Tuesday, March 11, 2014

750 Miles Too Far

Dr Desert Flower's Volvo started making grinding sounds last month when the brakes were applied.  It was the dutiful wear indicator, built into every set of brake pads that makes a metal-on-metal grinding sound when the pad is 95% worn out.  It does this to tell the driver "hey, buddy, get it fixed, you're about to ruin your brake disks".  I stupidly ignored it initially, the first time I heard it with the convertible top down.  Then a week later, I heard it again (I don't drive her car everyday).  But by that time, DDF wanted to go to Arizona to visit her former co-workers and friends for a crawfish boil in Gilbert, on Phoenix's east side.  375 miles, each way.  As we were crawling down CA91 through Riverside, stuck in East Bound traffic trying to get away from Los Angeles, the driver's side wear indicator started to grind as well.

On the way back to California, I applied the brakes as little as possible.  Everytime we stopped for the rest room or gas, I could hear the wear indicators screaming at me, with the windows rolled up, the sound gripping the base of my spine.  First thing Monday morning, I called Niguel Motors and Ramon told me to come on down.  I drove Celeste to the garage, and Ramon met me in the parking lot.  We exchanged key, names, phone number, and he estimated $200 if the disks could be turned.  About twice that if they had to be replaced.  He showed me his brake disk grinder, and the 3 bay garage FULL of Acura NSXs.  Really nice.  I walked the 1.5 miles to DDF's car where she parked it for car pool, and drove myself home (Celeste's trunk is not big enough to safely take a 29 inch mountain bike).

4 hours later, I called Ramon, and he gave me the news that the passenger side disk was ground down too much.  Can't replace just one and not the other as the future wear would be very uneven.  $400 instead of $200.  Maybe it would have been cheaper to fly to Phoenix?
Volvo C70 brake disks (bottom) are almost the same size as an Acura NSX's (picture in the top left)
But regardless, Ramon is an excellent mechanic, honest, direct, personable, great guy.  His technicians appeared to be very happy.  My former yoga instructor called him "The Volvo Whisperer" and highly recommended him.  His Yelp reviews are STELLAR, and his work was timely, precise, accommodating, and reasonably priced.  I am sure that a Volvo dealer repair would have cost at least twice as much.  I asked him to check the front brakes while he had the car up on the lift, and look for any leaks or ruptured CV joint boots, or any other wear, and he told me everything looked fine when I picked it up.

Next time you hear a grinding, grating sound coming from your brakes when you apply them, act promptly.  You have about 2 or 3 days of light driving before those wear strips eat into the brake disks. Not 2 or 3 weeks, and not 750 miles.

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