By louis
Published: May 13, 2007

I received a request for help on my business website. The gentleman had the front brake pads replaced on his late model SUV, at a local dealership. Upon picking up the vehicle, he noticed the brake pedal was very low. When the pedal was pumped it came up, but when applied again, returned to a very low position.

He immediately returned to the dealership with his concern. The vehicle was taken back in for service, the rear brakes adjusted and returned to the client. On driving off the pedal was still very low. Again he returned and was told, "Thatís as tight as we can adjust the brakes, the pedal is normal.

Frustrated with the service he received, the client emailed my website. I explained that many things other than brake adjustment can cause a low pedal and cited a few possible causes. He returned again to the dealership with my email and was not received well. Again he was told the brake pedal position was normal, even though it had been considerably higher before the brake service.

He brought the vehicle to my company where it was found the front rotors had been machined improperly. There was .035" side to side run-out in one and .028" in the other. This caused the caliper pistons to be pushed into their bores as the rotors rotated. The additional travel of the pistons on application greatly increasing pedal travel. The rotors were replaced and the pedal returned to normal.

Certainly this is not intended as a technical article on brakes. Several things combined to bring this client to this point, including:

1.) The company machined the rotors improperly. Worse, they had no means in place to catch this error.

2.) They delivered a vehicle with a clearly low brake pedal. Perhaps the completed vehicle was not tested, there was no standard [experience?] by which to measure or the company simply does not care.

3.) When the client returned the dealership failed to identify and correct the problem. Adjusting the rear brakes had no effect on the vehicle, yet it was returned to the client [see point 2.]

4.) In his final attempt to resolve the problem, it seems as though the client was seen as the problem, rather than the problem itself being addressed.

It occurred to me there was a substantial cost to the dealership. The initial cost was loss of revenue from the service and the price of having another shop repair the problem [resolved in small claims court.] I feel the final cost is much greater.

The dealership has loss credibility with the client. They have very likely loss future opportunity to serve the client and future vehicle sales to the client. An unknown cost might also be considered, in that this may not be an isolated incident.

Providing a means of checking quality on machine work, a bit more training, time for a pre and post-service test drive as well as several other small steps might have prevented the problem. While this appears to be a technical issue, the changes needed are far easier for management to address.

Other causes might be a poor hiring procedure, insufficient wage/benefits to attract skilled technicians or an overall lack of client focus. Management again will need to address these issues if things are to improve.

Simply blaming [discharging?] the technician that delivered the problem is not likely to solve the problem, if the other factors do not change. The cost of solving these problems is relatively low, the cost of allowing them to exist is unknown and perhaps unknowable; the cost of poor management.

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