Listening to a mechanic try to explain what's wrong with your brakes and estimate how much it's going to cost is not something many people enjoy. The fact is, most people don't know how brakes work, so when the mechanic starts talking all the shop jargon, it's easy to become overwhelmed. Each brake repair may feature a unique procedure to fix. Each vehicle features variances in replacement parts. The amount of parts and services needed will add or subtract component and labour rates. Educate yourself before venturing out to the repair facility.
An average pad slap -- meaning all the repair facility is going to replace is the pads, maybe service the calipers -- will cost an average of £65 to £97 on most common vehicles. The pads will range from £16 to £39 for the set and an hour of labour -- on average -- will be applied to install them.
The problem is, rarely are pad slaps performed by most repair facilities. While this may be a double-edge sword to most people, understand that most repair facilities are as worried about customer complaints as they are comebacks. Customers do not want to spend £65 and then be back in a day or two because an existing problem was not properly repaired or they are experiencing the same symptoms.
Machining rotors is almost always recommended and this procedure adds labour cost to remove the rotors and then machine them. Rotors are not as durable as they once were and are often recommended for replacement now when placing a set of pads on. Rotors can cost an additional £9 to £16 to be machined -- if they even can be -- or an additional £19 to £65 a piece to replace; depending on the vehicle. Now you bill just tripled.
Do you need the rotors just because the pads are worn? Maybe and maybe not. It depends on the symptoms you were experiencing when you brought the vehicle in for repairs. Grinding brake pads will almost always automatically cost you a new set of rotors. Warped rotors can sometimes be machined, but depending on the severity of the warping, the service is almost always temporary and it won't be long before the brakes are pulsating again.
Drum brakes generally are a little cheaper to replace. They only provide about 25 per cent braking capacity for the vehicle, so they don't wear down as quickly as front brakes. Brake drums are less susceptible to warping because they don't heat up as intensely as the front disc brakes. The drums can almost always be machined and there's usually no labour charge to remove them like rotors because you have to remove the drums to get to the brake shoes.
A common set of brake shoes will average about the same amount as brake pads -- between £16 and £39. An hour or two labour charge added for removing them and replacing them is not uncommon. A brake shoe hardware kit should almost always be strongly recommended so the new shoes are applied to the backing plate with a new spring kit. Most kits will cost between £9 and £19.
Machining the drums will be about the same as machining the rotors. And if drums are needed, because sooner or later they will be if you keep the vehicle for a long time, expect to pay about the same amount per drum as you would per rotor; depending on the make and model.
Labor Rates and Parts
Shop labour rates and parts prices before venturing out to the repair facilities. Hourly labour rates are where most repair facilities make their money. And your money looks better to you inside your purse or wallet than it does inside their cash register. Shopping parts prices has to apply the apples-to-apples procedure. Parts are almost always going to be cheaper at parts stores than they are at repair facilities, but this doesn't necessarily mean they're putting on better parts.
Since all kinds of pads, shoes, rotors and drums can be available in a variety of qualities, if you're not considering performing the repairs to your brakes on your own, call and shop parts prices and labour rates between competing repair facilities. Understand that the quote for your parts and prices given to you will only be a rough estimate until a facility can properly inspect and diagnose your brakes. Find out if places will offer free inspections and if you have the time, go to the competitor and get a second opinion.