So how much does it cost to get a brake job? This question just opens the door to more questions. Is it two wheel drive? Front wheel drive or four wheel drive? Do you need brake rotors? Will it require calipers? Can you get by with just brake pads? How much will that cost? Let’s take a look at the brake system and address the factors that will drive these decisions.
First question, front, two or four wheel drive? Why does it matter? The simple answer is each one of these drive configurations requires a different amount of time for labor. Front wheel drive is the least expensive as there are no wheel bearings to repack and no seals to replace. Rear wheel drive and four wheel drive may add wheel bearing repack and more time to the job. However many of the newer four wheel drives are configured like a front wheel drive. Clears it all up right? Not so much, huh? Ok, just realize that labor times will differ based on drive configuration.
Next question, Why do brake rotors need to be replaced? A picture is worth a thousand words right?
Now the thousand words…Just kidding, maybe. The type of brake pad material used on your vehicle can cause hard wear in some cases. Organic pads are often quieter and cause little wear, but they wear out fast. Metallic or semi-metallic and some ceramic brake pads last a lot longer and are more efficient however wear pretty hard on the rotor causing grooving like the rotor on the right.
In the picture on the left, the caliper froze and destroyed the rotor. Kind of like letting your tires wear down till there is air showing! Not so good.
On the right, the rotor on top is grooved pretty hard but might be able to be turned, depending on the thickness. There is a minimum thickness that rotors can be machined down to, then they have to be replaced. On the lower rotor on the right, kind of hard to see, but if you look close you’ll see a crack, no saving that one.
The other things to consider concerning rotor replacement is hard spots, which deals with the metallurgy and heat which can be caused by hard braking or sticking slides or a stuck caliper. If the rotor survives all of these questions you might be able to turn the rotor (machine it).
The last thing to consider is, on some of the newer vehicles, in an effort to reduce weight, the rotors start out at about the minimum functional thickness. Even though they have a thinner “machine to” thickness, any reduction in thickness renders them less effective and if turned (machined) they may quickly warp causing you to return prematurely to the shop complaining of a pulsation feeling while braking.
Not unsafe in most conditions but it doesn’t usually make a person happy after they just recently had a brake job performed.
Machining a Rotor on a Brake Lathe