Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

Warped Rotors?

Yesterday, I brought my 2004 Honda Accord to my local dealership for its’ thirty-thousand mile check-up.
(I purchased this car two years ago from a little old lady who stopped driving as a result of driving into the backside of her garage wall. At the time of purchase, the vehicle had a total of sixty-five hundred miles on the odometer.)
I was informed during the vehicle review yesterday that a service person had taken the car for a test ride and found that there were problems with both the front brakes and the rear brakes due to “pulse”. Silly me assumed that the “pulse” was the result of the alternative braking system. I had never noticed the “problem” because oddly enough, I don’t jam on the brakes frequently. My assumption was immediately corrected by the Service Advisor! I was informed that because the car had not been driven frequently enough, that rust had formed on all four of the rotors and had warped them when the car was actually driven. Further, the only way that I could “solve” this problem (that I didn’t know that I had) would be to resurface all four rotors, which would cost only six hundred and twenty dollars. Alternatively, I could continue driving because the brake pads were “good” and didn’t show much wear.
Could anyone tell me if this problem is even possible? The car has never been beaten and I never jam on or ride the brakes. Help

It is quite normal for brake rotors to develop rust and this is generally not a problem. If the car does have a brake shudder or pulsation (even a slight one) then it’s quite possible for this to be caused by a warped brake rotor, plural. This is also easily verifiable with testing so there should be no shooting from the hip so to speak and there are other things that can cause a brake pulsation such as sticking slider bolts, oddly worn brake pads, etc, etc.

Machining the rotors can solve a problem like this but much depends on keeping the rotors above their minimum thickness and cutting them properly.
In most cases it’s more cost effective to replace the rotors when weighed against the cost of machining them.

If the problem is not too bad then you can continue to drive the car as-is. This is not a safety issue; it’s more of an irritant and it’s up to you as to how much of an irritant it is. Hope that helps.

$620 to resurface rotors is an insane charge. On a 2004 those rotors readily come off and can be turned at a machine shop for about $15-20 a piece.
Should it annoy you to the point of getting it done, go to an independent mechanic - not a chain, tho - and you’ll pay less than half that amount. Pick up some fresh pads for them to slap on and you’ll have new brakes.

If you had warped rotors you’d feel a shimmy either in the steering wheel or the seat.
$620 isn’t really that unusual a charge for a dealership for doing all four brakes…but only if it’s necessary, and it should include new rotors. $620 with turned rotors is too high.

As Remco said, a reputable independant shop can do all four if they’re necessary for far less. Dealers typically charge up to two to two-1/2 times what everyone else does for parts.

That price is insane…ever for a dealer. New rotors from a dealer are less then $100 each.

Mike, been to Ira or Nashua Toyota lately? $620 would not be unrealistic for them for all four wheels, with new rotors.

Toyota wants $186 just for the rear rotors…$174 for the front rotors. With pads, “shop materials”, and labor, $620 to have alll four done by them would not be far wrong.

Light rust will scrub away with several normal brake applications. I got used to this when I took my winter car out of storage every autumn until I learned to provide better ventilation for my humid storage garage. Light rust makes a little noise and as the rust is scrubbed away, the rushing or scratching noise goes away too. On the other hand, heavy rotor rust will wear away brake lining material and the rust will not be scrubbed away. A visual inspection will reveal what your car has, light rust or else heavy rust which can decrease part of the swept area of a rotor. Rust that is not on the swept braking surfaces is normally harmless. I can’t imagine how rust could cause rotor warping.

Regarding brake pulsation, before you spend much money, ask to have your lug nuts loosened and then all nuts torqued using a torque wrench with gradually increasing torque values in about 20 ft-lb steps to the final specified value which should be in your owner’s manual. All nuts must be brought to each level in torque value in an alternating pattern, typically every other nut if your wheel has five nuts or in a cross pattern if your wheel has four nuts. Unevenly torqued lug nuts can cause brake pulsation and could even be used by a shyster mechanic to convince you of the need for more extensive brake work. This applies to disk brakes, not drum brakes. Drum brakes have not shown a tendency to pulsation for me. I have owned several cars with all drum brakes.

I think that if the 620 dollar charge was broken down into its individual components one would find that the charge is within reason and perfectly legit.

Warped rotors are a known issue on this year and model. They were turned under warranty on my 2005 Accord, and the dealer should do something for this person, especially if the car only has 30K miles. It sounds to me that the tech was looking for things to fix, needed or not. To even consider charging $620 for this service is criminal.

Just drive the car and don’t be afraid to “jam on the brakes” once in a while, it keeps the rotors clean. Just don’t jam on the brakes in heavy traffic, unless it is necessary.

I have a 2003 Accord and just recently changed my front rotors due to warping. It just got to the point where it agitated me when it would shimmy when braking at high speeds. I could have had the rotors turned but decided that it was easier, although more expensive since I like to do the work myself. By the way, my Accord has 175K miles.
In your case if the previous owner tended to “ride” the brakes then I could see the rotors being warped and possibly needing new pads. I would doubt that the rears are as bad as the front. In any case I think $620 is way high.

At 30$ per disk and 20 min labor and 30$ for pads… The price is too high. I just got my parts mail order and at about 100$ and 1 hour in my yard on a nice day I’ll have no issues with brake pulses

It sounds like you have not yet had the rotor work done, is that correct? Is there any difference in how your brakes feel now after the checkup compared to before you went in? If yes, re-read the post by Wha Who describing unevenly torqued lug nuts.

Either way, it might be wise to get another perspective on the pulse from another mechanic, preferably a local independent shop, as a few have mentioned, not a national chain. First you want to find out if the pulsing is above the threshold where this should be addressed, and second to get another price for the same job of machining the rotors. If possible, also get the price to replace rotors rather than machine them. Ideally the shop will give it a quick test drive so they can experience the problem. You might do well to not say anything about the dealer, but rather say that you loaned your car to a friend and that friend wondered about the pulsing. To find other mechanics, ask friends for recommendations, and check the “Mechanics Files” at the top of this page.

Mountainbike, re-read the OP… you just made Mikeinh’s case… Dealer wants $620 just for resurfacing OP’s rotors, that means no new parts, no pads, no discs, just resurfacing them!

Call a Napa store… or any chain, and price the rotors.
Then compare that to the dealer price.
That price to turn the rotors is insane. $155 per axle?
That is wrong on so many levels.

I think that if the 620 dollar charge was broken down into its individual components one would find that the charge is within reason and perfectly legit.

$620 was just to resurface the rotors…I still think that’s outrageous.

Mike, been to Ira or Nashua Toyota lately? $620 would not be unrealistic for them for all four wheels, with new rotors.

@MB Last time I replace rotors for my wifes 96 Accord was a couple of years before we gave it to our niece. I bought them from Sanel Brothers…($30 each). Dealer was $60 each.

I appreciate all the comments. I have not had any work done on the rotors and if and when I do, I’ll check with a local mechanic that seems to be relatively honest. Again, thank you.

I still think some clarification is in order rather than dump on the dealer for being a crook and that a criminal act is going on. OP, I asked earlier that you break the bill down.

It was stated originally that the rotors needed to be machined and this was no doubt part of a larger, complete brake job including pads and caliper slide servicing.

At this point there appears to be a total lack of understanding about what is involved in the estimate that was given along with how a shop flat rate system and dealer parts pricing works.

So how about it OP. Are you saying they were going to resurface rotors and re-use the old pads while calling it good or does it mean new pads, caliper slide servicing, etc?

I normally stick with OEM parts, but I had chronic problems with warped rotors on my '81, '85 and '88 Accords.
I finally, finally! tried some high quality aftermarket rotors on my '88 and the problem went away.
I guess the exception proves the rule?

Machining rotors is waste of time and effort. You can buy a kitted rear brake set for that car for $80. The kit includes pads and both rotors. Pulsing is far more often caused by rust than warpage. Liken it to spraying a strip of furniture polish and a strip of contact cement across a linoleum floor and then sliding across the mess in your stocking feet…quite a different coefficient of friction. I have always had better luck with aftermarket rotors rusting less.