Did you just switch out some brake pads on an older vehicle and encounter a broken or loose brake clip or spring? It likely was not changed out when the car was in for its last brake job. Replacing the brake hardware is such a small task but is often overlooked. How does that happen?
Other Parts Wear Out Between Brake Jobs
Any car owner that reads their owner’s manual will see that the manufacturer recommends changing out the brake pads after 30,000 to 40,000 miles. No mention is made of the associated hardware that should be changed with the pads. However, the clips and springs that hold the pads in place undergo a lot of abuse during your daily drives. They are constantly subjected to vibration, heat, and the elements. Clips can bend, warp, and even corrode.
The Old Brake Clips and Brake Springs Look Fine
Many repair shops will tell you that you can simply reuse the old brake hardware because it looks fine. The thin metal clip or wire spring appears to be in one piece and retains the shape compared to when the parts were last replaced. But just like any wear and tear part on your vehicle, they are not designed to last the life of the vehicle. These hardware pieces are intended to be replaced with the pads.
Testing Old Brake Hardware Shows the Real Story
In 2016, an independent test lab really put braking hardware to the test. After being subjected to two years on the road, the clips were measured when removed from the vehicle during a brake service. Taking spec dimensions from the manufacturer and comparing them to the measurements of the used part, only one out of 17 specs actually met the OEM standard. Even though the hardware looked fine to the untrained eye, it would not perform as intended for another two years.
A loose clip or spring could cause the brake pad to shift out of alignment, resulting in uneven braking, early wear, and possible brake failure.
Most Brake Kits Include Hardware, but It is Often Missing
Perhaps you like to do your own brake service and often order a set of pads from your local auto parts shop. How often have you noticed that the clips listed on the box are actually missing? It is common for a customer to order the wrong size pad, bring the box home, open it, and remove the hardware. They notice they have the wrong pads and bring back just the pads for an exchange. You get the incomplete brake service set.
Repair Shops Skip the Clips to Save Time and Increase Profits
Anybody who has turned a wrench in a busy auto shop knows that the mechanics are expected to complete a brake job in a set amount of time. Replacing slips, springs, and caliper pins can add ten minutes to a half-hour to the total job. If they simply slap on the pads to old clips, they can get another car in and out, increasing profits. You get a less-than-perfect brake job.
If you are not comfortable tackling your own brakes, at least speak with the service writer and specify that you want all the hardware changed with the pads. It should not affect the price quoted for the brake job.
A Complete Hardware Kit Will Save You Big in the Future
A brake hardware kit should only run you about ten dollars. If you have performance brakes with multiple calipers, you will also want to inspect the dust boots and caliper pins for wear and tear. Replacing all the peripherals with every brake service can help your latest job last an extra 5,000 to 10,000 miles or more. When extended over the life of the vehicle, that adds up to big bucks saved on routine repairs and maintenance.