Should You Resurface or Replace Your Worn Brake Rotors?

The rotors are an integral part of the car’s braking system and the cornerstone of its safety assists, but their high workload at extreme temperatures means they do not last forever, so they should be measured frequently and if needed, resurfaced or replaced.
Should You Resurface or Replace Your Worn Brake Rotors? 7 photos
Photo: Continental Automotive GmbH
Brembo XtraBMW 3 Series E46 ATE PowerdiscBrembo MaxAte OEM RotorsBMW M4 CSAlpine A110
Their lifespan depends on many variables, including braking style, quality, and state of the brake pads or how well they are ventilated.

On older cars, manufacturers designed them so that they would last at least two pad changes and the same applies to most of the current generation of vehicles, but the reality is that some choose to thin them down in order to save weight and money.

So, if you experience a vibration in your steering wheel or brake pedal when braking, regardless of how many miles your car has, you need to pay your local garage or dealership a visit because it's very probable that your brake rotors have an issue.

The mechanic will validate that and one of the most critical things he should do is measure the thickness of the rotors, which will help determine if they can be reshaped or if they should be replaced.

BMW 3 Series E46 ATE Powerdisc
Photo: Vlad Radu
The minimum thickness specification of the manufacturer is critical, because it provides safe braking. As the rotor wears and becomes thinner it will lose mass, thus lose its ability to absorb and dissipate heat. It also increases the risk of cracking or even breaking, resulting in rotor failure.

If they are too thin, they obviously cannot be salvaged and need to be replaced. But if they still are thick enough, the mechanic might suggest resurfacing them.

This effectively removes metal, which makes the rotors thinner and reduces their remaining service life, so keep that in mind and compare the cost of resurfacing with that of a new set.

Aftermarket discs are not that expensive and tend to be cheaper for older vehicles. There is also a wide range of manufacturers you can choose from, like Brembo, EBC, ATE, Bosch, Textar, Bendix, or DuraGo.

You can also choose to buy your car manufacturer’s OE rotors, but they are usually very expensive and, depending on the brand, might even be of mediocre quality.

If you decide to replace your rotors and your budget is flexible, we recommend buying premium extra ventilated aftermarket rotors lie the ATE Powerdiscs or the Brembo Max.

Brembo Max
Photo: Brembo S.p.A
There is also the option of perforated sport discs if you prefer a more aggressive braking style. Depending on the manufacturer, these may be more expensive than the original ones. Brembo Xtra or EBC Racing are very solid choices.

You should also consider replacing your brake pads, as worn ones might prematurely wear the resurfaced of brand-new discs. Ceramic brake pads are a wise choice even though they are more expensive but last longer and you will save money in the long run.

So, resurfacing the rotors might be an option if you are on a tight budget, but if you frequently drive for long distances, it will be safer to get a new set.

Finally, remember to ask your mechanic to check the brake fluid level, pads, and rotor thickness every time you visit him. Brake maintenance is not expensive or difficult and more importantly, it keeps you and your loved ones safe.
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About the author: Vlad Radu
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Vlad's first car was custom coach built: an exotic he made out of wood, cardboard and a borrowed steering wheel at the age of five. Combining his previous experience in writing and car dealership years, his articles focus in depth on special cars of past and present times.
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