NTB / unneccessary repairs - front brake service

United States

I recently dropped my car off at the NTB in Deptford, NJ for an oil change and front brake service. Having worked in the business for several years, I understand as much as anyone that there is great corporate pressure to sell, sell, sell. However, trying to sell unnecessary services to any customer is a terrible policy, and that problem becomes magnified then the customer happens to be knowledgeable. A couple hours after dropping off, I get a call from the service advisor, quoting me a cost of $450 (for a Saturn Ion). She could tell I was quite surprised, and told me that included pads, rotors, a rear brake cleaning and adjustment, and that my brake fluid was contaminated and needed to be replaced.

I took no issue with the pads and rotors - they were a foregone conclusion beforehand, and I expected to pay a couple hundred bucks for them. The issues begin with the clean and adjust service. A word to the wise: NEVER accept this service. This is just an easy revenue builder for the repair business that provides little to no benefit. Rear brakes are self-adjusting; when you back up and then brake, the brakes adjust outward. So the extent of this "service" is removing the brake drum, spraying a brake cleaning agent on the brakes and hardware to remove any brake dust buildup, and return the drum to its original position. Rarely does enough dust accumulate to affect performance even slightly; you're better off waiting until they're ready to be replaced. I've been quoted anywhere from $30 to $70 for this service, and it is offered EVERY TIME the wheels come off my car. Thanks, but I'm not really into setting money on fire.

The contaminated brake fluid claim really sent me over the edge, though. One, a brake system is a sealed hydraulic system, so nothing can get in or out. If there is an opening for something to enter, then you will experience a loss of pressure, meaning your brake pedal will feel spongy or fall to the floor. I specifically mentioned to the advisor while dropping off my keys that I had experienced no such issues. Imagine my surprise when the advisor told me that the brake fluid was burnt. When I responded, "BURNT brake fluid, huh?" she began to stammer a bit and said that it was instead contaminated. If the system is sealed and has no leaks, how is something getting in there to contaminate the fluid? It certainly didn't burn; the amount of heat required to accomplish this is not generated in brake lines, not even close. For something to get in and contaminate the fluid, there would have to be a break or an opening in the system, which would lead to a loss of hydraulic pressure, which has not happened. The only time I had the master cylinder cover off was the day I bought the car, and the fluid looked perfectly normal to me.

This was nothing more than an attempt to build sales with services that were not needed. The reason I left the automotive service business was because of the high level of dishonesty that exists there. It's sad to see that it's so widespread.

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