Providing Brake Service is Profitable

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Brake service isn't scary, it's profitable

Key Points
Know your products
Know your customers
Stick to sound service practices

Want to beef up your brake service offerings? Then know your products, know your customers and stick to sound service practices.

If you followed the vehicle manufacturer's advice, you would only sell and install their brake components, follow their service manual directions, and document every step on the repair order or sales receipt.

Do all that and you'll never be sued for a brake-related failure, right? Maybe. Fact is, I've heard of shops being sued even when they've done everything by the book.

It's a scary thought, but don't close shop. Brake service is a good profit-maker, it's almost as routine as tire changes, and it brings customers to your store for both service and parts.

Here are some general guidelines that should lessen your chance of making a mistake:

  • Sell brake products you know and believe in.
  • Service the brake systems according to the vehicle manufacturer's and/or the brake product manufacturer's directions.
  • Before selling a brake product or before servicing, repairing or modifying a brake system, ask yourself, "Am I making my customer's safety my No. 1 priority?" If you answer "No," realize that's what a jury will consider should you ever find yourself in court defending your actions.

We know what the vehicle manufacturer recommends, but what about the customer who wants better braking performance, wants to shop where it's most convenient, or wants to modify his brakes for aesthetic reasons? That's where the aftermarket comes in.

Aftermarket Case Study: DP Brakes

For expert advice I called Larry Mills, the North American importer for DP Brakes disc brake pads for motorcycles, scooters, ATVs and snowmobiles. Mills works directly with DP (which is based in England) to deliver DP Brakes and Clutch Kits for the specific needs of the U.S. and Canadian markets. DP was once part of the Dunlop Companies, but is no newcomer to brakes. Dunlop Aviation invented the disc brake system back in the 1940s.

The following information is specific to DP brake products; however, it can be applied to brakes from other manufacturers.

DP manufactures only sintered pads. That's not a bad direction to go, since 95 percent of motorcycles and ATVs now come with sintered brake pads. Before sintered pads were around most were made using asbestos (aka organic pads), which were notoriously poor performers in the rain.

DP introduced sintered pad technology to the aviation industry back in 1955. In the late 1970s the company applied that technology to motorcycle disc brakes to cure the wet brake delay common in organic pads.

Sintered metal pads are formed from a mix of powdered metals. They have the advantage of being porous (water escapes through the pad material when the brake is applied). Sintered pads also heat up quickly, which vaporizes remaining moisture on the rotor. The result? Quick-acting brake performance, wet or dry.

To reduce heat transfer that could overheat the caliper piston, DP applies a ceramic coating to the backplate of most of their pads. This reduces the likelihood of boiling the brake fluid under extreme braking or misuse. When brake fluid boils, it vaporizes; this reduces the ability of the fluid to compress, resulting in a spongy brake lever or pedal.

DP uses four different compounds for the brake pads it makes. Each has unique characteristics and different levels of performance. For example, one compound is particular just to Harley-Davidson motorcycles.

Compounds are rated for their friction coefficient, and are identified by two letters. For example, DP's standard street pad compound is rated GG. The first letter indicates cold performance and the second is for hot. Two identical letters tell you the brake friction is about the same whether the pad is cold or warmed up.

Linear performance is easier for most riders to control. DP's street sport pad compound has an HH+ rating. H means the friction coefficient is higher than a G; the double H tells you the pad delivers linear performance; and the "+" means overall performance is slightly higher than with H-rated pads.

DP's road racing pads are labeled D1HH, a rating unique to DP because the pad's friction coefficient is considerably higher than the ratings currently available.

When assisting customers in brake pad selection you may have multiple choices. For example, let's say you have two customers, both with 2003 Suzuki GSX-R750s. One has been satisfied with the OE brakes; the other is a stunt rider. For the first rider the DP standard pad with a GG rating is an excellent replacement for the OE pads. But the stunt rider wants his front brake to react more quickly than stock and require less lever effort. Here the pads with the HH+ rating make more sense.