Processing or Turning Brake Rotors: Car Maintenance and Repair

Learn How To Turn Disc Brake Rotors and Save Money on Auto Repairs

Turn a brake rotor

Brake rotors are a very important part of your car. These are the parts that brake pads grab onto, stopping or slowing your car. After prolonged use, they can become warped, glazed, or damaged and can be restored by processing (or turning) them. A warped rotor will give the feeling of shuddering when the brake is applied, and can be so bad that the steering wheel can sometimes shake. Brake problems are obviously not something to be ignored.

Processing brake rotors involves removing the rotor from your car (covered below) and then having a machine shop, automotive repair center, or even an automotive parts store spin them on a lathe and slowly grind down the surfaces until they are clean, level, and proper. Typical rates for having the rotors turned can be as low as $10.00 per rotor. This article will save you lots of money since you won't have to have a mechanic remove the rotors for you. Once you learn how to process (or turn) a brake rotor, you will more thoroughly understand when the rotors need to have grinding done by a mechanic.

Many types of car maintenance and car repair can be done yourself if you have good resources and the time to do it.

To process your disc brake rotors:

  1. Prepare the car. In order to remove the rotorMan fixing brake rotor from the car, it must first be jacked up. Once the car is in a safe area, and two of the wheels are blocked off to prevent rolling, loosen the lugnuts (but don't remove) of the wheel that you will be working on.
  2. Jack up that particular wheel, and support the vehicle thoroughly with jackstands.
  3. Remove the lugnuts, and then the wheel. Now you can visibly see the rotor and caliper/brake pads.

    The rotor is the large disc-shaped object that sits around the axle. You will notice a device resting on it that looks like a clamp. This is called a caliper and squeezes your brake pads around the rotor when you press the brake pedal. It must be removed before the rotor can come off.

  4. Remove the caliper. Typical removal of the caliper involves one or two bolts that secure it to the axle. It will slide or lift off of the rotor, sometimes with some force if the brake pads have some pressure. Once the caliper is removed, the rotor will be ready for removal.
  5. Remove the rotor. The rotor is held on by the tire. It is basically squeezed onto the wheel hub between the tire and the back side of the hub. Some rotors have a screw in them known as a "locator" screw. These can sometimes be troublesome to remove and a blast of WD40 or something similar can ease the screw out. Once the rotor is free it will pull towards you. If there is a lot of rust or dirt, light taps with a rubber or wooden mallet can free the rotor up.
  6. Examine the rotor. Once you have removed the rotor, give a visual inspection for cracks or divots. If it looks fine, then its off to your local machine shop to have them resurface it.

Sometimes rotors either can be too warped, or have been resurfaced too many times. The material will get below a minimum thickness and the entire rotor will need to be replaced. If yours was fine and resurfaced without problems, then installation is simply the reverse of removal steps above.


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