greater improvement than that.  200 miles is really more like 150, what with the various drains on the battery over the life of the charge, plus the desire not to get stuck on empty - which is greater in an electric than a gas car since you can't just borrow a gallon of electrons or carry a jerry can of them.

Most gas-powered cars can comfortably go twice that distance (talking road trip here) and fill up in a third to a quarter of that time.  People want to be able to take their cars on road trips, and electrics aren't there yet, not even with Tesla superchargers and increased range.


January 23rd, 2018 at 1:32 PM ^

Generally, the Teslas (depending on the battery size) will get at least 200 miles, even given the limitations you noted above. However, even with the availability of superchargers (which will no longer be free for new Teslas beginning on 2/1/2018) a road trip will still require more time than an equivalent trip in an ICE-powered vehicle. 

Net-net, you're correct: Tesla (and other OEMs) are pushing the boundaries; they're just not "there" (i.e. true/real-world ICE equivalency) yet.

Optimus Hart

January 23rd, 2018 at 12:15 PM ^

Centric/Stoptech branded brake pads are pretty good.  I like them in large part for their excellent technical info that's publicly available.  I've also heard good things about Hawk.


Generally you only need to replace the rotors if they've worn below a minimum thickness, which you can check with calipers or a micrometer.  It's a good idea to replace them also if you're changing the type of pads you're using, but as long as you do a decent bedding in of the new pads it shouldn't be absolutely necessary.


Unless you're taking your car to a track or dealing with mountains you really just need to get pads that are able to lock up your wheels/kick on the ABS.  All the brakes can do is stop the wheel, stopping the car is up to the tires.  Racing or mountain descents need you to consider fade and what temperatures your pads can handle, but for normal driving in the flat midwest even the cheapest pads are probably fine.  The main reason to step up would be for longer life before your next brake change, which ceramic pads are normally good for.


January 23rd, 2018 at 12:16 PM ^

So get new pads and rotors. Use comparable parts that meet Chevy specs. You don't need to do more than that and will not add any value to the car.

On the electric car discussion, I struggle to justify the cost and occasionally need to get in my car and drive 300 miles on short notice. Need electric cars to catch up to my needs.


January 23rd, 2018 at 2:32 PM ^

and theyshed brake dust all over my front wheels. Replaced them with Wagoner and they seem fine. My rear rotors were replaced by wagoner by the auto shop. I would look on amazon and check reviews for wagoner and omix/ada.

Also, I wouldn't pay to have old rotors machined, when new ones cost about the same.

As for electric - maybe, but I'll have to keep on long distance / tow hog in the driveway.


January 23rd, 2018 at 12:49 PM ^

Get generic blank rotors (if needed) and generic pads.  Unless you're going to be doing some serious weekend driving on twisties or at a track, anything more than that is overkill. 

Rotors only need to be addressed when you feel pulsing when you brake - this is due to the rotors warping from heat and uneven pad wear.  The rotors only really need replaced if they are too worn down to be "turned" (flattened out) again.  Your shop will let you know if that's the case.  However, blank rotors are so cheap that you shouldn't feel bad doing them if you'd like. 

I've always done brakes/pads on all of my vehicles FWIW since it's so easy to swap in new rotors while you've already got the calipers off for the pads.  If you have a set of sockets, a breaker bar, and a mallet, it's a pretty easy DIY job with an afternoon and a few beers for 200 bucks. 

KC Wolve

January 23rd, 2018 at 12:57 PM ^

Thanks for giving me the chance to rant. Have an Audi A4 with about 75k. It’s a 2009 and I don’t drive much. I actually love the car but every time I have any issue whatsoever, it is $1,000 or more. I have found an independent shop that does the service for cheaper than the dealer, but they are hit and miss for actual problems. I had been hoping to ride it out a couple more years and get something as I approach 100k but I just got popped with another $1300 for an oil leak issue. I’m done with Audi. I think I’m going to get a Wrangler when new car time comes. I know I will have issues with that too but there are 5 Jeep dealers in KC as opposed to 1.5 Audi dealers that jack up the price for any small service issue.

End Rant


January 23rd, 2018 at 1:01 PM ^

When I had my Honda, I couldn't seem to leave the dealership without getting fleeced for $350 (this was about 15 years ago). I've heard the same about all "foreign" brands, particularly VW (and its stablemates, including Audi). I expect to pay a lot to service a premium marque like BMW, etc.; but not for "mid-level" ones.

Boner Stabone

January 23rd, 2018 at 12:59 PM ^

My 2002 Cavalier is leaking tranny fluid.  The only way to check it is to bring it to a transmission shop, because there is no dipstick to check the level.  Is there any leak stoppage fluid to pour in the transmission to stop the leak?

I am not a car guy so any advice would be helpful.  Thanks


January 23rd, 2018 at 1:49 PM ^

I am guessing there is some kind of goo you can put into the fluid to stop leaks but it may screw something up. I had a old POS truck with a leaking raidiator and used something called Bars Leaks and I also added something to the motor oil to make it smoke less - Motor Honey I think. Both worked okay on an old piece of crap.


January 23rd, 2018 at 4:37 PM ^

Leaks can sometimes be tricky to find because fluid doesn't normally just drip straight down, it runs along different body/engine parts and then drops.  If it was my car, I would try and get underneath it (USE JACK STANDS!!!) and wipe down the transmission pan with a rag and some degreaser and check it again in a day or two to see if any fluid is leaking from the pan.  Otherwise, take it to a reputable place to have it looked at.  A lot of times the dealerships will look at it for free and not charge for a diagnosis


January 23rd, 2018 at 7:40 PM ^

I've had several beater cars where I bought the cheapest brake parts available when doing pads and rotors. I've never had any kind of failure where a component broke but I have had brake rotors warp, more than likely because of a major temp change to the rotors when splashing through a puddle when the rotors were hot. 

There will be lots of choices just in brake pad material, semi-metallic, organic, ceramic. Going with OE might be your best bet. 

I have a high performance car that I did brakes on and I was going to just use the OE pads and rotors but the pads were just so over-priced that I couldn't rationalize paying that much for normal brake pads. I went with Bosch pads and have liked them. Bosch has a few different grades, I went with their higher end pads. They stop fantastically, are quiet, and don't dust too badly. 

As long as the rotors have enough material left and can be resurfaced and be within factory specs for thickness I wouldn't replace them. 

I would definitely flush and replace the brake fluid, unless it has been done recently. Use what the manufacturer recommends as far as grade of fluid. Brake fluid, unless it is silicone fluid which I can pretty much guarantee it isn't, is hydrscopic. It absorbs water from the air and the water has a much lower boiling point than brake fluid, so in the event of heavy braking the water can boil off in the caliper which can cause the loss of clamping force and loss of braking. The system also has to be bled so there is zero air in the system also. You can google how to do this. It isn't hard but has to be done right as air in the system will cause a loss of braking power at best and a loss of braking power at worst.