Car Doctor Q&A: Is Brake Cleaning and Adjustment Necessary?

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AAA Car Doctor John Paul fields a good one about brake cleaning and adjustment. Is it necessary? If so, how frequently should it be done?

Q. I purchased my 2010 Toyota Corolla new in 2009. My mileage, as of 4/29/2015, was 49,538. When I last brought it in for its bi-annual oil change last year, and again this year, I was told I needed to clean and adjust my brakes. The estimate included: clean and adjust brake labor ($48.50) and brake cleaner ($6.06), for a total cost of $54.56.

I have owned many cars, this being my second Corolla, and don’t recall having this service on any of my other cars. I’ve asked a few friends (none of whom are mechanics) who have not heard of this service either. Can you tell me what this service is and why I need it done every year? I drive city and highway only. No off road, no towing of anything, and I don’t venture out in bad weather (snow, heavy rain, etc.). Did I get ripped off?


A. As brakes wear the brake friction material will build-up inside the brake drum and may cause a squeak or squeal when applying the brakes. Cleaning and adjusting the brakes will help eliminate brake noise and maintain a firm brake pedal. The brakes are self-adjusting and if the mechanism was serviced correctly and working properly, in my opinion there is very little need to have this service performed annually.

Will it hurt anything to do it every year? Well, nothing except your wallet.

John Paul is public affairs manager for AAA Southern New England. A certified mechanic, Paul tests dozens of new cars each year and also hosts a radio show on AM 950 and 550.