Backwards Brakes: Just when you think you’ve seen everything

by | Jul 24, 2019 | 4 comments

Jobbers who regularly do retail business become accustomed to dealing with the DIY customer with varying levels of capability. Some are as good as the best professional technicians. Some are not.

A close glance at this brake pad shows some odd wear; not the least alarming fact being that the wear is on the backing plate!

brake pad
This brake pad was installed backwards, with the backing plate facing the rotor. The retail customer tried to return it to a different store than the set was purchased from.

NAPA Winnipeg store manager Chris Robinson explains:

“Yes, the pads were put on backwards. It was a retail cash customer who had never done a brake job before, and didn’t ask questions. This was someone trying to return them today at another location.

“Couldn’t make it up if I tried.”

It’s certainly hard to protect customers from themselves when they do not ask questions, but perhaps there is some measure of responsibility on the part of the counterperson to at least try.

But the ultimate responsibility lies with the customer to not take on more than they can handle.

“No question is a dumb question with regards to installation and safety. Ask an expert before doing a job like this if you don’t know how.”

Astonishingly, Robinson isn’t the only parts professional who has seen this issue. A number of other industry members have reported coming across it as well. Jean-Philippe Audet , sales manager at Absco Brake Ltd., says his returns department got some brake pads back once a few years ago, with the label “defective” on the box to claim it as a defective!

Bob Azadi, a technician and training and quality assurance manager with First Transit, told us, “I’ve seen that happen before. One came to me out of another shop like that.”

This is why safety-related parts should only be sold to certified professionals, says Allan Haberman, technical trainer/owner, ACA Training Systems, Winnipeg, Man.

“Improper installation of parts renders a vehicle unsafe and a hazard to everyone else on the road. Steering and brake systems are critical safety systems that can have fatal consequences if they do not operate properly. Do you want your family on the same roads with vehicles such as this one?

“Substandard work performed by DIYers on safety-related systems is a real problem, putting innocent people at risk. Restricting the sale of these components to professionals would be a good start. I know it is an uphill battle, but it’s one worth fighting.”

brake pad
A careful inspection shows the imprint of the caliper piston on the friction surface of the pad.


  1. Brent Black

    It has always amazed me how DIY’s can be allowed to attempt their own brake work without fear of penalty.
    Those brake pads are, literally, the only thing stopping you from having a serious accident and injuring / killing someone , or yourself.

    The internet has contributed immensely to the problem when you have people with absolutely no automotive background posting “how to” videos on doing your own brakes, suspension, steering and other safety related repairs! No mention of high grade steel bolts, torque specs, nothing. It scares the Hell out of me!

  2. Antonio Ramos

    To this day I don’t understand how there is no law stating you need to have a Certified, Licensed Technician do the brakes on your vehicle. That is a very important safety system and we should expect that the service be done by a professional.

  3. Clyde Doucette

    Just reinforces the fact that we need legislation put in place that “do it yourselfers “should not be allowed to purchase automotive parts.You tube etc should be outlawed.I can replace a wall plug in my house,but i will not “goggle or you tube”how to wire my house.As with replacing their winter tires and rims to summer etc,not cleaning the 2 mating surfaces,torquing the hardware to specs,then the wheel flies off,2 most recent problems on the 401 were possibly a result of this,but now mto has decided that small trailers etc don’t need the yellow sticker.I guess they feel that a small trailer tire and wheel cannot kill innocent people,blows me away.The world needs help

  4. Brian Sokolowicz

    About 8 or 9 years ago, I had a cash customer one day arguing about the fact that I wouldn’t sell him just one brake pad. He kept stating that only one was worn out and that the other three were fine so there was no reason to replace them. So I told him that when you buy one brake pad, you get three free ones with it. He didn’t want to hear about a possible caliper issue, the need for equal braking forces on both wheels or anything that contradicted his line of thought. It was just going on his 21 foot motor home which doesn’t get driven all year long was his much repeated defense. He left unhappy and unable to purchase a solitary pad from me, threatening to report me to the owners and our corporate head office for poor service.


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