Were you overcharged for car repairs?

Let’s look at the services you received for your Camry.

Brake fluid

Although brake fluid is never replaced on many vehicles, some carmakers have a recommended service interval, which can be as frequent as every two years for vehicles approved for use off-road. Brake fluid can accumulate moisture, and replacing it periodically protects sensitive components. Brake fluid can first be tested for water content and inspected for colour and contamination before deciding to replace it, but for a hybrid Camry, Toyota says to replace the fluid every three years.

Brake caliper service

With all hybrid vehicles, a brake service like the one you paid $210 for to clean corrosion off the brake caliper guide pins and pads and lubricate the calipers, is prudent preventive maintenance that will postpone expensive repairs down the road. The reason: Hybrids and electric vehicles (EVs) use regenerative braking, which means the conventional discs and pads see a lot less use; eventually they corrode and seize from non-use and exposure to road salt and humidity.

This can require complete replacement of the rotors, pads and possibly calipers long before the components have worn out. Brake caliper service typically costs $60 to $75 for two brakes on the same axle and is recommended annually on EVs and hybrids, as well as the rear brakes on many gasoline vehicles, including Hyundai, Kia, Subaru and BMW models.  

Image by senivpetro on Freepik

Wheel balancing

The service was probably not required in your situation, in the absence of a vibration complaint and with so little accumulated tire mileage.

I checked with Jay Zinniger, an expert at Talon Tire in Saint-Laurent, Que., for his take on the service. At Talon Tire, the policy is to balance the wheels when rotating tires that have accumulated more than 5,000 kilometres since their last wheel balancing, unless the customer declines the service. The extra charge is small, about $25 for a car like your Camry. Zinniger says it tends to reduce comebacks, where a customer notices a vibration problem that wasn’t there before the tires were put into storage; this sometimes happens after a tire is rotated to a different axle. Talon’s charge to install and balance tires for a seasonal changeover is $65 with wheel balancing included, and $40 without.

Conclusion: The services recommended to you were reasonable, but the pricing is on the high side, which may be common to the Toyota dealers in your market area. In APA undercover repair surveys, the price for auto repairs varied across Canada, from lowest in rural markets and in Atlantic Canada and Quebec, to highest in Alberta and British Columbia.

Independent new car dealers are on the way out

You may have run into new incentives offered to personnel at the service counter. At auto dealership repair departments, most of the people preparing estimates and invoices receive a type of commission based on the value of the repair orders they write up, in addition to their base salaries. In some cases, dealerships offer an additional bonus or “spiff” for promoting certain services, like oil treatments, replacement wiper blades or brake fluid flushes.

George Iny

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