When To Resurface And When To Replace Brake Rotors

When your rotors go bad, you have two options:

  1. Resurface your rotors
  2. Replace your rotors

Which option is right in your situation? We’ll help you figure out what to do.

What Does It Mean To Resurface Your Rotors?

Rotor resurface
Image Credit: FloweringElbow

Resurfacing your rotors is the practice of using a brake lathe to shave off a small layer of the rotor’s surface. This is to:

  • Smooth out the rotor surface
  • Remove any corrosion
  • Remove any grooves or gouges
  • Remove any uneven deposits

A brake lathe spins the rotor as it machines a thin layer off the rotor surface. The machine does this until the rotor surface is smooth again. Resurfacing your rotors makes sense on paper because you wouldn’t have to splurge on a new set of rotors. Yet, it’s not always that simple. Resurfacing your rotors may be a good solution in some cases. In other cases, it makes more sense to replace your rotors. Read on to find out why.

Do Brake Rotors Wear Out?

thinned rotor

Rotors last between 30,000 and 70,000 miles. A common misconception is that rotors wear out. That’s not exactly true. Rotors do fail after some time, but it’s not due to simple wear and tear. Rotors get damaged from irregular wear. They start to warp, and that affects your vehicle’s stopping power. Why do brake rotors wear unevenly? Here are the most common ways a rotor can get damaged:

  • A rotor can get scored from metal-to-metal contact (from worn brake pads, for example)
  • A rotor can overheat and distort (which is rare, unless you’re racing)
  • A rotor can get covered in deposits that are often impossible to remove (for example, brake pad material can melt onto the rotor and form a tough compound)

Before replacing or resurfacing your rotor, make sure that the other brake parts are in good shape. If you don’t fix the issue(s) that caused your rotors to wear unevenly. your new or resurfaced rotors will end up damaged too.

So Why Would You Resurface A Rotor?

Rotor resurfacing
Image Credit: FloweringElbow

This is where resurfacing a rotor can be of real value:

  • The rotor is still thick enough to undergo resurfacing
  • The rotor doesn’t have more extreme damage, such as gouges from worn out brake pads

Resurfacing restores smoothness to the surface of the rotor, which helps improve braking performance to like new. Sometimes resurfacing a rotor doesn’t make sense if the rotor is too old. It makes the most sense when the rotor is still relatively new.

It’s important to know that resurfacing does not restore the structural integrity of the rotor. It will not fix any safety-related issues associated with warping. It is just a process that smooths out the surface of the rotor.

When It’s Better To Replace Your Brake Rotors

Resurfacing your rotors isn’t always a good idea. It’s a good solution only if:

  • Your rotors are still relatively new
  • Your rotors have light wear (no deep scratches, for example)

If your rotors have more noticeable damage, replace them. The cost of resurfacing vs replacement may also affect your decision. If you’re having a shop do the work, it’s almost always cheaper to have the rotors resurfaced. If you can replace the rotors yourself, many times the job will cost less than resurfacing.

When you decide to replace your rotors, it’s important to order high quality replacement rotors. Low quality rotors wear down much more quickly than high quality rotors do. A warped rotor will not act as efficiently in stopping your vehicle. If you want your rotors to last a long time, get high quality ones.

If you’re looking for a set of high quality replacement rotors, check out our selection of brake rotors. We only carry the most reputable brands on the market. Please contact us if you need help finding the right kind of brake rotors for your vehicle.