My 2003, 530i (71,000 miles) is about ready for new brakes. The
warning sensor light has not come on yet, but the dealer said I'll be
needing brakes very soon.
Could some of you experienced folks answer a few questions for me:
Am I likely to need brakes on all four wheels?
Will I need to have the rotors replaced?
Can I trust this work to a local shop versus the dealer? Will a local
person replace the sensor or is this the kind of thing that only
What am I likely to pay for this work?
Thanks in advance.
The rear brakes typically last at a ration of 2:1 for the front brakes. For
every second brake job on the front brakes, you should expect a brake job on
the rear. This is a very loose rule of thumb, but it's a reasonable rule to
Rotors should also last a ratio of about 2 to 1, but they are destroyed if
the pads get too thin, and they are generally designed these days for weight
savings, and do not generally lend themselves to machining to remove any
warpage that comes as a result of hard braking with thin pads -- which
causes heat that leads to warpage. So, if your rotors are straight and
smooth, it is possible that you can get a second set of pads on them before
they must be replaced.
You can get a feel for the cost of the parts by doing an eBay search for E39
BRAKES. (Adjust the search parameters to narrow the hit list.) My limited
experience leads to a rule of thumb that says the pads should cost in a
range of $50 per axle set, and the rotors should run about $50 each. Given
this formula, front pads and rotors should run to about $150 and rears
should run another $150. You need a wear sensor, one for each axle, at a
cost of about $10.
So, you can buy a 12-pack and the parts for the entire car for roughly $300.
At 71k miles, I doubt you need rear brakes at all, so you can do the job on
the front only for about $150 in parts.
BEWARE of El Cheapo brake parts. Odds favor being unhappy with the results.
I bought slotted and vented rotors for all four corners of my car ('94 3
Series), and the front rotors were not true (warped) out of the box. I
called the seller and they sent another set, and told me to toss the first
set. The second set was also not true, and because they were slotted and
drilled, they could not be turned on a lathe, and I had to get them ground
on a machine that cleans up flywheels. This cost $35. So, I got two sets of
front rotors turned for $70, and I now have a set of rotors under my bench
for when these wear out.
Your proboem is, you won't be doing the work, so you have to rely on a shop
to do it properly and well.
When doing your eBay search, look for BREMBLE (I think that's the brand)
Rotors. They are generally accepted as high quality parts with good quality
control and long life. They will be a bit pricey, but they are good parts
that you will be happy with.
There is no need to go to the dealership for this work, you can have the
local Independent BMW garage do this for you. Personally, I'd suggest you
develop a relationship with the local independent shop and stop going to the
You can look at your own brakes by simply removing the tires and looking.
The edge of the pads are exposed and you can see for yourself how much
material is remaining. If the BRAKE WARNING is lit, you must replace the
wear sensor, but if the warning is not lit, you can often transplant the old
sensor to the new pads and save the cost of the sensor.
At 71,000, probably. Won't hurt to do it if the thing is up on the rack
At 71,000, there's a chance of it. Some mechanics just want to swap the
rotors out pre-emptively whether or not they are too thin, just because
the rotors are cheap enough that it doesn't add much. I'm too cheap to do
that myself, though.
Sure, find a good independent shop. It's easy work to do... you can do
it yourself if you can read a micrometer.
I don't know, it depends entirely on how much rust is under there. It
takes me about two hours do four wheels, but I don't have a lift and have
to get the car up on jackstands which adds a bit of time. A professional
mechanic can probably do it in a good bit less.
"C'est un Nagra. C'est suisse, et tres, tres precis."
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