Should I Have My Rotors Resurfaced or Replaced? 

Normally, when car owners service their brake system, the most common form of maintenance is changing the brake pads. Changing brake pads on a vehicle is a relatively simple job and can be relatively inexpensive, depending on the vehicle. 

Most people with a basic knowledge of cars can change their own brake pads in a matter of a couple of hours or less. When vehicle owners regularly change their brake pads on time, maintain proper levels of brake fluid, and refrain from hard braking, there shouldn’t be any repairs on the brake system beyond the pads. 

However, failure to properly maintain your vehicle or engaging in reckless driving can lead to further complications that can cause you extra money. When your brake pads require replacement, they’ll typically give you signals alerting you to the fact they’ve been worn down considerably. 

When you allow worn-down brake pads to stay in operation for too long, the end result could be the need for resurfaced or replaced rotors. In this article, we’ll discuss what rotors are, additional reasons for their replacement, and whether you should have them resurfaced instead of replaced. 

What Are Rotors?

Brake rotors are the circular-shaped components that sit behind each wheel of your car. Four rotors are attached to every car, with two in the front and two in the back. 

Basically, the job of the rotors is to give your brake pads enough surface area to press onto and subsequently slow your vehicle down. When you use your foot to engage the brake pedal, the master cylinder is used to send a message to the calipers to squeeze.

The calipers are the components that the brake pads are attached to. When the calipers squeeze, they press the pads against the rotors, allowing your vehicle to slow down and stop. 

Depending on what type of vehicle you drive, there are different types of rotors for replacement. It’s important to know these types of rotors if you decide to resurface them, so you can notify the machine shop of the type of equipment that needs service. 

Types of Rotors

When you’re deciding on the appropriate course of action, it’s important to remember that not all vehicles require the same rotors. There are four major types of rotors in existence. If you choose to replace them, understanding the four types of rotors ensures you order the right equipment. 

Smooth and Blank

These are the most common types of rotors found on average vehicles and are highlighted by a blank surface across the whole face of the rotor. This form of rotor comes in a basic and standard style and is the best option for anyone who drives an everyday car. You might only consider an alternative when you own a standard vehicle if you drive more aggressively than normal.  

Drilled Rotors

Drilled rotors look exactly how they sound. There are holes strategically placed throughout the surface of the rotors that allow dust and heat to dissolve from the exterior of the components. When you live in a climate that gets a significant amount of rain, these rotors are great because they give you additional braking power. However, if you have a performance vehicle such as a sports car, this may not be the best rotor choice. 

Slotted Rotors

Instead of drilled holes, slotted rotors have slots all across their surface. This might be your best bet when you have a large pickup truck or bigger SUV. These can be especially helpful if you find yourself towing equipment often. The only negative characteristic about these particular rotors is the fact that they don’t last as long as the average rotor.

Combo Drilled and Slotted Rotors

These types of rotors are designed to meet the demands of sports cars and other high-performing vehicles. Normally any high-performing or upgraded car needs enhanced braking, especially since they commonly operate at higher speeds. These holes and slots are present to act as escape routes for heat and water. However, much like the previous selection, these rotors can have a substantially lower amount of life. 

Now that you’re aware of the different types of rotors, it would help if you knew exactly when the replace these components. Earlier, we mentioned that waiting too long to replace brake pads can lead to rotor damage. 

While this is true, it’s not the only reason why. The following section contains the most common reasons for having to replace or resurface your rotors. 

When Do You Need to Service Your Rotors? 

Although rotors typically last longer than brake pads, they still wear down over time. The following elements will have a significant impact on the lifespan of your rotors:

  • The quality and level of strength of the previous rotors will make a huge difference. You get what you pay for, and sometimes the cheapest isn’t always the best. 
  • The way your current rotors disperse heat will play a critical role in their lifespan. 
  • Keep in mind that the type of brake pad you use with your rotors plays a significantly large part as well.
  • The daily conditions you drive your vehicle in will make a difference as well. City and highway miles seem to have the most impact.
  • The climate you live in will also play a deciding role. If you commonly experience salty road conditions because of snow preparations, this can wreak havoc on your rotors. 
  • Finally, the aggression you show while driving can have an impact. If you frequently slam on your brakes, you’ll find yourself dealing with the rotors more frequently. 

As a general rule, your rotors should extend for a lifespan of four to five brake pad changes. However, if you have a newer vehicle, your rotors may wear out much quicker than older styles. 

If you have a vehicle that was manufactured in 2015 or later, it may be a good idea to change the rotors each time you change the brake pads. It’s important to note that rotors last no specific length of time, and the external elements mentioned above will ultimately decide this. 

Because of this, it’s important to be aware of the signs that could indicate you need to replace or resurface your rotors: 

  • When you hear a loud, grounding noise coming from your wheel well
  • If your vehicle jerks or shakes when you press on your brakes
  • Using your hand, slide your fingers across the surface of your rotors. If you feel grooves throughout the surface, it’s time to service the rotors. 
  • When you can clearly see rust on the outside surface of your rotors, you may want to consider a replacement. 
  • If you noticed your brakes aren’t performing as efficiently as they used to, you might want to perform further inspections

If you experience other issues besides these, it may indicate a problem that lies elsewhere besides the rotors. Brake lights flashing on the dashboard combined with decreased brake performance could mean a more significant problem elsewhere.

Otherwise, if you’re experiencing any of the situations mentioned above, you can probably bet that it’s time to service your rotors. When this time comes, you’ll have two options: resurfacing your rotors or replacing your rotors. 

Let’s take a look at the differences between the two types of service and which one could be the most appropriate for you. 

What Is Rotor Resurfacing? 

When you have your rotors resurfaced, a machine shop removes a small portion of the surface of your rotors. This is accomplished by using a brake lathe, which grinds the small portion from the face of the rotors. 

If you end up resurfacing your rotors, you end up accomplishing several important tasks. First, you remove a lot of the corrosion and thick deposits of brake pad dust that covers the outer layer of your rotors. 

This ends up leaving you with a much smoother surface and eliminates any inconsistencies or uneven sections that lead to more vibration as time goes on. However, you should be aware of the fact that taking your rotors to a machine shop will not always eliminate all of the grooves and uneven surfaces. 

When you have hard spots on the surface of your rotors that come in the cast, these spots go far beyond the surface and extend deep within the interior of these components.

It’s possible that resurfacing will temporarily eliminate them, but they return almost 100% of the time as time goes on. 

If you find yourself in a situation where you’re dealing with hard spots, the best course of action is probably to purchase a new brake rotor. 

It’s important to understand that you can’t always resurface your rotors. When are the best times to accomplish this task? 

When Can Rotors Be Resurfaced?

The most important thing to consider when your rotors need servicing is the thickness of your current set. When you want to have these components resurfaced, there must be a certain depth present for them to qualify for resurfacing. 

Your vehicle’s manufacturer decides the minimum thickness that safely allows the rotors to be resurfaced. When a rotor fails to meet the required thickness, it’s not a good idea to have them resurfaced. 

If you move forward with having them serviced, they will become too thin, making them incredibly unsafe and prone to warping. Additionally, if the rotor is already warped or cracked, you won’t be able to have them resurfaced. 

In fact, if there is any type of damage at all on the surface of your rotors, you must purchase new ones for installation. You won’t always have to have the rotors resurfaced when you install new brake pads. However, when you do, you’ll be sure that your new pads have a completely flat and smooth surface to grip when after the installation. 

Now, let’s examine situations when you must purchase replacement rotors instead of resurfacing them. 

When Should I Replace My Rotors? 

Many manufacturers claim that rotors are designed to go for about 75,000 miles. However, it’s very common to experience a much longer lifespans than this. The lifespan is actually more dependent on the elements we discussed earlier in the article. 

Honestly, driving style and the types of brake pads used probably have the most influence on the longevity of your rotors. Whenever your current rotors are cracked or damaged, you’ll need to purchase a new set. 

Additionally, you may also purchase single rotors in the event only one, or certain ones, need to be replaced. However, the damage that is done to them typically occurs equally on the right side as the left, so you’ll often have to purchase these components in pairs. 

If you want to be safe, even when one rotor is in better shape than the other, you should still purchase the pair. This may seem like a waste of money, but it will end up saving you in the future. 

When you install rotors that aren’t evenly worn, you take the chance of wearing one side down even faster than before. Your vehicle can potentially pull to one side when the rotors aren’t typically worn evenly. 

How Do I Know the Best Option for Me? 

So what’s the best way to make your final decision? Should you replace or resurface your rotors? 

You should remember the following points: 

  • When you replace the rotors, you simply remove the old ones and install the new ones. 
  • Because of this, it’s important to be aware of the signs that could indicate you need to replace or resurface your rotors: 

    • When you hear a loud, grounding noise coming from your wheel well
    • If your vehicle jerks or shakes when you press on your brakes
    • Using your hand, slide your fingers across the surface of your rotors. If you feel grooves throughout the surface, it’s time to service the rotors. 
    • When you can clearly see rust on the outside surface of your rotors, you may want to consider a replacement. 
    • If you noticed your brakes aren’t performing as efficiently as they used to, you might want to perform further inspections

    If you experience other issues besides these, it may indicate a problem that lies elsewhere besides the rotors. Brake lights flashing on the dashboard combined with decreased brake performance could mean a more significant problem elsewhere.

    Otherwise, if you’re experiencing any of the situations mentioned above, you can probably bet that it’s time to service your rotors. When this time comes, you’ll have two options: resurfacing your rotors or replacing your rotors. 

    Let’s take a look at the differences between the two types of service and which one could be the most appropriate for you. 

    What Is Rotor Resurfacing? 

    When you have your rotors resurfaced, a machine shop removes a small portion of the surface of your rotors. This is accomplished by using a brake lathe, which grinds the small portion from the face of the rotors. 

    If you end up resurfacing your rotors, you end up accomplishing several important tasks. First, you remove a lot of the corrosion and thick deposits of brake pad dust that covers the outer layer of your rotors. 

    This ends up leaving you with a much smoother surface and eliminates any inconsistencies or uneven sections that lead to more vibration as time goes on. However, you should be aware of the fact that taking your rotors to a machine shop will not always eliminate all of the grooves and uneven surfaces. 

    When you have hard spots on the surface of your rotors that come in the cast, these spots go far beyond the surface and extend deep within the interior of these components.

    It’s possible that resurfacing will temporarily eliminate them, but they return almost 100% of the time as time goes on. 

    If you find yourself in a situation where you’re dealing with hard spots, the best course of action is probably to purchase a new brake rotor. 

    It’s important to understand that you can’t always resurface your rotors. When are the best times to accomplish this task? 

    When Can Rotors Be Resurfaced?

    The most important thing to consider when your rotors need servicing is the thickness of your current set. When you want to have these components resurfaced, there must be a certain depth present for them to qualify for resurfacing. 

    Your vehicle’s manufacturer decides the minimum thickness that safely allows the rotors to be resurfaced. When a rotor fails to meet the required thickness, it’s not a good idea to have them resurfaced. 

    If you move forward with having them serviced, they will become too thin, making them incredibly unsafe and prone to warping. Additionally, if the rotor is already warped or cracked, you won’t be able to have them resurfaced. 

    In fact, if there is any type of damage at all on the surface of your rotors, you must purchase new ones for installation. You won’t always have to have the rotors resurfaced when you install new brake pads. However, when you do, you’ll be sure that your new pads have a completely flat and smooth surface to grip when after the installation. 

    Now, let’s examine situations when you must purchase replacement rotors instead of resurfacing them. 

    When Should I Replace My Rotors? 

    Many manufacturers claim that rotors are designed to go for about 75,000 miles. However, it’s very common to experience a much longer lifespans than this. The lifespan is actually more dependent on the elements we discussed earlier in the article. 

    Honestly, driving style and the types of brake pads used probably have the most influence on the longevity of your rotors. Whenever your current rotors are cracked or damaged, you’ll need to purchase a new set. 

    Additionally, you may also purchase single rotors in the event only one, or certain ones, need to be replaced. However, the damage that is done to them typically occurs equally on the right side as the left, so you’ll often have to purchase these components in pairs. 

    If you want to be safe, even when one rotor is in better shape than the other, you should still purchase the pair. This may seem like a waste of money, but it will end up saving you in the future. 

    When you install rotors that aren’t evenly worn, you take the chance of wearing one side down even faster than before. Your vehicle can potentially pull to one side when the rotors aren’t typically worn evenly. 

    How Do I Know the Best Option for Me? 

    So what’s the best way to make your final decision? Should you replace or resurface your rotors? 

    You should remember the following points: 

    • When you replace the rotors, you simply remove the old ones and install the new ones. 
    • When you resurface them, you must remove the old rotor(s), find a machine shop, take them there for servicing, then drive back to your home or the shop your vehicle is at and have them reinstalled. It’s rare that auto shops have the capabilities to machine rotors on their own. 

    It’s also important to remember that older cars have rotors that were designed to last much longer. Newer vehicles will require the rotors to be replaced more frequently. 

    In most cases, replacing the rotors may be the better option. This is especially true when you consider the fact that having rotors resurfaced can sometimes be just as expensive as a new rotor anyway. 

    Once you factor in the time it takes to have them machined, combined with the price, you’re basically making the same investment as you would by simply purchasing a new piece of equipment. 

    It’s much easier to get the new part and have them installed on the spot. The faster you can have the job done and over with, the faster you can get back on the road and continue without the hassle of repairs. 

    Resources

    https://nubrakes.com/blog/what-are-brake-rotors-and-how-do-they-work/

    https://www.columbiatireauto.com/Blog/ID/240/Should-I-Have-My-Brake-Rotors-Resurfaced-or-Replaced

Written by Strut Daddy's

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