Brake misers putting others at risk

SEE VIDEO http://www.ottawasun.com/2011/12/13/brake-misers-putting-others-at-risk

Too many people are trying to save money by fixing their own brakes — using online instructions — and they’re taking the Do It Yourself approach too far, says an Ottawa mechanic.

“What concerns me is the lives of the people on the road today,” said Rocky Berndt, who owns Speedy Auto Service on Merivale Rd.

“It could be your mother, your father, your kid running out, or a dog running out, and these guys can’t stop because the brakes are failing after they’ve done them.”

Berndt says DIY brake repairs aren’t just an Ottawa trend: It’s happening across Canada and begins with people taking advantage of a free estimate.

“They’ll try to find out what is needed, like pads, rotors, calipers, or wheel cylinders and then they’ll go home and do it themselves.”

He’s been a mechanic for almost three decades and says this has been happening for the last 10 to 15 years.

Anthony Caldareri, a.k.a. Tony Buff, is 29 and has been working on cars since he was 16.

Fixing brakes is “the easiest thing that you can possibly do,” said Caldareri, estimating he saves $2,000 a year by performing his own labour.

“Plus, insurance covers it.”

The majority of DIYers are 18-to-24-year-old men who use YouTube as a guide, says Caldareri.

“If they’re not playing Call of Duty, they’re working on their own car.”

It’s a pattern the insurance industry is aware of, but it’s “really hard to control,” said Insurance Bureau of Canada spokesman Steve Kee.

“They might be changing their oil, they might be fixing their brakes, they might be doing all kinds of things to their vehicles.”

Berndt recalls a guy who came in for an inspection, returning a few weeks later because his brakes weren’t working.

The man admitted he had done the job himself and wanted to know what went wrong.

“He didn’t put the pins in properly,” said Berndt.

“His brakes came apart and damaged all his drums, his wheel cylinders. He had absolutely no brakes in the rear. He was just riding on his front brakes.”

Danger aside, doing it yourself can mean forking over more money, too.

“It cost him another $550 to do them over at my store. So actually, he was in a hole,” said Berndt.

CAA spokesman Korey Kennedy says brakes are the “most important feature” when it comes to a safe and secure stop.

“We highly encourage individuals to ensure they have a certified mechanic to inspect and or change their brake components,” said Kennedy.

@ottawasunkroche

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