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Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Doug's Domain

Doug Vetter, ATP/CFI

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October 2003

About 2000 miles after my mechanic told me I'd need front pads (and not rotors), I decided to schedule the work just to get it out of the way before the holidays. Shortly after the car went into the shop, my mechanic found me and said that he didn't feel it was time to do the pads. I told him that it looked as though I had less than 1/8" of pad left and I didn't want to wait too long, for fear of gouging the rotors. That's when he told me that I'm going to need rotors shortly anyway. Apparently the rotors are near 20.6 (mm, presumably), while the BMW minimum specification is 20.4. If I replaced pads now, I'd have to replace the rotors shortly anyway and probably toss the pads too. This means that not only are the front pads wearing at twice the rate of the previous set, the rotors are as well!

My mechanic maintains his belief that it's typical to replace the front brakes at twice the rate of the rears, but I have empirical evidence that suggests otherwise. When asked to explain the disparity, he holds to his opinion that the brake pad formulations have changed since my car was built in 1998. Obviously, they haven't changed for the better, but who am I to fight it. The E36 M3 did have issues with brake squealing and BMW eventually fixed that problem, but I don't know exactly how they fixed it.

If there can be any good in this, it's that my mechanic sent me home without any charge. He told me to come back when the brake wear light has illuminated. While I respect his logic in that I shouldn't replace parts until absolutely necessary, I honestly don't want to look at a stupid indicator light for the two weeks necessary to get an appointment and I don't like the idea of driving for two weeks on "known questionable" brakes. It's just not worth losing the car in a panic stop. I'll probably wait another 4-6 weeks and bring it in again for front pads and rotors and just be done with it. I'm expecting about $360 for the job, while the original "pads only" quote came in at $188.

This month would have ended on that fairly positive note, if it were not for the fact that I got ANOTHER rock in my windshield the other day, a mere month after getting a fresh inspection sticker, and a mere two years since I replaced the last one. I'm not exactly broken up about it because my insurance will cover all but $100 of the esimated $700 replacement, but also because the windshield had been hit by some smaller stones a few times before, and the entire surface was moderately pitted from all of my high speed highway driving. BMW windshields are very soft, no doubt about it!

I had the job scheduled for the last week in the month and would have included the report this month, but apparently two BMW windshields came through shipping cracked and needed to be returned (WTF BMW? You can engineer the best cars on the planet, but you can't engineer a damn shipping crate???). The good news in this situation is my insurance company has authorized me to use the same installer as last time, which is the same my dealer uses. These guys have a pretty good rep, and that's a good thing, since I don't allow people with room temperature IQs anywhere near my car.