Brakes & Rotors

About 3 months ago I had the front brake pads replaced on my car (97 Toyota Camry;disc brakes). The mechanic said I could get away with having the rotors turned instead of replaced. In an extreme lapse of judgment, I opted to save the few dollars and just have them turned. Well, a few months later the steering wheel shakes when stopping from moderate to high speeds (40-75mph). I am certain that the rotors are warped. Is it okay to just change the rotors or should I go ahead and do the whole thing over again and get new pads as well?

Just replace the rotors. There is no need to replace the pads if they are still like new.

Willey is correct.
Just replace the rotors, taking care to get good quality rotors, i.e.–NOT the junk that comes from China.

Incidentally, what your mechanic failed to mention was two prime causes of brake rotor warpage:

Turning or machining the rotors. Yes, you saved money for the moment, but the rotors wound up thinner than before, and as a result were more prone to warpage when they got hot.
Improperly torqueing the wheel lug nuts. Either your mechanic did not torque them properly after the brake job or whoever might have changed your tires subsequently did not apply the proper torque to the lug nuts.

You might want to consider switching mechanics.

Thanks for the input. What happened to the rotors of old when you could turn them 2 or 3 times without thinning them too much? The crap we have now is thin to begin with!

Probably from all of the attempts to reduce vehicle weight in the quest for better gas mileage, car manufacturers started specifying thinner rotors.

Anyone else have a theory on this?

You have it right. Reduce weight wherever you can to increase fuel mileage.

Before installing the used brake pads, take a sheet of glass and place a piece of 100 grit sandpaper on it. Take the brake pads and rub the friction surfaces over the sandpaper to knock down any glazing on the pads. If this isn’t done the used brake pads won’t embed themselves correctly into the new rotors, and the brakes could start squealing when they’re applied.


Yep, it’s all about weight reduction. I wouldn’t let anyone turn the rotors on a modern car. Replacing them is now the way to go.

Well modern brakes are lighter and they make for less unsprong weight which means a better ride. They also are less expensive, so over all there is very little additional cost.

Frankly I prefer the new system.

One common source of warped rotors is improper tightening of the lug nuts. I would consider the mechanics advice was proper, did you have your tires rotated after the brake job?

That sandpaper will do a good job on the pads. Lay the paper on a flat surface and rub the pads across it a couple times. It doesn’t take a lot of effort.

The OEM’s have complicated disc brake service to some really sad state of the art. There’s very little benefits (in terms of absolute difference) to lowering the unsprung weight a few oz’s here and there.

It’s like automatic transmissions. They’ve complicated them to the point where the cost of “velvety smooth shifts that consumers demand” (when was I asked?) that now fixing one costs the consumer thousands of $$$ for the privilege.

It’s not just rotors, it’s calipers and hardware. There’s been an overall broadening of quality and durability in brakes for a while now. Now you can buy acceptable, cheap, and cheaper. The standard fare is of low standards.