How to Resurface Brake Rotors

by William Zane
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The brake rotors on a car are a very important part of its safety and performance. The rotor (or brake disc) is the disc-shaped component that the brake pads and the caliper clamp onto when the brakes are applied, which in turn slows the vehicle. Eventually, rotors begin to wear down and can become scored by the brake pads. At this point the rotors need to be replaced or turned by a machine shop, which is the process of machining material off the rotor so that it is flat and smooth again.

Step 1

Use a lug wrench to loosen the lug bolts that hold the wheels onto the vehicle. Lift the vehicle with a floor jack and lower it onto a jack stand or jack stands at the corner where you will be removing the rotor or rotors. Remove the wheels and set them out of the way.

Step 2

Spray brake cleaner on the brake components (rotor, caliper and nearby parts) and wipe everything down with a clean rag. Locate the two large caliper bolts that hold the caliper to the suspension or to the caliper bracket. These bolts will face the wheel arch and will be located on the top and bottom of the caliper. Remove the bolts with the properly sized socket and ratchet.

Step 3

Slide the caliper off the rotor. You may need to apply some leverage to the caliper by rocking it sideways to press the caliper piston in enough to be able to slide the caliper over the rotor. Tie the caliper to a nearby suspension component with a piece of wire or support it in some way so that it does not drag on the soft brake line and damage it.

Step 4

Remove the caliper bracket if your car uses one. Not all vehicles use a caliper bracket to support the caliper. If there is a caliper bracket, the bolts are located on the top and bottom of the bracket. Set the bolts and bracket aside.

Step 5

Remove the set screw that holds the brake rotor in place if your car uses one, though not all vehicles use a set screw for the rotor. The set screw will be removed with a Phillips, flat-head or Allen bit. Pull the rotor straight off of the hub. You may need to tap the rotor from behind with a rubber mallet to free it from the hub.

Step 6

Take the brake rotor to a local machine shop to have it turned. Rotors cannot be turned by an amateur, since the process requires special equipment and special skills to be done properly. The machine shop will be able to look up the minimum thickness of your brake rotor to determine if it is still usable. As of 2010, the cost to turn a rotor was anywhere from $10 to $30.

Step 7

Reinstall the rotor in the reverse of removal once it has been turned by the machine shop. Reinstall the set screw and the caliper bracket if applicable. Slide the caliper over the rotor and tighten the bolts. Replace the wheels and lower the vehicle off of the jack stands onto the ground.

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