March 25

2017 Honda Civic, Brakes



Mark: Hi, it's Mark Bossert. I'm here with Bernie Pawlik, master mechanic and owner of Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver, BC, Canada. Vancouver's best auto service experience. And we're talking cars. How are you doing Bernie? 

Bernie: Doing well. 

Mark: So today's victim is a 2017 Honda Civic that had a brake issue. What was going on with this vehicle?

Bernie: The vehicle actually came to us for a B service and our B service is an oil change and a full vehicle inspection, which includes inspecting the brakes, steering suspension, fluids, belts, hoses you know, a really good thorough look over of the car. Which you should do pretty much on an annual basis with any car once it gets on in a few years in age. Of which this car qualifies at this point. 

So as part of the inspection, we found that the brakes were quite badly worn. The owner actually didn't complain about them. Although, when I mentioned to the client that the brakes were worn out and needed some immediate attention, she said, yes, that's right. Yeah. The brakes didn't feel too good. So, amazing what people, forget to tell us when they book the appointment, but that's okay. 

Mark: Well, do you think that's an issue of the change is really kind of gradual. So you really kind of just adapt to it? 

Bernie: I think sometimes you do. And you know, if the car is stopping adequately, it's like, oh yeah, maybe they're a little noisy or they shake a little bit, but you know, it's okay, right? If it shakes violently or they're grinding, then of course it escalates the situation of smokes coming off the wheel and the steering wheels pulling. You know, those are things that will hasten the complaints.

Mark: So what'd you find from your inspection? 

Bernie: Yeah. So we found that all the brake rotors were exceptionally rusted, especially the rear brake rotors. And of course the pads were worn as well along with that. Although I believe the front brake pads were not in such bad condition, but the rear brakes were really the worst.

Mark: So was that unusual? Usually it's the front brakes that are worn, isn't it? 

Bernie: No, I mean, they all wear. The rear brakes on an average car do probably about 10 percent of the actual braking effort over the fronts, but they still wear. And this is why when you look at rear brake pads and rotors, they're typically smaller than front. But some cars will actually activate the rear brakes earlier than the front. 

So rear brakes will actually wear faster than the fronts on some occasions, just because it makes for a more stable braking. So as soon as you hit the brake pedal, it'll apply a little bit of the rear brakes more to stabilize the car. 

Mark: And that stops the car from diving so much. 

Bernie: Exactly. Yeah. That's just some makes and models. Not all cars are like that. Anyways, there's our 2017 Honda and it's nice winter wheels. We live in Vancouver, we don't get a ton of snow here, but the owner of this vehicle drives up to snowy climates a lot with the vehicle. And you know, many people choose to put snow tires and winter wheels on their car to get through the winter.

2017 Honda Civic, Brakes

Mark: So here we go. 

Bernie: Here we go. So that is our really, really, really, really rusty rear brake rotor.

2017 Honda Civic, Brakes

So that is a brand new rotor, new pads and the same caliper, basically we clean it and sandblast all the moving part, the areas where the pads move, so there's no binding of any sort. Anyways, that gives you an idea of what a new rotor looks like, back to the ugly one, that gives you an idea of the ugly rusty rotor. And you can imagine that you're not going to get as good of a braking effort on something that's rough and rusty like that. It's just not going to transfer the heat, like the brake should. 

2017 Honda Civic, Brakes

Mark: So speculating, how does the rotor get this kind of rusty? 

Bernie: It's basically road salt. Yeah, it's road salt and corrosion, you know, corrosion that develops from road salt. Sits on the rotor you know, just kind of eats away at it. That's usually the thing. Now, if you actually live right next to the ocean where there's sea breeze blowing, you can get this kind of stuff, or if you have a truck where you launch your boat and the back end goes into the water, you know, saltwater, that can cause this kind of thing too.

I didn't take pictures of the front brake rotors because they weren't rusted as bad as this, but they were probably 50% is bad and the centre section of the rotor was smooth, but 50%, the outer edges were rusted. So again, it wasn't great.

Mark: So when you're talking about rusting, you're speaking about all this pitting and kind of grey area rather than the black kind of shiny, which is what a normal rotor would look like. 

Bernie: Yeah, exactly. A normal worn rotor would have, you won't even see that black part like you have on that inner edge. It's usually, just a grey colour. Not shiny like that new rotor, because that new rotor has a coating on it that wears off. But it'll be like a nice solid metal. Not that shiny, but that's kind of nice smooth surface. 

Mark: Yeah. So this isn't just a Honda thing. This happens to all vehicles?

Bernie: Exactly. It's not a Honda thing. It's an any vehicle type of thing. I mean, the thing about a brake rotor is it's exposed to the elements. And you know, if you leave your car sitting outside and it rains, if the car sits for a couple of days, a rust film will develop on the rotor.

You'll see it. And if you leave the car for a week or two and it's been raining often, if you put your brake on first application, it might actually make a little bit of a scrapey kind of kind of sound when you put the brakes on usually disappears really fast. But that other rust that we have there, I mean, that is like car sits, the road salt eats at it, you know, and then you drive it and it just keeps happening over and over.

Mark: So what are all the parts that you replaced to get the brakes back in good order? 

Bernie: So in the case of this vehicle, we replaced the pads and rotors, front and rear. We did a brake fluid flush, should do that every two to three years on any make and model of car. So we did that. The calipers were all okay. We take them apart. We test them. Oh, and the other thing, as I mentioned earlier, we do clean the pad and caliper slider areas. We have a sandblaster that we can clean off any corrosion. 

Corrosion tends to develop where the pads slide around. I mean, they move by fractions of millimetres every time you apply them. But you know, they need to be able to move freely. So even in that space, so if there's corrosion, they can't move, they'll stick and wear out quickly.

Mark: So as an owner, is there anything you can do to prevent this sort of wear and tear?

Bernie: You know, short of getting in there with a hose after you've driven on like say it's snowy weather and road salt, maybe get in there with a hose and spray off the brake rotors, go for a drive and kind of burn that off. That's probably the only thing you can do. Very difficult to do. Remember the picture you saw, the steel wheels which many people use in the winter, you can't even see the brakes on these things, so you can't get in there and really spray it out, but that's what you could do.

You know, the thing about this is that usually only happens in climates where there's a heavy amount of road salt. And if it's happening all winter, you probably don't want to get in there and wash your brakes all the time. It's just sort of one of those things you have to live with that they're going to need to be replaced a little more frequently.

Mark: So once it's all repaired, everything's working well, brakes are working fine? 

Bernie: Fantastic, yeah. 

Mark: And how are 2017 Honda Civics for reliability? 

Bernie: Great cars. You know, they're a typical Honda, very reliable. Not too much goes wrong with them. So, we don't like them for that. To be honest, they're a great car. Yeah, cars that break down, you know, I mean, they're better for us. But, you know, it's discouraging too when you see bad engineering from our side of things. And, you know, Hondas they're well built, reliable cars. I recommend them, last a long time. 

Mark: If you're looking for service for Honda, the guys to see are Pawlik Automotive. You can reach them on their website,, or you can call them at (604) 327-7112 to book your appointment. You have to book ahead. They're always busy. Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver, BC Canada. Thanks so much for watching and listening. Thanks Bernie. 

Bernie: Thank you, Mark. Thanks for watching.

About the author 

Bernie Pawlik

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