Brake Rotor And Drum Resurfacing

Brake pads, brake rotors, master cylinders, hydraulic hoses, and brake fluid are all standard components in modern automotive braking systems. When it comes to replacing brake components on your vehicle, knowing what a brake rotor is and how it interacts with the other components in the system is critical.

What Are Brake Rotors?

A brake rotor is a spherical metallic component with a machined surface attached to the vehicle’s wheel hub. If you’ve ever seen a shining metal disc through the spokes of your wheel, that’s your brake rotor. They’re virtually usually found on the front axle of modern automobiles, and they’re becoming more common on the rear axle.

During operation, a brake caliper presses brake pads with friction material against the brake rotor with hydraulic pressure created by the master cylinder and supplied to the caliper via rubber hoses and metal lines. Heat is generated as the brake pad rubs against the rotor. The brake rotor absorbs and then dissipates this heat energy. This happens every time you apply the brakes to your car to slow or stop it.

When you use your vehicle’s brakes, the brake rotor’s purpose is to absorb and dissipate heat energy.

What Is A Brake Rotor and Drum Resurfacing?

Drums or metal brake rotors that apply the braking force are durable, but they are not indestructible. Repeated usage of your brakes causes the rotors or drums to become deformed or pitted. Extreme heat and driving with worn brake pads are very hard on rotors and drums, causing them to wear unevenly.

These sorts of damage can reduce the amount of friction your brakes can deliver to your wheels, lowering their efficacy. Your drums or rotors will eventually deteriorate to the point where they must be replaced. If your drums or brake rotors are relatively fresh, brake experts may be able to resurface them and extend the life of your brakes.

A technician will remove a thin layer of metal from the run-down surface of your drum or brake rotors to resurface them. Removing this surface layer reveals the smooth, undamaged metal beneath, thereby generating an entirely new drum or rotor surface with similar braking power to a new, undamaged drum or rotor.

Resurfacing is usually far less expensive than replacing brake rotors or drums, and it may be done much faster by brake service professionals.

Signs That You Need A Drum Resurface

If you detect any changes in your car’s braking behavior, you should obviously take it in to have its brakes adequately evaluated. However, there are a few telltale symptoms that your brake rotors or drums need to be resurfaced or replaced:

  • When you engage the brakes, the steering wheel or brake pedal vibrates.
  • Your brakes are making strange squeaking, grinding noises.
  • Braking force that isn’t consistent

If you detect any of these issues when applying the brakes on your automobile, seek professional mechanical assistance as soon as possible, as these symptoms could suggest other, possibly deadly, problems with your vehicle.

When Is A Drum Resurfacing Not An Option?

Drum resurfacing can restore a worn brake rotor or drum to its original condition. However, removing the damaged metal surface layer causes the rotor or drum to become thinner, making it more fragile and weaker overall.

If your brake rotors or drums are somewhat new, have not sustained pervasive damage, and have not been previously resurfaced, rotor or drum resurfacing is usually a good option that will not reduce the effectiveness or safety of your brakes.

However, if your brakes have previously been resurfaced, or the damage and corrosion extend too far into the body of the rotor or drum, it may be impossible to resurface your brakes safely without removing too much metal. 

In these cases, you should have your damaged rotors or drums professionally replaced as soon as possible.

How Often Do You Need A Rotor Or Drum Replacement?

That entirely depends on whether you have a four-wheel drum or a disc drum combo. If you have four-wheel drums, I recommend having them serviced (clean and function checked) every 30 to 40 thousand miles and replaced as needed. This is also an excellent time for a brake fluid flush.

How Much Does It Cost?

When replacing brake rotors as part of a routine brake job on a vehicle, the automotive technician should expect to spend one and a half to two hours each axle on the work. Brake rotors range in price from $25 for a generic brand brake rotor to several hundred dollars for a luxury brake rotor made with sophisticated metallurgical compounds; each vehicle manufacturer employs somewhat different brake rotors, but this is a typical price range.