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I have a problem with my handbrake (bear with me now). So I went to the service to have them check it out. The mechanic took a 10 second look at my car and told me I needed to change both of my brake discs along with everything related to the handbrake.

Now let me be clear. I've never had any problems with my brakes. They work surprisingly well for my 15 year old car. I don't know when the brake discs were last changed but I've never had any issues with braking. But I do have issues with my handbrake and I'm prepared to pay for the fix.

I just don't see how it is necessary to change the brake discs on the front wheels (which I assume are only used for normal braking). It seems like overkill.

Are the two braking systems mechanically dependent on each other so much that it would require me to completely revamp both of them or is the mechanic just padding the bill?

Is there any way I can assess the brake discs myself to make sure I'm not being conned?

My car is a Fiat Punto 2001 Sporting.

  • A handbrake adjustment takes all of 5 minutes if you have a lift, so I believe your instincts are correct, and the mechanic is trying to make some money off you. This is not to say your brakes aren't also on the fritz, but I wouldn't trust this mechanics word alone. On a side note, adjusting the handbrake is very easy on most cars. I would recommend you look it up a youtube or forum walk-through and try it yourself. – MooseLucifer Jun 21 '16 at 22:58
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    You can find the visual signs of brake discs in poor condition here: mechanics.stackexchange.com/q/27548/10905 – I have no idea what I'm doing Jun 22 '16 at 14:57
  • After 12 years of honourable service I had to fix the handbrake on my 2002 Fiat Panda 169. All it took was a new cable. IMHO the mechanic is trying to make you think that new handbrake equals new disks. – JoErNanO Jun 23 '16 at 9:56
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So here's what I've learned in the past couple of days.

Apparently there is a simple way of assessing the condition of brake discs/rotors. For every car there is a minimum thickness for the brake discs. Once they get below that thickness it's safe to say that they're past their lifetime. For my specific model (Fiat Punto 2001 Sporting) that thickness is 10.2mm. I found this info in a Haynes manual for the vehicle. It's not too hard to find the same info for any other car.

The car braking fine is not a good indicator of the condition of the brake discs since it's quite possible to use them and the brake pads until their very physical end without noticeable issues.

Example:

Worn discs

There are many videos on YouTube that explain how one can accurately measure the thickness of their brake discs.

Checking the thickness is not the only way to assess the condition of a brake disc but it is the easiest and most indicative assessment approach for a rookie.

Mine were indeed below their minimum thickness.

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Keep in mind as I answer here that I have no idea how Fiats are set up as far as brakes go, but I wouldn't think that front brake disc replacement would be necessary in your situation. However, this is based on the assumption that your front brake discs are actually in good working order. On most cars that I have worked on, the hand brake is implemented into the rear brake system which would mean that messing with the front brakes seems unnecessary. BUT this is all going off of the assumption that your Fiat is set up in the same way with the hand brake based in the rear brake system of the car. In order to determine if your front discs need replacement, you'd have to look at them with the wheels off and make sure that they're still thick enough for everyday stress due to braking. If the disc is too thin, your brakes can actually snap pieces of it and cause brake failure. Good luck with your repairs!

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