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#1
Old 09-08-2014, 12:29 AM
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changing brake pads without turning rotors

Hello Everyone,

Our Mazda CX9 needs the front brake pads changed. I inspected them today and I have very little pass material left on the front brake. Changing the pads myself is not a problem, the only thing I'm unable to do is turn the rotors myself. Usually when I change pads I take the rotors off and bring them down to our local NAPA and they'll turn them for me.

I inspected the rotors and they appear to be in great condition. The only issue I detected was perhaps a slight glazing, but they are smooth as a baby's butt when I run my hands across them. So, is it acceptable to just replace the pads without turning the rotors? If so, then it's a quick job, I'll just need to remove the old pads, push back the pistons and drop new pads in. I shouldn't even need to bleed the lines (someone correct me is I'm wrong on this part).

Thanks in advance. The local repair shop wants 200 clams to replace the front pads. Granted, they'll turn the rotors for that price, but if I don't need to turn the rotors I can do it for well under a $100.
#2
Old 09-08-2014, 12:45 AM
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Absolutely acceptable and actually even recommended to leave the rotors be if they don't show problems (gouges, too thin, warped). There should be no need for bleeding.

It's best to use synthetic brake grease for where the pad backing plate meets any metal part.
#3
Old 09-08-2014, 12:47 AM
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If you don't machine your rotors, then your new pads will squeal. Even if your finger can't detect the grooves and waves on the rotor, rest assured that they are indeed there. Especially if your old pads are well worn down. Additionally, new pads on old rotors will wear both the pads and rotors rapidly.

I always recommend replacing rotors, rather than machining them. Removing metal reduces their thermal mass, thus increasing susceptibility to brake fade. Also, it's something you can do on your own, versus machining the old ones. You can probably get the parts for cheaper than a shop will charge you to turn the old ones.
#4
Old 09-08-2014, 01:04 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kazo View Post
If you don't machine your rotors, then your new pads will squeal. Even if your finger can't detect the grooves and waves on the rotor, rest assured that they are indeed there. Especially if your old pads are well worn down. Additionally, new pads on old rotors will wear both the pads and rotors rapidly.

I always recommend replacing rotors, rather than machining them. Removing metal reduces their thermal mass, thus increasing susceptibility to brake fade. Also, it's something you can do on your own, versus machining the old ones. You can probably get the parts for cheaper than a shop will charge you to turn the old ones.
YMMV, I guess. I've replaced pads without turning the rotors, without squealing, and without rapid wear.

Also, always replacing rotors seems a little extreme. As long as the rotors are within spec for thickness, they likely don't have to be replaced. Also, cost to replace is very dependent on the vehicle. On my Japanese cars, rotor costs weren't high, but on my German cars and motorcycles they $ure were expen$ive.

YMMV.
#5
Old 09-08-2014, 01:05 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kazo View Post
If you don't machine your rotors, then your new pads will squeal.
That was generally true 20+ years ago, and may still be true with cheap pads, but is not the case with modern high quality pads.

Quote:
Additionally, new pads on old rotors will wear both the pads and rotors rapidly.
Not in my experience. They may wear a little faster (a few percent) than with new rotors, but not rapidly -- unless you're using cheap pads or the wrong pads.
#6
Old 09-08-2014, 01:14 AM
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I've been doing my own brakes for 30 years and I have never once turned the rotors while changing pads.I don't use el-cheapo pads, and I have never ever had a problem with squealing or excessive wear.

I did replace one set of rotors but that was because the pads had worn down to metal on metal and had gouged the rotors.

Gary T would know better than I do, but I was under the impression that you really don't want to turn the rotors on a lot of newer cars. In an effort to reduce weight and cost they make them about as thin as possible and they often won't have enough material left after turning.
#7
Old 09-08-2014, 01:34 AM
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I as well have never turned rotors and was also recommended not to do so. Not because it wasn't necessary but that turning the rotors would typically render them past their spec and would then require replacing them.

A mechanic told me that it was a common ploy for the "brake shops" to say that the rotors were warped or some such, then suggest that they be turned, and then they'd come back and say that now the rotor was out of spec. So, after you spent all that money to have them turn them, now, you had to buy new rotors anyways.
#8
Old 09-08-2014, 02:11 AM
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When rotors become warped you can feel a pulsing at the brake pedal when braking. But is that always true, or only true when the warp is bad enough?
#9
Old 09-08-2014, 03:18 AM
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The car manufacturers were telling people to change the rotors when changing pads.. but its also known they had lots of inferior rotors out there... put there by the manufacturers.


The clue may be that the rotors put on the car by the manufacturer were inferior, so change them with the first set of pads .. so that the manufacturer doesn't pay for the problem, the consumer does.
#10
Old 09-08-2014, 10:10 AM
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Just an aside: Because of inexpensive imported Chinese auto parts I have not had a rotor or drum turned in a decade. They are always cheaper to buy new than get turned!
#11
Old 09-08-2014, 10:56 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hail Ants View Post
Just an aside: Because of inexpensive imported Chinese auto parts I have not had a rotor or drum turned in a decade. They are always cheaper to buy new than get turned!
I've had issues with the cheaper Chinese rotors warping. And I do tighten the lug nuts with a torque wrench using a 'star' pattern.

As the OP asked, sometimes I don't bother to turn the rotors if they are smooth.

If the rotors aren't very smooth, then I'll have them turned.

If they can no longer be turned, I'll go with the more expensive rotors with the hope that they are worth the extra cost.

Brakes and tires are two places where it doesn't pay to be cheap (unless you are selling off the vehicle shortly).
#12
Old 09-08-2014, 11:12 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bullitt View Post
As long as the rotors are within spec for thickness, they likely don't have to be replaced.
This. Do you have a micrometer?

Quote:
Originally Posted by electronbee View Post
A mechanic told me that it was a common ploy for the "brake shops" to say that the rotors were warped or some such, then suggest that they be turned, and then they'd come back and say that now the rotor was out of spec. So, after you spent all that money to have them turn them, now, you had to buy new rotors anyways.
Shops do not exist to rip people off. They reply on repeat business, so they want happy customers. They also do not do things that are illegal, and fraud is generally illegal. I worked in a shop that did brakes, and sometimes we would tell people the rotors needed replaced, because they couldn't be turned, and people would ask us to try turning them anyway, so we'd say that if they were out of spec, we would not put them back on the car, because it wouldn't be safe; they'd have to buy new rotors, and still pay for turning the old ones. Most people would just ask for new ones at that point, but some people would want to old ones turned anyway. When they got told the old ones were not out of spec, and they needed new ones, they would sometimes ACCUSE us of ripping them off, even though they'd agreed to all of it ahead of time.

For the OP: do what you feel comfortable with, but know that the safest thing is to turn the rotors, check the spec, and put them back on only if they are still in spec (if they are out of spec already, don't bother to turn them). If they are so warped it is visible, don't bother to turn them.
#13
Old 09-08-2014, 11:44 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Isilder View Post
The car manufacturers were telling people to change the rotors when changing pads.. but its also known they had lots of inferior rotors out there... put there by the manufacturers.
Have a cite for either of those contentions?
#14
Old 09-08-2014, 11:53 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RivkahChaya View Post
Shops do not exist to rip people off.
Most shops don't, but there are some that routinely oversell.

Quote:
For the OP: do what you feel comfortable with, but know that the safest thing is to turn the rotors, check the spec, and put them back on only if they are still in spec (if they are out of spec already, don't bother to turn them). If they are so warped it is visible, don't bother to turn them.
I think this is a bit misleading as worded. It's not any safer to turn rotors if they don't need to be turned due to gouges or warpage. It may even be less safe in that turned rotors are necessarily thinner than they were before, and the reduced metal mass can't dissipate heat as well. It is certainly true that if they are thinner than spec, or will be thinner than spec after turning to correct a problem, they should be replaced rather than reused.

Bottom line, if the old rotors are thick enough (measure with a micrometer, as mentioned), flat enough (no brake pedal pulsation), and smooth enough (no gouges deeper than 0.060"), it's generally better to use them as is than to turn them.
#15
Old 09-08-2014, 07:36 PM
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The only thing I have to add that hasn't already be said: I went to replace the fronts on an old Nissan truck (damn fine unit!) and called to get a estimate on turning rotors. $80!

New rotors, $20.
#16
Old 09-08-2014, 11:15 PM
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30 years ago, we replaced our pads, and never turned the rotors unless we wore right through the pads and ran metal-on-metal.

Then they stopped fitting asbestos pads. I have sintered metal pads now. Sintered metal pads are better -- they grip better when hot or wet -- but they are harder than the old asbestos pads, and they wear the rotors faster.

Worn rotors wear your pads faster, but not like they used to, using asbestos pads on worn rotors, because pads aren't as soft and weak as they used to be.

I didn't replace or turn the rotors last time, because I wouldn't trust my dealer as far as I could throw the dealership. I have got squealing now, which I assume means I am also having greater/faster wear, so maybe I was wrong. (Wrong about having the rotors done. Not wrong about not trusting the dealership).
#17
Old 09-09-2014, 03:21 AM
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Originally Posted by Melbourne View Post
I didn't replace or turn the rotors last time, because I wouldn't trust my dealer as far as I could throw the dealership. I have got squealing now, which I assume means I am also having greater/faster wear, so maybe I was wrong. (Wrong about having the rotors done. Not wrong about not trusting the dealership).
There are certain models of cars where using the el-cheapo semi-metallic pads will result in squealing. You would think that if you take the car to a dealer or a reputable big name shop that they wouldn't put the crappy el-cheapo pads on, but sometimes they do.

We had this problem with an old Nissan Stanza that we used to own. Mrs. Geek wouldn't let me do mechanical work on her car when we first met. Then she had this squealing problem after getting the brakes done. She paid a lot of money to have rotors turned and coatings put on. Finally I went out and bought a set of better brake pads and put them on, and the problem went away. After that, I was allowed to work on her car.

Your problem could be the rotors or it could also be the pads.

I don't trust dealerships either. I've had too many problems with them over the years.
#18
Old 09-09-2014, 07:34 AM
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Warped disks - no such thing or at least VERY rare

http://stoptech.com/technical-su...nd-other-myths

http://mossmotors.com/SiteGraphi...ake_discs.html
#19
Old 09-09-2014, 08:31 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JerrySTL View Post
I've had issues with the cheaper Chinese rotors warping. And I do tighten the lug nuts with a torque wrench using a 'star' pattern.

As the OP asked, sometimes I don't bother to turn the rotors if they are smooth.

If the rotors aren't very smooth, then I'll have them turned.

If they can no longer be turned, I'll go with the more expensive rotors with the hope that they are worth the extra cost.

Brakes and tires are two places where it doesn't pay to be cheap (unless you are selling off the vehicle shortly).
I grew up working on cars, but didn't make it my trade (got into IT instead). Still, I've known and know car repair people and when doing a brake job it was/is considered SOP to always cut the rotors/drums regardless of their condition. Cutting them didn't make it the 'deluxe' brake job, not cutting them made it the amateurish, shittier one. The fact that the rotors/drums are perfectly smooth is the reason you get them cut. They've been polished so smooth that the pads/shoes don't 'grab' as well. If they were in good condition you might just do a fine cut (usually you did a rough & a fine cut) but the point is to make the surface microscopically less smooth so the pads grip better.

We would often do them without cutting the drums/rotors, we called it a 'pad slap', but only to our own cars if we were broke or a friend's who was a cheapskate.

And good luck trying to find drums/rotors (or most any car parts) that aren't made in China. You'd have to go to the parts dept at a new car dealership and you'll literally pay five times the price (and they still might be Chinese). And Chinese car parts are generally not badly made. They're inexpensive because their labor costs are about one 1/100 of ours.
#20
Old 09-09-2014, 08:44 AM
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Originally Posted by Hail Ants View Post
And good luck trying to find drums/rotors (or most any car parts) that aren't made in China. You'd have to go to the parts dept at a new car dealership and you'll literally pay five times the price (and they still might be Chinese). And Chinese car parts are generally not badly made. They're inexpensive because their labor costs are about one 1/100 of ours.
If I may continue this hijack, can anyone recommend a brand or manufacturer of brake rotors? The Whatever Autozone Sold Me front rotors I installed about 20,000 miles ago on a Mazda3 are already showing signs of heavy wear, with substantial grooves and pulsing that's starting to get serious.
#21
Old 09-09-2014, 10:18 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hail Ants View Post
I grew up working on cars, but didn't make it my trade (got into IT instead). Still, I've known and know car repair people and when doing a brake job it was/is considered SOP to always cut the rotors/drums regardless of their condition. Cutting them didn't make it the 'deluxe' brake job, not cutting them made it the amateurish, shittier one. The fact that the rotors/drums are perfectly smooth is the reason you get them cut. They've been polished so smooth that the pads/shoes don't 'grab' as well. If they were in good condition you might just do a fine cut (usually you did a rough & a fine cut) but the point is to make the surface microscopically less smooth so the pads grip better.

We would often do them without cutting the drums/rotors, we called it a 'pad slap', but only to our own cars if we were broke or a friend's who was a cheapskate.

And good luck trying to find drums/rotors (or most any car parts) that aren't made in China. You'd have to go to the parts dept at a new car dealership and you'll literally pay five times the price (and they still might be Chinese). And Chinese car parts are generally not badly made. They're inexpensive because their labor costs are about one 1/100 of ours.
You are very wrong here on all counts, if your rotors are smooth and flat the better method and safer method is to leave them alone. Myself and several others here have been lifetime proffessional mechanics. Amatuers are the ones who think you always have to turn them.
#22
Old 09-09-2014, 11:13 AM
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Whatever. Maybe it was all a scam perpetrated by the industrial-brake-rotor-complex.

But it kind of makes sense to me that rotors & drums that are polished mirror smooth are not going to work as well as ones that have a slight cut roughness. And since the metal is harder than the pad material the pads will wear sooner than the rotors will get polished smooth again. Or words to that effect...
#23
Old 09-09-2014, 11:52 AM
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Originally Posted by Steven_G View Post
As my high school U.S. history teacher would say, so what? (Not as snark, but to stimulate thinking about the significance of the matter.) Whether there's warpage or thickness variation, the result is pedal pulsation and the fix is to turn or replace the rotors. It is interesting that the conventional wisdom may be incorrect, but it doesn't matter in the real world. A properly done brake job includes test driving in such a way as to help break in the new pads.
#24
Old 09-09-2014, 12:05 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hail Ants View Post
...I've known and know car repair people and when doing a brake job it was/is considered SOP to always cut the rotors/drums regardless of their condition. Cutting them didn't make it the 'deluxe' brake job, not cutting them made it the amateurish, shittier one.
This was indeed SOP in the 70's and 80's (see post #5). Disc brakes have an inherent tendency to make annoyance noises (usually squealing), and back then a lot of research was being done towards eliminating that. Turning rotors to get the right surface finish and lubricating all metal-to-metal contact points were the key elements for minimizing the chance of noise. Things started to change in the 90's with the development of new brake lining formulations, and nowadays the regimen of "always turning" is obsolete (lubricating contact points is not). The official instructions from vehicle manufacturers say to use the rotors as is unless there's a specific problem (see post #14).
#25
Old 09-09-2014, 12:11 PM
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Originally Posted by lazybratsche View Post
If I may continue this hijack, can anyone recommend a brand or manufacturer of brake rotors?
I have been impressed with Bosch QuietCast rotors. They're somewhat pricy (though not ridiculously so), but I've found their quality to be superb.
#26
Old 09-09-2014, 06:18 PM
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Originally Posted by lazybratsche View Post
If I may continue this hijack, can anyone recommend a brand or manufacturer of brake rotors? The Whatever Autozone Sold Me front rotors I installed about 20,000 miles ago on a Mazda3 are already showing signs of heavy wear, with substantial grooves and pulsing that's starting to get serious.
I have had ATE One rotors on my Subie for three years now and have been very happy with them.
#27
Old 09-09-2014, 06:51 PM
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Originally Posted by Gary T View Post
I have been impressed with Bosch QuietCast rotors. They're somewhat pricy (though not ridiculously so), but I've found their quality to be superb.
Should calipers be bled when the piston is forced back to avoid flushing contaminates into the lines? Premise the answer on cars with anti-lock brake systems.
#28
Old 09-09-2014, 06:58 PM
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Originally Posted by Gary T View Post
Absolutely acceptable and actually even recommended to leave the rotors be if they don't show problems (gouges, too thin, warped). There should be no need for bleeding.

...
However, it's best to have the rotors looked at by a pro for signs of thermal damage.
And don't let the calipers dangle at the end of the brake line when changing the pads. That could cause problems.
#29
Old 09-09-2014, 07:53 PM
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Originally Posted by Magiver View Post
Should calipers be bled when the piston is forced back to avoid flushing contaminates into the lines? Premise the answer on cars with anti-lock brake systems.
That's the way I do it and I've never bled the brakes. That's the whole point of doing it that way, so you don't have to bleed the brakes. If you are going to bleed them anyway, might as well open the lines so that it's much easier to push the piston back.

I have a special tool to push the piston back, so it's not like I'm just forcing it with a screwdriver or a pry bar. I've never had a problem on cars with or without antilock brakes. If there's an issue with doing it this way I'd like to know what it is.
#30
Old 09-09-2014, 08:29 PM
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Originally Posted by engineer_comp_geek View Post
That's the way I do it and I've never bled the brakes. That's the whole point of doing it that way, so you don't have to bleed the brakes. If you are going to bleed them anyway, might as well open the lines so that it's much easier to push the piston back.

I have a special tool to push the piston back, so it's not like I'm just forcing it with a screwdriver or a pry bar. I've never had a problem on cars with or without antilock brakes. If there's an issue with doing it this way I'd like to know what it is.
I want to say I saw it on Motorweek but I'm not sure. Something about not forcing the piston back without opening up the bleed valve because it would force contaminants back into the anti-lock brake system. Sounded like overkill to me but I did it on my last brake change because the car had antilock brakes.
#31
Old 09-09-2014, 08:56 PM
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Originally Posted by JerrySTL View Post
I've had issues with the cheaper Chinese rotors warping. And I do tighten the lug nuts with a torque wrench using a 'star' pattern.

As the OP asked, sometimes I don't bother to turn the rotors if they are smooth.

If the rotors aren't very smooth, then I'll have them turned.

If they can no longer be turned, I'll go with the more expensive rotors with the hope that they are worth the extra cost.

Brakes and tires are two places where it doesn't pay to be cheap (unless you are selling off the vehicle shortly).
Quote:
Originally Posted by HoneyBadgerDC View Post
You are very wrong here on all counts, if your rotors are smooth and flat the better method and safer method is to leave them alone. Myself and several others here have been lifetime proffessional mechanics. Amatuers are the ones who think you always have to turn them.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gary T View Post
This was indeed SOP in the 70's and 80's (see post #5). Disc brakes have an inherent tendency to make annoyance noises (usually squealing), and back then a lot of research was being done towards eliminating that. Turning rotors to get the right surface finish and lubricating all metal-to-metal contact points were the key elements for minimizing the chance of noise. Things started to change in the 90's with the development of new brake lining formulations, and nowadays the regimen of "always turning" is obsolete (lubricating contact points is not). The official instructions from vehicle manufacturers say to use the rotors as is unless there's a specific problem (see post #14).
I worked in a shop in the mid-90s, and I also worked in a National Guard motor pool. In both places, we inspected rotors for warp visually and with micrometers (and with a test drive, or noting a customer complaint about squealing or pulsing) to evaluate for the need to turn. We were happy to give customers the news that we didn't have to turn or replace rotors, because it meant they were more likely to do the work there and then. It took less time to do just pads, so we got more cars through if we did shorter jobs, and there was very little mark-up on things like rotors, so it didn't matter that much to us whether we did them or not, except to the extent that we wanted to do the job right, and get repeat business.

Sometimes, a person would complain that they had pulsing after rotating their own tires, or putting on the spare, or something. We would take the lug nuts off, and replace them to spec with the torque wrench. Pulsing gone. So, sometimes the rotor is being warped by improperly tightened lug nuts, but if it hasn't been running that way for a long time, it will straighten back out. It's always worth a try.

ETA: If the wheel was missing its balance weights, we'd check the balance before replacing it. That sometimes was a cause of pulsing as well.

Last edited by RivkahChaya; 09-09-2014 at 08:59 PM.
#32
Old 09-10-2014, 03:42 AM
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Originally Posted by Magiver View Post
Should calipers be bled when the piston is forced back to avoid flushing contaminates into the lines? Premise the answer on cars with anti-lock brake systems.
I've heard for years that yes, the bleed screws should be opened so that whatever debris might be in the brake fluid goes out the bleed screw rather than back up into the lines. The fear is that some tiny wayward piece of crud might jam up a port or valve in the ABS control unit, requiring it to be replaced for big -- sometimes BIG -- bucks. Nevertheless, I've never heard of this problem actually happening. I think it falls into the category of "Well, maybe we don't really need to take this precaution but hey, it's better to be safe than sorry."
#33
Old 09-10-2014, 06:45 PM
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Originally Posted by Gary T View Post
I've heard for years that yes, the bleed screws should be opened so that whatever debris might be in the brake fluid goes out the bleed screw rather than back up into the lines. The fear is that some tiny wayward piece of crud might jam up a port or valve in the ABS control unit, requiring it to be replaced for big -- sometimes BIG -- bucks. Nevertheless, I've never heard of this problem actually happening. I think it falls into the category of "Well, maybe we don't really need to take this precaution but hey, it's better to be safe than sorry."
That's how I felt when I heard it but did it anyway. Of course I broke one of the bleeder valves off and had to replace a caliper. Always in too big a hurry to squirt a little something on it first.

While I'm thinking of it, what's the best thing to spray on rusty corroded stuff?
#34
Old 09-10-2014, 07:12 PM
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[QUOTE=Magiver;17719895]That's how I felt when I heard it but did it anyway. Of course I broke one of the bleeder valves off and had to replace a caliper. Always in too big a hurry to squirt a little something on it first.

If you want the answer to "what's the best thing to spray on rusty corroded stuff" perhaps you should open your own tread in another forum. IMHO comes to mind.

I would also like to know what results you are trying for. Do you just want to be able to unbolt items, or do you want the metal to be "rejuvenated" to like new condition?

BTW, as far as the OP is concerned, I agree with Gary T and others. I only turn the rotors +/or drums when they are warped or when they have grooves worn in them. I do replace them if they are "out of service limits" IRT thickness, diameter, +/or warp-age.
#35
Old 09-12-2014, 09:52 AM
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Just changed rear brakes, rotors on my flawless, pristine '98 Acura RL that has 163,000 miles. I've owned this car for 11 years and do much of the maintenance myself. I had the fronts done a few years ago by a mobile mechanic who comes to my house. Used Advance Auto Wearever rotors and Wagner ThermoQuiet Ceramic Pads previously on the fronts. They've be prefect.

Used the same on the new rear brakes I installed last month. The regular price for the 2 rotors was $55.18. Pads, regular price was $55.99. With the discount code always available on their website I paid..... net, net $76.33. My Mechanic charges $35 per hour. He finished in about 50 minutes including a road test. I paid him $40. Total cost..........$116.33. Brakes are smooth as silk. Stop on a dime without any pull and with very little, light colored brake dust. I will use no other pads and wouldn't think of ever turning a rotor again when a new rotor can be had so cheaply.
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