Ideally, you should replace your brake rotors every time you replace your brake pads. This ensures that the new pads and rotors will be able to mate up flush to each other. As your break pads wear down, so do your rotors, and the groove that the old pads created in the rotors does not necessarily match up with where your new pads will sit. This can cause the pads to only make partial contact with the face of the brake rotors, especially if the new pads now rests on the edges of the grooves left by the old ones. Thus, to ensure that your vehicle has the best stopping power when you brake, you should replace your brake rotors whenever you get new pads.
Can I Just Get Them Resurfaced?
Yes, under certain conditions. You may be able to avoid problems with the way your pads mate up with your brake rotors by having your brake rotors resurfaced or “turned.” This is a service that mechanics perform with a special brake resurfacing machine. To resurface a brake rotor, a technician must mount it to a specialized grinding machine that will grind the uneven surface of an old brake rotor down until it is flat and smooth. The technicians at your nearest Blain’s Farm & Fleet Service Center would be happy to perform this service.
However, not all used brake rotors should be turned. When brake rotors are used, the metal slowly wears away and the disc becomes thinner and thinner. Turning a rotor grinds even more of the metal off in order to smooth out the face. So, if you grind a rotor that is worn too thin already, you will approach a dangerous level of wear. When brake rotors are worn completely out, the flat face that the brake pads mate up with give way to the ribs that hold the two halves of the rotor disc together. Braking with your brake rotors in this condition will destroy your brake pads very quickly. To avoid this, technicians measure the remaining thickness of the rotor to determine if it would be safe to resurface it. After measuring this, a mechanic may advise you to just replace your brake rotors instead of having him turn them.
Cost-efficiency is also an issue with turning brake rotors. Basic brake rotors now cost nearly the same amount that most garages charge for turning old ones, and replacing your brake rotors saves you the time of waiting for the machine to grind them smooth.
Maintaining Your Brake Rotors
A set of brake rotors can last between 25,000 and 50,000 miles, depending on your driving habits. To prolong the life of your brakes, allow your vehicle to coast and slow down naturally well before you reach stop signs and stop lights. Do not apply your brakes when driving downhill to stay below the speed limit. Allow your vehicle to coast instead. Apply your brakes gently and gradually when stopping. This will require you to begin applying them sooner. You should have your brakes inspected by a professional mechanic every 6,000-10,000 miles, or every time you get your tires rotated, to avoid any unexpected failures or problems.