Brake pads and rotors

Why is it that whenever you get new brake pads, they want to resurface the rotors (turn the rotors)?

Now, brake pads are much cheaper than rotors. And after several times of resurfacing a rotor, you need to replace the rotor.

Why not just leave the rotor alone, even if it cuts down a bit on the life of the pads? Wouldn’t this save you money in the long run if you then extend the life of the rotors?

(Now, the cynic in me says that the brake/auto shops are well aware of this, but mean to sell more pricey rotors this way.)

Background: my wife took our Nissan Pathfinder in to the dealer for a free inspection. Among the many problems they discovered, they want $285 for a front brake job (replace pads and turn rotors). This seems a bit high, so I’m going to take it over to Midas for the brake work.

This is a matter of standard practice for a lot of brake places. Generally, rotors will warp. Most people won’t do anything about it until it’s time to replace the brake pads. If you are feeling pulsing in the brake pedal (during light braking) or shaking of the steering wheel (during heavy braking), then most likely they need turned.

The shaking is hard on the car if you let the problem gets bad.

Essentially heat will cause the rotors to expand and contract and they will not do so evenly, and they will warp. This is more common on the smaller cars that have smaller rotors, because they don’t dissepate (sp) heat as well, so they get too hot.

Oh, and $285 for a complete brake job seems like they’re taking you for a ride. For about $50 I can replace rotors and brake pads on my wife’s car. Add in a rear drum rebuild kit and it’s less than $100 to do all 4 wheels. A lot of places will do it for around $100 - $120 for all 4 wheels. Of course they don’t replace the rotors, only turn them. The dealer seems like they’re taking you for a ride. Keep in mind, these places charge labor and parts separately, where Midas charges for the job, regardless of time it takes. Then again, Midas doesn’t have to get their mechanics certified for every part under your hood either.

Dilbert is on track. Another reason though is that using new pads on a “worn” rotor will significantly shorten the life of the pads.

That being said, whenever I did my own brakes and the rotors weren’t warped, I’d just replace the pads as long as the old pads weren’t that worn.

Another thing to consider is “What are they charging me to turn/resurface my old rotors?” The reason is that new rotors for some common vehicles (I don’t know about your Nissan) can be almost the same cost as just resurfacing your old ones.

Just to clarify. I meant as long as the old pads weren’t worn so badly that it was just the steel backing of the old pad on the rotor. I would in that case replace the whole rotor.

Over the past 18 years I have done perhaps 30 brake jobs on cars belonging to me (1980’s era Mustangs), wife, friends, etc. Never once did I turn a rotor or drum. If the rotor or drum had grooves in it, or if I thought a rotor or drum was warped, I would simply replace it. The reason was simple: Why turn a rotor or drum when I can get a brand spank’n new one for less than $40?

It is also my opinion that “professional brake jobs” are the biggest rip off in the auto industry. I have heard of people paying $900 to get their brakes done. $900! That’s a crime, especially due to the fact that, with just a little bit of know how and a few tools, brake jobs are a piece of cake. Even on newer cars w/ ABS.

midas is able to give you a lifetime warranty on thier brake jobs because they charge you about 4 times what the job is worth (in my experiance)the first time! rotors are not too much money, i have found, even for foreign exotics, and many times do not need to be messed with at all if you check the pads before they go metal to metal, as stated above. the last brake job i did, i spent about $120 in parts (4 new rotors, 4 sets of pads) and 3-4 hours labor (mine, free!) on a job i got a $480 quote from Midas. the brake job on my old ford ran $40 for shoes. Midas wanted $250 (that’s about $199 more than the truck was worth at that time).

pull out the shop manual, do it yourself and save a ton!

A lot of auto parts stores will turn your rotors for free when you purchase brake pads from them.

Also, if you’ve never done your brakes before, here’s a bit of advice. Always do a total job on one side before tearing apart the other side. That way, you can copy off the other side and see how it all goes back together.

To throw another data point out there on Infidel’s post, a couple years ago I had Pep Boys turn my rotors for just $5 a piece. This should NOT be an expensive part of the whole job.

Price depends greatly on where you take your car.

A few years back, I took my car to Montgomery Wards for a brake job. It was very cheap, but it was a false economy. I got only 1/2 mile down the road before my wheel decided to come off.

When I calmed down enough to talk to the shop foreman, he lamented the fact that Montgomery Wards couldn’t keep any good mechanics, because as soon as a mechanic became proficient, he’d leave in search of a better-paying venue.

On a Pathfinder, $285 is not outrageous, BTW.

A lot of repair shops overservice ie. perform repairs that don’t really need doing. It’s not true in every case or every workshop but it does happen. Problem is usually compounded if you’re a female.
As for the cost, genuine Nissan (or Ford or Mitsubishi or…) usually cost a lot more than an equivalent aftermarket part.
Cheapest is not always best, I got burned the other day by buying a non-genuine muffler for my Ford. Price was less than half of what the Ford dealer wanted to charge so I bought the cheapie and took it to my mechanic to get it fitted. The mechanic rang back later to say it would need some modification to make it fit properly. Cost an extra $40 and the bloody thing still rattles. It’s just the way it is. The part was probably made in some Asian automotive sweat shop for $2. It’s on the car now so I can’t take it back.

Where I work, turning a rotor costs $8.80, a drum $4.40.
You use two cutting bits for a rotor, only one for a drum.
Almost every time a rotor is brought in to be re-surfaced, I will “mike” it to check the thickness. Some times the wear is ** so ** bad that I can tell it will fail before I check it out.

I will be one to admit that most, not all aftermarket parts are less expensive than OEM. It truly does pay/save to call and check pricing. Please check apples to apples. Name brand parts to “white box” or generic is not fair.

You people knew that already.

Ach! I’ll never use non-Genuine parts again. When I had my last Pontiac, I took it to Pep Boys, and specifically asked for their “premium” brakes for my front brakes. I specifically asked them to replace both rotors, too, since they were warped (don’t let your rotors get warped in the first place, because turning is only temporary-once warped, they’ll warp FAST next time). The whole job was exceptionally reasonably priced – $200.

But, the brake pads were the dirtiest, nastiest, things I’ve ever seen. I couldn’t keep the rims clean for more than a couple of days. I’d NEVER had that problem with genuine GM parts before.

In the future, I will definitely keep buying Ford and GM parts (but never Chryslers parts, 'cos why the hell would anyone buy a Chrysler? :slight_smile: ).

That is not a very wise blanket decision since many of the “aftermarket” makers of parts you can buy at the parts store are under contract to make the OEM parts as well.

Now, the trick is finding out which aftermarket mfg makes what for which OEM.

It is almost impossible to know the quality of aftermarket parts. Some aftermarket parts are as good or better than the OEM, however, some are grossly inferior. In particular, braKe rorors made in China (like Pep Boys) are usually not a good idea. They will warp easily, and even FRACTURE! (this results in total loss of braking on that wheel). My advice is to buy the most expensive parts for your brake job-you can nickel and dime on floor mats, but where your life is concerned DON’T buy cheap!

The same thing happened to my brother many years ago when he was in the Navy and took his 1972 Mustang to Monkey Wards as I call them. After that Monkey Wards was avoided even if they were giving stuff away.

Thanks for the replies so far!

So in my situation, as I mentioned, the Nissan dealer wanted $285 for a front brake job. They said that the rotors needed to be turned because they were warped. However, we haven’t had any symptoms of warped rotors (no shaking or vibration when braking).

I then took my wife’s car to Midas. They replaced the front brake pads for $130. (This included a $10 coupon we had.) They said the rotors were fine and did not need to be turned. :slight_smile:

Midas does give free lifetime replacement of brake pads, but you pay for the labor each time.

Finally, I have replaced brake pads and rotors myself in the past. It’s not too bad of a job, but I simply don’t have the time right now.