New rotors at 36K

2003 Saturn Vue with just over 36K, mostly city, miles on it. The 36K check-up resulted in the need for new rotors. Is this the normal lifespan for rotors? Of all the cars I’ve owned, I’ve never needed rotors this soon.

Who did the check-up?? If it was some national chain like Midas…you’ll ALWAYS need rotors.

There are only two ways rotors go bad…The pads are worn down so much that they scared the rotors. Or the rotors are warped.

The Saturn dealership did the check-up. Pads were at 50%, so my guess is that the rotors are warped. Evidently so bad that they need replaced. The car shakes when breaking at highway speeds, so there is something definately wrong.

Shaking when braking is a symptom of warped rotors. 36K of mostly city driving is definitely within the “normal” range. It’s also highly possible for the rotors to be warped with 50% of the pad life still left. Rotors warp from inability to properly dissipate heat and stay true, a mode of failure not directly related to pad life.

It sounds like the dealer was “straight” with you. It never hurts to get a second opinion (and quote) from an independant owner-operated shop.

Rotors today generally go bad due to warping. There are two usual causes of warping: they get too hot, (heavy brake use or a sticking caliber) or someone does not properly torque a wheel when they put it on. You usually feel a pulse when you brake gently. A rotor can also go bad due to wear. 36,000 miles is far to soon for normal wear issues.

Is it ever ok to replace warped rotors but not the pads as well? If the pads are at 50% or more let’s say…but the rotors are definitely warped. Would that possibly still cause some vibrations?

Most likely, if your rotors are so warped that they cannot be turned true, then you have some problems. On a relatively new vehicle, sticking pistons/pads would be the exception and not likely. More likely is your driving habits. I’ve posted several times here about allowing the wheels to turn slightly after extremely hard braking to allow even cooling of rotor surfaces. But bad habits are hard to break. You can warp rotors on a brand new car if you know how to do it.

My suggestion would be to have the rotors turned if at all possible (there is a minimum thickness that you cannot exceed) and then learn how to avoid warping. Buying new rotors will land you right back where you are until you learn how to brake. Do a search on this forum for “warping” or “warped” and you should find the information.

A lot depends on rotor thickness and driving habits. If you’ve got a shudder then they’re more than likely warped.

Since it was asked, one COULD replace rotors and leave the pads alone but this should only be done on a DIY basis.
That procedure is NOT the proper one and no way in the world should a shop do this as it not only brings up the possibility of a “comeback” (mechanicese for redo it for free when problems continue), but it also presents a liabilty issue. A wreck, the car owner says I just had the brakes done, the shop did not replace the pads too, and sued into oblivion…

Driving habits have a lot to do with it. A mail carrier here who runs a rural mail route replaces his brake pads every 3 weeks and the rotors every few months on his Subaru out of necessity; as in 550+ stops a day just on the route.

from my point of view:

when i do a brake job, if the rotors are good, then i just put new pads on. BUT, only once per rotor. (everyother brake job i put new rotors, and pads on.)

however, if the rotor is bad (in your case) replace both pads and rotors. the pads are a minimal cost, (as are the rotors really) and you will just come back for a full brake job quicker if you dont do both at the same time.

although (at 50%) it may look like the pads are OK, they ARE worn, are usually starting to get small cracks in the surface, and usually wear slightly unevenly. why do half a brake job???

Now this is bound to initiate a fire fight, though it’s not the intention.

Brake rotors don’t warp. Full stop (no pun intended).

Try Googling “Brake Rotor Warping” and read up, it’s likely you have some other problem that is causing this such as corrosion between the hub and rotor, misaligned caliper, incorrectly tightened wheel nuts or an out of true hub.

It also depends on your driving routine and conditions, frequent harsh breaking followed by sitting at a light with the footbrake applied will leave brake pad deposits on the rotor ~ a common symptom associated with the fabled ‘warped rotor’.

On a final, always use OEM or better rotors, by better I mean Brembo or an alternative high quality brand. Cheap rotors may exceed acceptable run out tolerances, another warped rotor root cause. Cheap, poorly manufactured rotors won’t last more than a couple of months particularly under ther type of conditions described above - Many cheapy rotors are now made in China of course, I believe they are made of lead since they can’t use it to paint kids toys anymore :slight_smile:

Many things can can cause a brake shudder but warping is cause number 1.

Inexpensive rotors are not necessarily bad. I’ve used a ton of cheap AutoZone rotors with no problem. My old Mercury had near a quarter of a million on a pair of them and one of my sons has about 180k on a set right now.

This discussion comes up about warped rotors and the answer is of course rotors warp. This can be detected with a dial indicator and will even be visible when a rotor is chucked up in a lathe.

Since this issue was a tiny bit volatile a while back, and to prove a point, I went and pulled half a dozen rotors right off the top of the pile and made a few passes on the lathe with them one weekend to actually prove a point about warpage. Note photo.
The cuttin’ bit don’t lie.

I don’t think it is my driving habits seeing as no other car I have owned has ever needed new rotors so soon. My Mazda 626 rotors’ were turned at about 65K and replaced just under 100K when I got a second set of pads and the Nissan Stanza (my first car - sigh) made it to 65K without any problems with the rotors when I sold it. I’ve heard that one shot of over heating can warp a rotor and the only time I can think that might have happened was a trip through W.VA - 90 degrees and some steep decents. I tried to keep off the breaks as much as possible.

I’ll get a second opinion and see if they can be turned and get some extra miles out of them. The fact that it doesn’t shake at low speeds makes me think they should be able to turn them.

I’ll be sure to get the pads changed with the rotors.

Thanks for all the feedback!

If they’re already warped, then machining them (which removes material) is highly likely to leave them even more subject to warping again. You’d be better to simply replace them with aftermarket rotors…and it might even be cheaper than having them “turned”.

Yup, we’ve benn down this path before. I’ve read the info that’s been referenced. I’ve also seen clearly warped rotors, rotors so warped that the difference in thickness between the inner surface and the outer surface was easily apparent by touch.

Metallurgists worldwide agree with the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) that “worked” metals (cast and/or machined) contain residual stresses that can cause warping when subjected to heat. Heat treating to relieve hese stresses is commonplace in manufacturing processes. Except perhaps in China.

I’ll have to respectfully disagree on the subject of warping. No firefight, just a respectful disagreement.

By the way, they’ve found a place for all that lead…they put it in lipstick!

Brake rotors warp for the same reasons that cast iron engine blocks, cylinder heads, intake and exhaust manifolds, and everything else does. Metal moves and heat/cold helps it along.

There is a good reason why an automotive machine shop, or even a general machine shop, has a surface grinder and brake lathe. It’s to smooth out the kinks.

The VUE had a bad design spec of rotors. Many owners have experienced the same issue. I do not know if there was a resolve for this relatively known problem.

Ha !

Not convinced…they look as flat as the world to me…

One other reason for brake pulsing (besides a warped rotor) is an active ABS OR a faulty sensor.

So make sure you know which it is before you spend your hard earned money on repairs.

Another reason for brake pulsing is an active or faulty ABS system.

Make sure you are fixing the right part before you spend your hard earned money.

AAAARRRGGGHHH! Now I see I have to wait to see if the post actually posts. I hit submit and looked, no post, so I re-wrote it.