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Brakes: Turning the Rotors

Answers by Rich Merritt

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Q.>>>: My rotors are shot...  If I am going 80MPH+ and use the brakes hard, my car shakes like hell.  How hard is it to turn the rotors?  How much should I expect to pay to have this done by a garage?  Or are used / replacements a better way to go?
---Steve Petry

A.>>>: Most brake shops will inspect brakes for free.  They will lie to you of course, but you get a chance to look in there to see if you have any problems.

Check to see if you have any pad left.  If you are down to the metal, there's your problem.  Replace the pads and turn the rotors.  Brake shops should do this for about $100-$150 (not at a dealer, of course) for both sides.  Stock replacement pads are about $65 a set, (I think), plus an hour's labor ($35-65) plus turning rotors ($10 each), so that's about $150 tops.  Watch to make sure that they DO NOT use an impact wrench to tighten your lug nuts -- that can warp the rotor. Insist they use a manual torque wrench.  A dealer will charge you $300 or more to do all this.

If you know what you are doing, you can change pads in 10 minutes per side, so don't let them give you a bunch of crap about how long it takes.  Presumably, a brake shop knows what it is doing.

As for the rotor, you can take it off yourself easy as pie.  Just jack up the car, remove the front wheels, reach around behind the caliper and take out the two big bolts holding the caliper on, and the caliper slides right off.  Lay it on a bucket or cement block so you don't stretch the brake hoses.  Grab the rotor and pull it straight off.  You may have to whack it with a rubber hammer to break it loose from the rust and corruption, but it should come right off.  Take the rotors to a brake shop to get them turned.  My shop charges me $5 each, but others should do it for $10 or so per rotor.  If the shop says you are worn down past the recommended thickness, then order a set of new rotors (I prefer Porterfield cryogenically treated stock rotors, available for $150 each less our 20% club discount).  Install a new set of pads (Porterfield R4S is good) and you are back in business.

Our brakes are the worst part of our magnificent cars, but they are very easy to work on.  ---Rich Merritt

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