Home TroubleshootingBrakes Turning Brake Rotor – Should You Resurface Or Replace It?

Turning Brake Rotor – Should You Resurface Or Replace It?

by Kelvin Yates

The brake rotor, often known as the brake disc, is a critical component in a disc brake system. It’s why ‘turning brake rotor’ is an important servicing to-do list item. Brake rotors may be found in almost any modern vehicle, no matter how light or heavy.

Drum brakes were used on early car types, notably on the back wheels. As a result, automakers began using disc brakes on all axles in the last few years. It is for this reason that brake rotors are now found in the majority of autos.

Because the rotor is such a crucial component, we believed that providing thorough information on turning brake rotor would be really beneficial; therefore, we created this guide. It’s a detailed brake rotor guide that dives into the various types of rotors.

It will improve your knowledge of the component in several areas, including its role, different rotor types, and potential difficulties. You’ll also discover when to fix or replace a faulty rotor.

Brake Rotor

Turning Brake Rotor

A brake rotor is a component of the disc brake system found in most modern automobiles. The rotor is a large metal disc that connects your wheel to the hub of your car. The rotor spins together with the wheel and tire when they rotate. It’s then sandwiched by the brake pads and the brake calipers.

When you apply pressure to the brake pedal, a hydraulic clamping mechanism (known as a brake caliper) squeezes the brake pads against the rotor’s sides, causing friction that slows and stops your vehicle.

The friction material on your brake pads, which might be made of organic, semi-metallic, or ceramic materials, will wear away with time and use. This is why you should replace your brake pads regularly.

Indeed, your rotors are not designed to be sacrificial like your brake pads, but they will nonetheless wear out over time. They get thinner. Excessive heat generated by vigorous braking or lifting big loads can cause rotor glazing and hot spots.

The longevity of a rotor is determined by the type of brake pads you use, the moisture exposure they receive, and your driving style. Semi-metallic pads wear out faster than organic or ceramic pads on a rotor. The rotors’ quality can also influence how long they survive. As a result, your rotors must be repaired as well.

Drum Brakes Vs Disc Brakes

Because the disc is easier to cool, disc brakes offer better-stopping capability than drum brakes. As a result, brake fade caused by overheated braking components is less likely to occur on discs. In addition, disc brakes recover from immersion faster. Brake rotors are often light, which helps to minimize the overall weight of the braking system’s components.

Brake Rotor Types

When it comes to replacing your brake rotors, remember that not all rotors are created equal. There are four distinct types of rotors to select from, so be sure you choose the proper one for your needs before changing your vehicle’s rotors. There are four types of rotors:

1. Blank & Smooth Rotor

The most common rotors seen on new passenger vehicles are blank and smooth rotors. It’s important to note that there are two types of specific rotors: basic and premium. The difference is in the manufacturing process. Blank rotors are a fantastic alternative for your vehicle unless you’re a really aggressive driver or you’re driving a fancy car.

2. Drilled Rotor

Drilled rotors have holes drilled into the surface, as the name implies. These perforations allow water, dust, and heat to escape the rotor’s surface quickly. Drilled rotors are a great option for drivers in wetter climates because they enhance stopping force in wet, damp conditions.

3. Slotted Rotors

Slotted rotors have slots around the outside of the rotor. They’re ideal for heavy-duty trucks and SUVs, particularly those requiring increased stopping force when towing or carrying loads.

The slots are meant to allow more air to flow between the pad and the rotor surface, improving cooling and heat dispersion. They’re also intended to aid in the removal of brake debris and pad glazing, which can occur at higher temperatures.

4. Drilled & Slotted Rotors

Finally, drilled and slotted rotors are intended for high-end vehicles, like sports automobiles, that require more cooling and heat dissipation. This rotor was created to help with high-speed braking during racing or track days.

Fortunately, picking the proper rotor for your car is as simple as looking at the already installed rotors. When replacing your vehicle’s rotors, keep in mind that the rotors on your family car will likely not be the best choice for your pickup truck and vice versa, given its use case.

Turning Rotors

Turning Brake Rotor

Lathing or machining brake rotors to remove excess material from the brake pads are what you call, turning brake rotor. This protects the rotors from warping and grinding while also extending the life of the pads.

Is it necessary for me to rotate my rotors and conduct a full-turning brake rotor service? Yes. Rotors must turn for a car’s braking performance to be restored to the designed specifications. They’re an essential part of a car’s braking system, but they might wear out because of friction with the brake pads.

Friction wears down the metal in these components, resulting in poor handling, shorter stopping distances, and uneven braking efficiency. As a result, a turning brake rotor service is required for both safety and fuel economy purposes.

Bad Rotors

Brake rotors can wear in several ways, and damage isn’t always apparent. Because brakes are one of the most vital components of your car, it’s a good idea to change your rotors simultaneously with your pads. Aside from keeping brake performance at its peak, installing new rotors in five minutes instead of waiting for a service to resurface them may be a time-saver.

Here are several frequent issues that could compromise your rotors’ performance or integrity (so, make sure you know how to tell if rotor is bad).

Turning Brake Rotor, Types Of Wear And Tear #1: Dishing Shape

Rotors can wear unevenly to the point where they become shaped like a dish, as the name implies. Although you may feel a gap on the outer edge of your rotor, this is usually imperceptible at first glance.

Turning Brake Rotor, Types Of Wear And Tear #2: Deep Grooves On Rotors

Deep grooves, like dished rotors, are a concern since they don’t give your brake pads a nice, level contact area, which affects braking performance.

Turning Brake Rotor, Types Of Wear And Tear #3: Hotspots And Bluing

Your rotors become pretty hot while in use. If your rotors can’t adequately dissipate heat, they may develop a blue band or spots on them. This problem can result in a fractured rotor, but drivers can also sense the hot patches as pulsation while braking.

Turning Brake Rotor, Types Of Wear And Tear #4: Rust On Surface

One common complaint technicians hear is that when drivers start driving in the morning, their brakes screech or grind, but this goes away as the car heats up. Surface rust is usually always the cause of this problem, and it is not a safety issue. Rotors can be weakened by deeper rust, which is a prevalent concern for some.

Turning Brake Rotor, Types Of Wear And Tear #5: Warping

This is another problem that drivers may notice as brake pedal pulsation. Pads no longer make continuous contact with the rotors all the way around as rotors distort with time, reducing braking performance.

Turning Brake Rotor, Types Of Wear And Tear #6: Cracks Or Missing Sections

These apparent issues indicate a dangerous rotor and suggest that it is time to replace it.

Turning Brake Rotor, Types Of Wear And Tear #7: At Every Other Brake Replacement

During every other brake change, a turning brake rotor procedure is a good idea. This keeps the rotors from bending and accumulating additional deposits on their surfaces. Braking regularly creates hot spots and rotor wear, which leads to warping. Machining them restores the smoothness of the surfaces, allowing for complete functionality.

Brake Rotor Wear

Rapid rotor wear can be caused by a variety of factors, including:

  • When a driver repeatedly presses on the brakes, one of the consequences is worn brake rotors. This can lead to the necessity for a brake disc replacement over time. This occurs when the minimum thickness of the worn rotor is reached.
  • Brake pads should be replaced before they totally wear out due to poor braking system maintenance. If this isn’t done, the bonded pads’ steel backing or the riveted pads’ metal studs may come into touch with the rotor’s frictional surface, causing severe cutting. If the grooves that result are intense, rotor replacement may be the only option.
  • Severe driving conditions like in mountainous places necessitate the use of brakes more often than in normal conditions. This causes the brake discs to wear out quickly. In a stop-and-go condition, driving in traffic can further hasten wear. The rotors eventually wear down to the manufacturer’s braking disc wear limit and must be replaced.

A brake rotor’s susceptibility to damage is mainly determined by its quality, material, and type. Rotors of the higher grade will outlast those of lower quality. Ceramic rotors, on the other hand, have the best qualities. They are more expensive, but they are more resistant to harm and endure an extended period.

Some rotor designs are also resistant to warping and can tolerate high temperatures. The vented version, for example, cools significantly faster and can withstand high temperatures without damage.

Signs You Need New Rotors

When a brake rotor malfunctions, the consequences manifest themselves in a variety of ways. Some of these cues are audible when driving, while others can be felt in the feet or hands. The ability to recognize these warning indicators can assist you in making critical decisions.

You won’t end up replacing the wrong item, and you’ll be able to act quickly enough to avoid risky driving or pricey repairs. Warped rotor symptoms, for example, can assist you in determining when the rotor needs to be resurfaced and when it’s time to replace it.

1. Turbulence

If the rotor is distorted or worn out, the contact between the rotor and the brake pad may be inadequate. Due to this unstable interaction, vibration and rattling are felt through the brake pedal, steering wheel, and even the car body.

Turning Brake Rotor

2. Vibration

Brake wear makes a lot of noise, and continuous screaming or squeaking is a vital sign that something is wrong. Noises such as grinding or scraping indicate that the brake rotors and pads are damaged.

3. Obvious Damage

To the eye and the touch, a healthy brake rotor will appear practically smooth. This surface keeps the brake pads in good contact. Rotors, on the other hand, can get extensively scored and grooved over time, reducing contact.

4. Stopping Distance

The overall performance of the braking system is the most reliable indicator that anything is amiss with it. The system’s ability to stop the automobile at a safe distance will be harmed by worn, deformed, or damaged rotors.

5. Brake Discs With Marks

This is a problematic rotor symptom that can only be detected by looking at the disc’s surface. The marks, which may appear as grooves or scoring lines, indicate that the rotor should be replaced. A variety of factors cause grooves in brake rotors.

The most prevalent is when brake pads are allowed to wear down to the point where the metal backings are exposed. When the brakes are applied, the pads grind against the rotor surface, causing the grooves to appear.

Several factors influence whether a scored rotor should be resurfaced or replaced. The discarded thickness specifications of the specific rotor are the most critical. If the marks or grooves are excessively deep, the only method to repair the braking surface is to replace the brake disc. Also, if you notice significant cracks, do not attempt to repair them.

A blued rotor is another symptom that should not be overlooked. This occurs when the rotor has been exposed to very high temperatures for an extended period of time. It appears as a bluish surface and may indicate that a brake rotor is warping or cracking.

Resurface Rotors vs Replace

When should you consider resurfacing? When a technician inspects a rotor and determines that the tolerances are within the procedure’s allowed range. Replacement is required if this is not the case. However, in other cases, replacing a rotor is the better alternative right away. Many rotors, for example, are now much cheaper than they were previously.

Replacing a rotor rather than turning brake rotor is often more cost-effective, saving you time and money. Or, if you ignored the warning signs that your brake pads needed to be replaced, it may cause more damage to your rotors due to metal-to-metal contact. Those badly damaged rotors are usually replaced rather than refinished.

Some automakers even insist on replacing your rotors rather than resurfacing them. Otherwise, most industry experts recommend replacing them every 50,000 to 70,000 miles. In any case, if the rotors are beyond repair, the only choice is to replace them. Of course, it may be the best solution for you.

If your car requires disc brake service, have the brake system evaluated and the rotors measured by a skilled technician at a reputable repair shop. Your technician may recommend turning brake rotor if there are no symptoms of cracking or significant damage if there is enough material for resurfacing and if the manufacturer permits it. If, on the other hand, your rotors are too thin or damaged, or if resurfacing isn’t a viable option, you’ll almost certainly need to replace them.

Turning Rotors Cost

Front-wheel-drive vehicle brake rotors are quite affordable. You can undergo a turning brake rotor repair job, and still meet factory requirements, but they will become thin and distort or vibrate as a result.

Turning a rotor costs somewhere between $15 and $25 per rotor. New rotors typically cost $20-$30 per rotor, and you will, of course, have fewer problems and a much longer rotor and brake pad life span.

During a brake service, your technician should ensure that each rotor is not deformed and fulfills the minimum thickness requirement. Every rotor that meets these requirements is machined and sanded on both sides for a smooth, non-directional surface. This is the proper method for turning brake rotor that needs to be machined, and it creates a smooth surface for the new pads.

How Long Do Rotors Last

Brake pads generally have a lifespan of 30,000 miles, or up to 80,000 miles if you’re not leaning heavily on them. The difference is determined by your driving style as well as regular driving conditions. Average brake pads will last between 3 and 7 years, according to data from the Federal Highway Administration on how many miles people drive each year.

Brake rotors have a lifespan of about 70,000 miles, but they must be checked for uneven wear. If they get slightly distorted, you can have them turned or machined to make them round again.

Before the rotors need to be replaced altogether, this can normally be done two or three times. However, new technologies and rising labor costs may make machining less cost-effective than total replacement.

How To Extend The Life Brake Pads And Rotors

A few driving habits and tactics help reduce brake wear and extend the life of all braking system components, including pads and rotors:

  • If you stick to the speed limit, your brakes will last longer. Stopping at fast speeds puts a lot of strain on your brakes, and the pads will quickly wear out.
  • Both the gas and braking pedals should be operated with your right foot. Some drivers apply the brake with their left foot before taking their right foot off the pedal, necessitating extra braking effort.
  • Keep an eye on the road. The less stress you apply on your brakes, the more slowly you can break or coast. It’s better to slow down gradually before a traffic light, for example, than to use the brakes suddenly when you’re getting close to the light.
  • Reduce the weight in your car as much as possible. Your brakes will have to work less to stop with less mass.
  • Conduct inspections regularly. When your brake pads are worn, your rotors and other parts are put under more stress. You may save the other components of your braking system by replacing brake pads before they get severely worn.

Turning Brake Rotor: Final Verdict

Everyone knows how vital brakes are for a vehicle’s safety. It’s possible that if the brakes don’t work properly, a terrible car accident will occur. The performance of the braking system is determined chiefly by the rotors. That is why you should know when to turn your brake rotors. You’ll be safer on the road and save money by proceeding with turning brake rotor at the proper time.

The discs may often be machined, which means they can go through a process to smooth out the broken contact surface and make them useful and safe again. However, if the damage is too severe or the warping is too severe, the item will need to be replaced. Your qualified mechanic or brake specialist will be able to provide you with the best advice.

You can maintain your brake pads and rotors lasting as long as possible by driving with moderate caution, following suggested maintenance, and contacting your dealership for regular brake service and vehicle maintenance.

FAQs On Turning Brake Rotor

If you’re curious to learn more about turning brake rotor, our FAQs here might help…

When To Replace Rotors

Unlike the brake pads (which should be replaced fairly frequently, once every 10,000 to 20,000 or so miles), the brake rotors are designed to last quite a bit longer. A brake rotor should last anywhere from 30,000 to upward of 70,000 miles. However, this figure isn’t a constant, and there are many factors that could make your brake rotors last far shorter than that. It varies a lot depending on your driving habits. For example, constant hard braking, and stop-and-go bumper-to-bumper traffic will put a lot more strain on the rotors. Thus, causing them to wear much sooner, closer to that 30,000-mile figure. If you practice gentle and moderate braking, your rotors should last much longer.

What Are Rotors On A Car

The brake rotors are those large circular discs or dish-shaped objects that you see sitting inside the wheel. It’s a key component of a car’s braking system, alongside the brake discs and the brake calipers. The rotors will rotate alongside the wheels as it’s turning. Meanwhile, the brake rotors are then sandwiched by the brake pads and calipers. When you press the brake pedal, this applies pressure on your brake calipers to clamp the brake pads down onto the rotors. Thus, rubbing the pads against the rotors creates friction. All that friction and heat is what eventually slows down and stops your car, by constantly contacting the brake pads against the brake rotors.

How Much Are Rotors

When it comes to replacing your brake rotors, the final tally will vary depending on several key factors. There’s the size of the rotors, what material it’s made of, where you intend on installing it (front or rear), as well as the design or type of rotor, among many others. For example, you can expect that performance-oriented or large brake rotors will cost you more compared to a more common set. Meanwhile, front brake rotors tend to be more expensive to replace than rear brake rotors, as it takes most of the brunt when trying to slow down your car. In general, though, brake rotors should cost you between $150 to $300 to replace (per axle, for a pair of them at a time).

How To Tell If Rotor Is Bad

There are numerous ways to tell that your brake rotors are bad and in need of replacement. Most of them should be immediately noticeable as you’re driving along, even without using the brakes themselves. For instance, you’ll notice odd vibrations or pulsations in the steering wheel and brake pedals. In addition, peculiar noises (such as screeching) as well as grinding sensations as you press the brake pedals. Looking at the rotors themselves, you might also spot deep grooves, score marks, cracks, corrosion, and some blue discoloration on them. Otherwise, you’ll experience longer stopping distances, inconsistent braking performance, and even a wobble as you’re driving around.

How Many Rotors Does A Car Have

Depending on what car you’re driving, it’s common these days to find cars fitted with 4 brake rotors (aka brake discs), one for each wheel, front and rear. This is especially so if you’re driving a luxury car, performance car, or heavy-duty vehicle, which would depend heavily on good and reliable braking performance. Although, it’s not necessarily the case with some cars, particularly more affordable and smaller passenger vehicles. These cars might feature 2 brake rotors for the front wheels and 2 brake drums for the rear wheels. This is partly to save costs and make these cars cheaper. But also, much of the braking work is done by the front wheels, which is why they’re using rotors.

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Tammie Houston September 7, 2021 - 4:49 am

I found this article really helpful in keeping my vehicle maintained. I got a second-hand car as a gift from my father and he said it may need some work, and in order for me to learn about how to maintain my own car he told me to do my own research. It’s good you mentioned that vibrations when braking could be a sign of a damaged rotor since I felt a similar sensation when taking my car out for a spin. I’ll have to take it to an auto parts shop to get the brake rotor replaced. I guess I could also ask them about other parts I may need fixed as well. I’m really excited that I finally got my first car, and I want to make sure I get it all the care it needs.

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Zack Norman October 21, 2022 - 3:49 pm

Thanks for the comment, Tammie Houston!

Wow, glad to hear your story, and congrats on getting your first car! Yeah, those brakes sound like they need a good service, and best wishes with getting the rest of the car back in good order!

Raphael Horneman November 25, 2021 - 10:03 am

Great! Thank you for this.

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Zack Norman October 21, 2022 - 3:47 pm

Thanks for the comment, Raphael Horneman!

Cheers, hope our guides here has been of some help 🙂

Jessa May 12, 2022 - 3:28 am

It’s only natural to want to make your car parts last longer. We all know how time-consuming and costly it is to replace them. Brake discs have an average lifespan of 80,000 to 120,000 kilometers. In light of this, I’ve compiled a list of tips to assist you extend the life of your brake discs. Follow the 3-second rule, drive with one foot at a time, have your brakes flushed on a regular basis, and control your speed. Car brake pads typically last between 25,000 and 65,000 kilometers. I urge that you follow these recommendations to extend the life of your brakes in order to get to the higher end of that spectrum.

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Zack Norman October 21, 2022 - 3:47 pm

Thanks for the comment, Jessa!

Great tips, would definitely recommend practicing these to help extend the lifespan of the brakes, by quite a while. I’ve known quite well just how costly even a simple brake service can be.


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