If you have the know-how to do your own brake work or know someone who does and is willing to share their expertise for free, the do-it-yourself approach to replacing pads and rotors can save you lots of money. But be sure you know what's wrong before you get started, or you could waste a lot of time and money.
Related: Brake Pads: What You Need to Know
The cost of brake parts varies widely by brand and model, and you should certainly expect to pay more for brake work on a BMW than on a Honda. Doing it yourself also means you choose the parts that go on your car, you're in charge of quality control and you do it on your own schedule.
If that was all there was to it, we would recommend that anyone with a little mechanical skill perform their own brake repairs. Brake maintenance, though, isn't always as simple as just removing and replacing parts. For example, unevenly worn brake pads could be the result of sticking caliper slide pins, the calipers themselves might need cleaning, lubricating or replacement, and excessive brake pedal travel might be the result of air in the hydraulic brake lines, not worn pads.
If you don't have the knowledge to diagnose what might be wrong or the tools or experience to correct it, you might be wasting time and money by replacing parts because they're the usual suspects. You might know your car better than anyone, but a good mechanic probably knows much more about brakes than you do. Repair shops also guarantee their labor as well as the parts they install, so if something doesn't seem right after a brake job, they usually stand behind it and fix what's wrong.
If you decide to do the work yourself, be sure you're addressing the root causes of your brake issues, and make sure pads, rotors and other parts really do need replacing before you buy new ones. Above all, know your limits, because brakes are what stop your car and you don't want to make a dangerous mistake.
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