How to Resurface Rotors

Brake rotors are essential assets of a car. They maximize safety and performance. A rotor is a disc-shaped part that the brake pads and the caliper clamp onto. When you apply the brakes, the brake pads, and the caliper clamp onto this disc-shaped component, which slows down the vehicle, like brake pads, rotors can get damaged.

Don’t forget to test drive your vehicle to determine if there is any significant change.

Over time, these rotors begin to wear down each time you apply brakes, and when it does, replacing the brake pads or doing rotor resurfacing are the two likely options. This article will explain how to resurface rotors.

When it comes to resurfacing brake rotors, there are certain things you must know. Knowing when to replace rotors or repair it is crucial. If you replace brake pads when you ought to resurface rotors, it could prove harmful. Likewise, if you resurface rotors when you ought to replace the brake pads, it could be dangerous.

To resurface a rotor, you will need the following materials; 

  • Brake cleaner
  • Jack stands
  • Floor jack
  • Screwdrivers
  • Lug wrench

Steps

  1. Lift the vehicle with a floor jack. Lower the corner, you will be working on onto a jack stand. Use a lug wrench to loosen the nuts that hold the wheels to the vehicle. Remove the wheel or wheels and set it aside.
  2. Spray brake cleaner on the rotor, caliper, and other components nearby. You can use a 120 grit sandpaper as an alternative to removing excess materials on the surface of the rotor. Wipe the surface with a clean rag.
  3. Remove the two large caliper nuts that hold the caliper to the bracket with a ratchet. These nuts are usually located on the top and bottom of the caliper.
  4. Remove the caliper off the rotor sideways. Tie the caliper to a close suspension component with a piece of rope or wire to support it to avoid damaging it.
  5. If the vehicle uses a caliper bracket, remove it.
  6. Remove the set screws from the rotor if your vehicle uses one.
  7. Pull the rotor out of the hub gently. If you are finding it difficult removing, hit the area with a mallet to break it free. It may be due to friction.
  8. Take the rotor to a machine shop to have it resurfaced. The process is delicate and requires the expertise of professional and specialized equipment. The machine will be able to discover the minimum thickness and determine if the rotor is still suitable for use.
  9. Once its resurfaced, reinstall the rotor in a reversal method.

Types of Rotors Materials


There are different types of rotors that are made with different materials. These materials include;


Cast iron - This material is the most commonly used material for making rotors. Besides that, the content is hefty and can affect the handling of your vehicle.


Steel - This material thinner than cast iron, weightless, and handles heat better. They are used in most racing cars. However, it is not as durable as the cast iron and susceptible to warping and pulsation.


Layered Steel - Layered steel material is similar to steel, but the difference is this one comes with layered sheets of steel. This means that there are several sheets of steel laminated. This material is more effective against warp and pulsation.


Aluminum - This rotor material can dissipate heat swiftly, but the downside of this material is it melts at a lower temperature. It also weighs less and is suitable for motorcycles.


Ceramic - Think of the Ferrari, Aston Martin, and other super-fast cars. The ceramic material is what's used on their rotors. Ceramic has the highest heat capacity and dissipate heat a lot faster than all the materials in this list. When it comes to performance, the ceramic is the highest known performing rotor.


High Carbon - A mixture of iron and carbon is what makes the high carbon material. They can dissipate heat quickly and helps the rotor to avoid cracking under stress and pulsating. However, it is pricey.

Factors That Can Affect the Performance of Rotors


The performance of a rotor is determined by the type of brake pads, the braking style of the driver, the thickness of the rotor, exposure to moisture and heat, and the cooling effect of the rotor. Usually, the length of time it takes before a rotor can wear out also determines the performance of the rotor.

Thickness

Most rotors are designed to be thick enough to absorb and disperse heat. However, modern cars use rotors that are thinner to save cost and weight. However, it's important you still buy a car with thick rotors because when it wears down, it will wear down to the minimum thickness. The minimum thickness is the least amount of thickness required for a rotor to function fully.

However, if you use a thin rotor, when it wears out, it consequently becomes and less of a mass. This reduces the ability of the rotor to absorb heat and the strength, leading to rotor failure.

Minimum thickness ensures safe braking, even as the rotor is wearing down. That is why you must avoid rotors that are too thin. It is always recommended that motors are measured every time the brakes are replaced or serviced. To ensure that it doesn't exceed the minimum thickness.

Corrosion

Corrosion can reduce the efficiency of motor rotors. Rust weakens rotors and makes the brakes noisy, primarily when it's driven for the first time after being redundant. Most rotors in vehicles rust over time, mainly if the car is not operated for a specified period.

Rust increases the wear of brake pads. When it does, it reduces the braking power of the pads. Once the rotor of your vehicle is rusty, replace the brake pads or resurface the rotors.

Heat

Heat is another vital factor that affects the performance of rotors. It affects both the wear of the rotor and the braking performance. When the brakes are applied, there is friction that is generated by the brakes against the rotors. This process creates a lot of heat. The disc absorbs the heat, and the cooling vents dissipate the heat. However, if the disc can no longer absorb heat and the cooling vents are faulty, it's time to replace the rotor. Replacing a vent with one that does not cool as effectively as the removed one may cause the brakes to run hot and lead to brake failure.

Style of Driving

Aggressive driving and pulling up brakes without caution can cause the temperature of the brakes to rise. This will lead to wear of both the rotors and the brake pads and servicing them sooner than expected. Besides, rotors in vehicles that are ridden to far more distant places will wear out faster than cars that are driven to near places.

How to Identify a Bad or Failing Rotors

There are common signs for you to use and identify if your brake rotors are failing or not. These signs include;

  • Noisy Brakes - The rotor will produce a scrappy sound if it’s warped and worn out.
  • Vibrations - Rotors will pulsate if a rotor is bad or failing. You can feel these vibrations commonly around the pedal and steering wheel.
  • Grooves On the Rotor's Surface - A bad rotor will have grooves on its surface. These marks arise as a result of repeated contacts with the brake pads.
  • Rotor's Inability To Stop at the Right Time - Pulsation, noisy brakes, grooves can impede the response of the pedals. This will translate into the car, not stopping at when it's supposed to.

How to Clean Brake Rotors

  • Get a tray. Put it down to catch any runoff.
  • Spray the rotor with brake cleaner.
  • Allow it to dry and then wipe it a clean rag.
  • If some areas are rusty, apply brake cleaner in those portions.
  • Use clean steel wool to work the surface till the rusts disappear.
  • Wipe the rotor with a clean rag.

Brake Rotor Resurfacing DIY

How to Resurface Rotors FAQs

How much does it cost to resurface rotors?

The cost of labor is usually expensive and included when looking at the total cost of resurfacing rotors. Also, brake pad replacement is considered. The average cost of labor is estimated to be between $158 and $200. For brake pad replacement, the average cost ranges between $70 and $125. The total cost should be between $228 and $325.

Do I need to resurface brake rotors?

Some manufacturers recommend that rotors shouldn’t be resurfaced, even when it shows signs of wear. Instead, the brake pads should be changed or replaced from time to time, depending on the condition. However, if the rotor is worn out totally, resurfacing it would be a bad idea. You should get rid of it.

How long does it take to resurface rotors?

It takes roughly 45 minutes to one hour to resurface rotors, depending on how damaged the rotor is.

Is it cheaper to resurface or replace rotors?

Replacing a rotor is cheaper than resurfacing the rotor. Resurfacing will cost you more money than replacing. As with the estimate above, it will cost you roughly about $228 to $325 to resurface a rotor. However, buying replacement pads will cost you nothing more than $125. So it's better you replace than to resurface.

What happens if rotors are not resurfaced or replaced?

When rotors become uneven, it leads to pad wear. The tires will wobble on driving, vibrate, and may lead to anti-lock brak failure. Resurfacing rotors or replacing the brake pads is imminent in this case.

What happens if I put new brake pads on bad rotors?

It's simple! If you put new brake pads in a vehicle with worn out or damaged rotors, the pads will not make proper contact with the surface of the rotor. In other words, your vehicle's stopping ability is hindered. The bad rotor may even damage the new brake pads in the process because it is pressing against the rotors.

What kind of sound does a bad rotor make?

Bad rotors that are worn out make a scraping sound. The noise is usually the first symptom that is commonly associated with bad rotors. However, if the rotors are warped, that is not exactly flat, they would make a squealing sound.

How many miles should you get out of brake discs?

It depends on the manufacturers. Some brake discs are replaced after 25,000 miles. Others can be replaced after 70,000 miles. However, brake discs or pads should be replaced after about 50,000 miles. 

How often should I change my vehicle’s rotor?

All rotors should be replaced after every 70,000 miles maximum.

What is resurfacing?

Resurfacing is a process of removing brake pad deposits and rusts, using brake discs materials with a lathe. A lathe is a machine tool used to shape a piece of material by rotation.

Final Words

Rotors are essential components of a vehicle's braking system. They are crucial to the safety and performance of a vehicle and, as such, shouldn't be taken for granted. It's vital to inspect the rotors from time to time and be observant about the noticeable changes. That is what this article on how to resurface rotors has been able to explain.

John
 

John D. Archer is a mechanical engineer and writer based on the area of automotive accessories at brakeshub.com, A resident expert and professional, John is passionate about all things automotive and loves to share his knowledge. He has good experience in all kind of automotive accessories. He has worked as a chief mechanical engineer in some reputed automotive garage firm.

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