Do You Have to Replace Rotors When Replacing Brake Pads?
Deciding what type of brake service your car needs can be overwhelming.
Do you have to change your rotors when you change the brake pads? What’s the difference between resurfacing and replacing your rotors? Do you have to get both axles done at the same time? Why can’t you go just a little bit longer before getting the brakes replaced?
The main thing to keep in mind is safety. If you can’t stop or slow down when you need to, you put yourself and others at severe risk. For that reason, you should never put off brake system repairs and replacements.
When Do I Need New Brakes?
For some car maintenance items, like oil changes and tire rotations, figuring out how often to come in for service is easy. But with brake repair, there is no common mileage for service.
Two of the most common signs that your vehicle needs brake work are squealing noises and a vibrating steering wheel. Other signs to look out for are grinding sounds, a spongy brake pedal, pulling to one side when braking and longer stopping distances.
Once you know your brakes need attention, it’s time to get a brake inspection and figure out which brake parts need to be replaced.
Types of Brake Service
For most brake systems, there are three main brake replacement options. We’ll walk you through the differences between the three and why you would choose one over another.
Often when customers are comparing brake pricing and services, they’ll come across an ad for a brake service that’s extremely cheap. Although this might seem like a lucky find, take caution. This may indicate that the auto repair shop is doing what the automotive industry calls “pad slaps.” A pad slap is not a complete brake job and certainly not a long-term solution.
This service is a brake job where you just “slap” on new brake pads and reuse the old brake hardware and brake rotors (brake discs). A stand-alone brake pad replacement like this is the bare minimum brake service available.
Brake pads and rotors work together to stop your vehicle. Over time, the rotors develop a “glaze,” or hardened surface, and unique wear patterns, so if you are facing vibrations while braking new pads may not be shaped to fit the old rotors, which will send you back to the shop with brake noises, vibrations, and premature wear on your new pads.
The middle-of-the-road brake replacement option is replacing the brake pads and resurfacing the brake rotors.
Resurfacing (also called “turning “or “machining”) your rotors means taking a thin, microscopic layer off of the front and rear face of the rotors. This way, you get a nice, smooth surface for the brake pads to press against.
Resurfacing removes any grooves, pits, or hotspots that could cause problems. It also allows the new brake pads to wear evenly and optimally.
Keep in mind, however, that resurfacing decreases the thickness of the rotors. And the thinner the rotor is, the faster it heats up and wears down. Rotors can usually only be resurfaced once, if at all, before they must be replaced.
Ultimately, resurfacing rotors when you install new brake pads is a middle price point and a good compromise if you don’t want to spend more money on new rotors.
The most complete brake service includes fully replacing brake pads and rotors, which gives you better stopping power and more fade resistance.
Like brake pads, brake rotors wear out over time. Brake rotors must meet a certain thickness requirement to be considered safe. If they are thinner than the manufacturer’s recommended thickness, then you need to replace your brake rotors immediately.
Some vehicles always require new pads and rotors because the rotors cannot be resurfaced. In fact, 99% of German cars are this way. Their rotors are made from a softer metal, so by the time their pads wear down, the rotors are already below what we call the “discard thickness.” This means that the rotor has already reached the minimum acceptable thickness and must be fully replaced.
However, if you’re on a tight budget, as long as your brake rotors are above the minimum recommended level and the vehicle manufacturer does not require that the rotors be replaced when new brake pads are installed, resurfacing the rotors might be an acceptable approach.
But for optimum brake performance and safety, always choose to replace your brake rotors when replacing your brake pads.
BRAKE FLUID TEST
While your at it let us test your brake fluid boiling point to properly determine and make sure it is actually time to replace it. Benefits of replacing your brake fluid: