Toyota Sienna Brake Wear: No Trouble Found

Over the decades, the same local repair shop has performed the annual NYS inspection on our cars; we started there when it was conveniently near to jobs at the IBM plant and continued out of habit. In the last, oh, five years or so, they’ve begun reporting all manner of Things That Need Work, ranging from “dirty fluids” to worn shocks. Oddly, none of those problems recurred from year to year and were never written up on the inspection summary; they were always phoned to Mary, who politely declined the service.

On several occasions, I’d drop off the car and walk to the mall across the road to pick up this-and-that. They’d call Mary (I don’t carry the phone), she’d say she would pass the message to me, and they would never mention the problems when I picked up the car. Huh.

Most recently, they told her the front brakes had “wafer thin” pads and the rotor disks were severely worn. She declined the service, as always. When I change the oil, I do an under-the-car lookaround and the brakes have always looked fine, but, being that type of guy, I pulled the front wheels and took a closer look at the situation:

Right Front Brake
Right Front Brake

The pads start at 7 mm and wear to a minimum thickness of 1 mm, at which point the cross-pad wear indicating groove will vanish and a little metal tab will touch the rotor and start screaming. These pads have about 2 mm left to the bottom of the grooves and are wearing evenly.

The rotors start at 28 mm thick and wear to 26 mm. These rotors measure 27.73 mm and have no serious grooves or scars.

Just for grins, I pulled the rotors and measured the thickness at the middle of the swept ring, aligned with the bolt holes:

Sienna rotor thickness
Sienna rotor thickness

Bottom line: the rotors match to within 0.0015 inch = 0.04 mm and have 0.0005 inch = 0.013 mm of variation around the circumference.

With 91 k miles on the OEM pads and rotors, I’d say they’re doing fine and that we don’t use the brakes nearly enough.

It may be time to start patronizing a new shop…

11 thoughts on “Toyota Sienna Brake Wear: No Trouble Found

  1. Beware of “warped rotors” claim by new (or any) shop. This is a rare occurrence, even with improper lug nut tightening.

    1. If they’d not leave fingerprints on the rotors, I’d call that a win. Somehow, the front brakes always pulse for a few weeks after each inspection.

  2. Seems like you ought to point out to the shop manager what they told Mary was needed and what you found when you did your own inspection. Then offer to report ’em to the BBB.

    1. None of those problems appear in writing, so it’s entirely verbal with no documentation. Methinks they have plausible deniability for everything.

      For sure, I’m not using them for any real service: no telling what they’d find lurking under the van after making sure it’s disabled!

  3. This is why Cindy refuses to deal with repair shops or car dealers (they don’t take women seriously and try to push things over on them) and I do virtually all my own car maintenance.

    I replaced a bunch of front-end suspension components a few weeks ago, including the tie rod end on one side. I stupidly didn’t check the other side. When I brought it in for an alignment (one of the few things I don’t try), they said the other tie rod end was worn. It didn’t surprise me, and they showed me the wiggly tire. I really didn’t want to take the car home, make the fix, and bring it back again. It killed me to let them charge me $30 over the cost of the part (they used the exact same part as I used on the other side, so I know the raw cost) and a half hour of labor, but I figure I’ve saved myself many times that by doing the other work myself. I despise dealers and auto shops.

    1. I do virtually all my own car maintenance


      I may do it wrong, but I’ll know what happened and how to fix it.

      Which is why we buy cars that CU rates as “much more reliable than average”: I’d rather not do any repairs at all. Despite that, I’m about to dump maybe two kilobucks into the front shocks and main belt, because those require specialized tools that I just don’t have and will never use again.


      1. “because those require specialized tools that I just don’t have and will never use again.”

        That is heresy: foregoing the opportunity to add to the tool box. I’ve often found that, even after purchasing the tool, the amount you save doing it yourself more than offsets the cost.

        You might also look into renting the tools.

        1. even after purchasing the tool, the amount you save doing it yourself more than offsets the cost

          Absolutely true! A friend summarized it pretty well: you can buy the parts and tools, wreck them while learning how to do the job, replace them, and still come out ahead of hiring someone else to do it, plus you’ve learned a new skill.

          But I have extenuating circumstances: the front shocks and belts are nasty jobs with excellent potential for personal injury and I have two columns due before our Larval Engineer drives the van away at the end of the month. Soooo, I can justify throwing money at the problem to make it vanish… anyway, that’s the plan. [sigh]

        2. In fact, replacing shocks can be quite dangerous if you must compress springs to do it so really you are probably following the wiser path. AND as your Larval Engineer will be “away” it will be much more difficult for you to recognize and fix that one thing that you didn’t do right and possibly dangerous for her. So, good dad!

          1. Back in the day, I helped somebody compress the springs on his car. That pretty much clipped off my enthusiasm, even though it went smoothly…

            (We hope the Trained Mechanics don’t miss anything, though.)

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