Brake rotor replacement is a fact of life for any vehicle owner, but how can you know for sure that it’s time to swap in a new set of discs on your automobile? Is it possible to get more life out of your current set of rotors before they absolutely must be exchanged for a new set? Here’s a look at the signs that your brake rotors are on their way out and your options for brake rotor resurfacing or replacement.
Feel the Vibe
Unusual vibrations from either the front of the vehicle or through the brake pedal itself during stops are often a sign that there’s an issue with your brake rotors. Sometimes this is caused by deposits left behind by your brake pads over time, creating an uneven surface that shakes when the pads are applied.
The vibrations could also be due to lateral runout, or the side-to-side movement of the rotor, thinning down some areas of its surface, which can contribute to uneven operation. Other times it can be caused by warped rotors that are no longer within specification when it comes to roundness or shape. Finally, a buildup of corrosion on the brake disc can cause vibrations. This typically happens when a vehicle is parked in a damp location for an extended period of time.
What Is Resurfacing?
Brake rotor replacement is the easiest way to deal with a rotor that’s no longer operating according to its original specifications. However, in some cases, it’s possible to resurface a rotor instead and achieve similar results.
Brake rotor resurfacing is a process where a small amount of the brake disc’s material is removed with a lathe in order to remove corrosion and brake pad deposits. It can also smooth out surface irregularities that can cause vibrations, such as varying thickness.
Some brake shops will lightly resurface rotors every time they replace brake pads to remove any pad materials that might be left behind. The technique serves to clean the disc and prep it for the new pads.
Resurfacing or Replacement?
Should you ask for resurfacing instead of brake rotor replacement if you notice a vibration? That depends on the condition of your brakes. Not every disc is a candidate for resurfacing. The disc has to be crack- and groove-free, with enough metal left in its design to maintain its minimum-safe-operational thickness after the process is complete.
It’s also worth considering the cost. Brake rotors are typically wallet-friendly — a new set could even equal the cost of labor to resurface your old set. Make sure to do your research into the costs of each option and weigh the difference when making a decision. Either way, if your brakes are giving you trouble, take care of them as soon as possible. It’s not worth ignoring the signs that your braking system needs attention.
Check out all the brake system products available on NAPA Online or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on brake rotor resurfacing, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.
Photo courtesy of Flickr.
Having been bitten by the car bug at a young age, I spent my formative years surrounded by Studebakers at car shows across Quebec and the northeastern United States. Over ten years of racing, restoring, and obsessing over automobiles lead me to balance science writing and automotive journalism full time. I currently contribute as an editor to several online and print automotive publications, and I also write and consult for the pharmaceutical and medical device industry.