Can new pads and rotors be recommended without ever taking off the wheels?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Feb 01, 1996

Dear Tom and Ray:

I think I have the best of all possible cars, a 1989 750iL BMW. I recently had my rear brakes repaired. In doing so, the BMW shop said I would need new pads and rotors. The problem is I don't believe they ever removed the rear wheels to check. In questioning this, I was told "on this car, we can check the rear brakes without removing the wheels." Is this possible?

TOM: Yes, it is. You CAN see the pads and rotors on a lot of cars without taking the wheels off. And you can usually tell if the pads are worn out or the rotors are chewed and pitted.

RAY: There are things you probably won't be able to see without removing the wheels--like a brake fluid leak or a seized caliper piston. But if they're just looking at pads and rotors, the answer is yes, they can tell.

TOM: But I definitely understand your skepticism, Bill. My brother used to tell customers that they needed a new transmission after simply laying his hands on the car's hood. If I remember correctly, it was the Attorney General who made him cut that out.

Get the Car Talk Newsletter

Got a question about your car?

Ask Someone Who Owns One