Replace brake pads or pads plus rotors?

If the pads are nearly worn on my front brakes, should I have just the pads replaced or the pads and rotors? I have received both recommendations from two separate shops. Also, I am confident that the rotors have not started to wear out. I have not yet heard any sqealing or grinding.

As an aside, the first shop (the dealer) said have the work done a.s.a.p. The second shop said re-check and likely replace in 2000 - 4000 miles.

The first shop recommended pad replacement immediately to save the rotors. The second shop said they always do rotor and pad replacement at the same time (for alignment?)

I am confused.

What make/model car are we talking about?

2003 Honda Odyssey

Replace only the pads. The time to replace rotors is when they are warped, damaged by worn pads, or ground down too thin for further resurfacing. (On some makes, a single resurfacing is all the rotors can take.) For most cars on the road, the rotors are in fine shape. A shop that “always does pad and rotor replacement at the same time” is providing unnecessary to its customers for the purpose of extra profit.

This is the kind of stuff that gets me REAL suspicious.

Craig and Steve are both right in that there’s no need for new rotors just b/c you get your brakes replaced.
AND even if you have waited too long and gotten some grinding- you might still have the option of having the rotors turned (resurfaced) before you go buying brand new rotors.

What makes me xtra suspicious, is this sounds like the kind of scam where the mechanic doesn’t even have to replace the “broken” part -since it’s not broken to begin with- and still gets to charge you for new stuff and labor. If I were Dateline, I’d be down there for a brake job and “rotor replacement” with a pair of good rotors marked with paint in a discreet location… just to see if a replacement actually happened.

Agree with other posters; rotors outlast about 3 sets of pads. Normally a front brake job inludes pads,and turning the rotors if necessary. Unless you live in San Francisco and this is your 4th set of pads, you do not need rotors. For those of us who keep their cars a long time, a new set of rotors once very 8 to 10 years is normal.

I’ve actually found mine needs rotors about every second set of pads to ensure no noise, it depends on the car and the type of pads too. Also, there should be a specification for the minimum rotor thickness. Some rotors can be turned until they meet the limit and others should not be turned need to be replaced. In general, it is not necessary to “always do rotor and pad replacement at the same time.”

I agree with the second shop. You know why? That’s the proper way to perform a brake job on this vehicle.

The rotors on this vehicle are usually used up once the brake pads wear out. This is because the rotors are casted so thin to begin with to save weight. You could just have the brake pads replaced. But because the rotors are already worn, it could take short while after the brake job for the rotors to wear so thin that they warp. So you end up doing a brake job again six months down the road. Only this time you’re replacing pads and rotors.

Also when new pads are installed, it’s a good idea to have the proper friction surfaces on the rotors so that the pads are embedded properly. Failing to do this correctly can result in unwanted brake noise.


Modern cars don’t have those old heavy steel rotors. It does depend on the car and how you use the car, but for the little added cost, I would have the rotors replaced. I will do just that when I need new brakes. While they old rotors may well last several sets of pads, at each set of pads the rotors are getting thinner and less able to handle the heat.

Modern rotors are not really thick enough to allow for grinding flat, although they may be lightly resurfaced if they have not had too much wear. They don’t hand machining well. In the old days that was a lot different. Rotors were expected to last a very long time, but times have changed.

I like the second shop. BTW that philosophy of the dealer is typical dealer. They tend to replace everything to get everything as good as new. This is not a rip off, but it is a philosophy that can cost you considerable money with a rather small payback.

“They tend to replace everything to get everything as good as new” They replace everything that is EAY AND PROFITABLE to replace while the car is on the hoist. Agree that the “pads plus rotors” recommendation represents easy profit before best judgement and concern for customer.

The second shop is correct. There’s a home shade tree method which may or may not work if you’re a DIYer and a proper by the book repair method.
The latter is the generally recommended procedure. It’s not done to empty your pocketbook. It’s done to make sure that your brakea are 100% and to prevent any problems from surfacing the week after the brake job is performed.

The problem with replacing pads only is that you’re paying someone to do this and EXPECTING them to stand behind the work as to safety, vibration, and noises. Many people will state on the Bible that they accept full responsibility if pads only are done but as sure as the sun comes up in the east they will be back complaining the next week of any shudder, squeal, or whatnot. This just leads to bad feelings on both sides; and the shop is totally not at fault for any problems. The only mistake the shop made is actually doing this in the first place.

Thanks for all of the input. The most recent posts make me believe that due to the fairly recent model of the vehicle, getting pads and rotors replaced together is the way to go vs. older models where the rotors are built to last longer.

The other thing about this experience that was surprising/concerning to me, was the “out of the blue” insistence from the dealer (1st shop) that the situation was urgent. When, a) this had never come up during regular oil changes b) the brake light/maintenance required light has not come on c) there has been no noticeable noise from the brakes or any other indicator of an issue. Yet, the rep at the dealer acted like I was stupid to leave the shop without immediate work being completed. Obviously, I want to have a safe vehicle, but it just wasn’t adding up to me. Not to mention they wanted to charge $327 for replacing front brake pads only.

Replace it all and then have no worries of squeaks, vibration, and wasted time back to shop. You only pay for parts essentially with rotors if done with pads. Turning/machining rotors is not cost effective compared to replacement. Also replacing rotors later you pay full labor vs very little if nothing when done with pads.

If you have someone else do the work, then refacing the rotors is acceptable if it costs less. I replace my rotors whenever I replace the pads because I do it myself, and the car is out of service for an extra hour or so instead of however long it takes a local shop to turn the rotors for me. Replacement rotors are not that expensive if you replace them yourself. I paid about $30 each for front rotors on my Buick a few months ago. It didn’t seem possible that turning the rotors would save me money considering the loss of the car for a day or three.

I’d like to jump in here, if you don’t mind, with a slightly different question. I believe my front end rotors are warped. My steering wheel shakes when i hit the brakes. I have a 2003 acrua TL.

My down the road mechanic changed my pads and rotors in may 2006. 6 mo. later, warped (steering wheel shaking upon application of brakes). He did another front end job for free. And again, a few months later, warped. He told me when he was doing the replacement that today’s rotors are just made too thin. Too thin is one thing, but do I really need to do a front end brake job every 6 months? Yikes!

Any thoughts on this?

You must have looked like an easy “mark”. The so called furnace inspectors going from door to door used to scare people into believing their house was a death trap! Brakes actually give a great deal of warning, even without instrumentation. By the time your car is dangerous your ear drums will have suffered sufficiently that you will eagerly go to a shop. Notice the shop you mentioned only suggested easy-to-do, high profit stuff!

When doing a brake job on todays vehicles, one has to make sure that the pads and rotors meet or exceed the vehicle manufacturers specifications. Installing something other can result in shorter brake life or poor performance from the brakes.

Also, before the new rotors are installed, it’s a good idea to clean up the rotor mounting flange of any rust or debris. doing this allows the rotor hat to sit flatly on the flange. When the wheels are mounted, torque the lug nuts to specification. Mistorqued lug nuts will cause warped rotors in no time.

And finally, make sure the brake pads and rotors have been seated in correctly. Each new set of brake pads comes with instructions on how to do this. So ask your mechanic if this is done when the brake job is completed. And if the mechanic doesn’t do it, which they should because the vehicle should test driven after completing a brake job, then it’s up to you to do the break-in procedure.


I think that the last time I had rotors resurfaced, they were drums!

Just some food for thought here but a loose wheel bearing or suspension component (ball joint, tie rod, tie rod end, etc.) can cause a brake shudder. The reason you could have a recurring problem is this.
Assume you have something slightly loose in the items I mentioned and the brake rotors are replaced with new ones. Over time the new rotors may distort a few thousandths of an inch.
With everything tight as it should be in the wheel bearings/suspension you may not notice this few thousandths of an inch.
If something is a little loose the few thousandths of an inch can become magnified and made to feel much worse than it is.

What I’m trying to say in a nutshell is that if a potential problem in the bearings/suspension is resolved then the brake shudder may disappear even with the rotors remaining untouched.
One would hope that suspension components have been checked and a dial indicator/micrometer has been used to actually verify a rotor problem, but I’m not holding my breath on that one.

I also agree with Tester’s comments completely.

As usual, Tester and ok4450 are 100% correct.

The Odyssey is a heavy vehicle so those front brakes get a real workout. Replace the rotors. But don’t go to the dealer. If they want $327 just for pads, I hate to think what the complete job would cost.