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How important are brake rotors?

My 91 Honda Accord shakes a bit under braking. It was slowly leaking brake fluid, so I got the brake drum (if that’s a thing? It was some brake component) repaired for a couple hundred bucks. I am wondering if I should get some more brake work done so I and my passengers can trust the car to keep us safe. The car shakes a bit under braking, and shakes a lot, kind of alarmingly so, under heavy braking. But apart from that it brakes fine. Should I be concerned, or is this more just a question of aesthetics and how it feels?

Yes, you should absolutely be concerned. And yes, you should get more brake work done to keep your passengers safe. I’d strongly suggest you also get the entire chassis thoroughly checked out to see what else needs doing. Lives may be at stake.

This is NOT aesthetics. This is SAFETY,
Hubcaps are aesthetics. The dings and dents are aesthetic. The radio is luxury. The heater is comfort… except when you need the defroster.
But brakes are pure safety.


When a car shakes when the brakes are applied, it usually points to warped brake rotors.

Warped brake rotors prevent the brake pads from being in contact with the rotors100% of the time while braking.

And this increases the stopping distance of the car.



They also prevent the tires from being properly in contact with the tarmac. :fearful:

Lmao at your emoticon

Glad you find it funny… brake problems are never funny.

We take 'em pretty seriously around here, that’s why the shocked face emoticon.

Your car, as is common with econo-boxes of that era – probably has rear drums and front disc brakes. The emergency brakes in that configuration only operate on the rears. So that’s one method to determine if it is the front or rears that causing the shaking. Away from traffic, when doing so is safe, try stopping with just the emergency brake. Does it shake then?

You can replace rotors yourself. I did it on both my 2000 and my 2007 accord. If I remember right, they are about $25 apiece for the front ones. Drums are harder to do, but can be done. Watch some YouTube videos on changing brake pads by Nutzaboutbolts, Ericthecarguy and Scotty Kilmer and you’ll get the basic idea. It just takes a jack (the car jack from your trunk will work), a jack stand, some sockets and a socket wrench most likely. You can buy all the tools at Harbor Freight or any parts store or Lowes or Home Depot and still do it significantly cheaper than paying someone to do it.

Agree to get it fixed with new rotors or drums, whatever it has. They are warped and whoever did the brake work didn’t do a very complete job.

Disagree though with a DIY job. If the OP is not familiar enough to even know what is on the car, I wouldn’t recommend using a safety system such as brakes as a place to start learning. Youtube videos are both good and bad and you have to know enough to sort the bad out. If someone experienced is there to help OK, otherwise hire it done.

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My emoticon is an expression of terror. Oogabooga was laughing at the emoticon. Nobody was laughing at the problem itself.

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Yes, a diy’er can do rotors on this 1991 Accord

That said, it has captive rotors, which are a lot more difficult to replace, versus a 1991 Corolla, for instance


I certainly hope that is the case. The emoticon was quite appropriate, I thought.

Econo-Boxes? Since when is an Accord and Econo-Box?

The vast majority of cars/trucks I saw all had Front Disc and Rear Drums. Even Big F-150 pickups had that setup. Every vehicle I owned from my 1972 Vega until my 05 4runner had that setup. Since my 05 4runner all vehicles have been all Disc system…with the exception of the parking brake…it’s still a drum with shoes. Weird setup - Rotor/Drum

Sportier cars like the Corvette had 4-disc.

I dunno that it’s not a DIY job, even for a rookie. My first DIY car repair was brakes. If we were talking about something where it needed to be bled, then I’d feel more comfortable if OP at least got supervision from someone who’s done it before. But swapping a rotor is pretty easy. The hardest part for OP is going to be getting those stupid rotor screws out (hey OP, hint: Drill them out, and don’t replace them - they’re only there to hold the rotor on the hub while the car moves down the assembly line - the lugs will hold the rotor to the car after you put the wheel back on).

Youtube has lots of videos on how to do it - Eric the Car Guy is a great resource for that. And it’s a job that can be done with minimal tools.

As with any brake job, once OP gets the car all buttoned up again, they should move the car forward slowly and stab the brakes several times to be sure they’re working before driving at any appreciable speed.

They can if they have access to a press. A DIYer can remove the steering knuckle with the rotor and bearing and take it to a shop and have the shop R&R the rotor and wheel bearing. The wheel bearing should be replaced when the rotor is replaced as 90% of the labor for the bearing is done just to get to the rotor.

My 86 Buick Park Ave had front discs and rear drums but my 86 Buick Riviera was all discs, front and back. Only a couple thousand dollars difference in the cars. I don’t know they started going all discs but think it was probably late 90’s. Seems strange since discs gotta be as cheap or cheaper than the whole drum set up.

Of course you’re right . . .

But it sure complicates things when you have to take the steering knuckle to a shop

For one thing, it means you have to have another car, to take the part to the shop

And thank you for making my point for me . . . that replacing captive rotors on this 1991 Accord is a lot more work, versus a Corolla of the same vintage, as an example

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All cars and truck are definitely not all discs now. There are still a bunch of rear drums on cars. Why? The rear of many FWD cars does very of the braking so heat management is not an issue. GM trucks went all-disc and then returned to drums for cost and reliable parking brakes.

Disc brakes ARE cheaper than drums IF there is no parking brake. Drums with integral parking brakes are cheaper than rear discs with drum-in-hat parking brakes or integral caliper parking brakes.

On those GM trucks that went back to rear drums . . . the rear brake set up is pathetic

It might technically get the job done, but beyond that, it’s a joke

I agree that an Accord is not an Econo-Box

an econobox would be a Cavalier of that era, or maybe even George’s own Corolla

An Accord was definitely a step above. Bigger, well built and more expensive