How thin can rotor drums be safely turned?
If a customer wants drums turned to a size outside the limits cast
into the drum, you must refuse. They cannot be turned thinner than the
minimum thickness specifications stamped or cast on the rotor or drum
itself. A drum or rotor worn or turned too thin may not be able to absorb
and dissipate heat quickly.
This can make the brakes run hot, accelerate lining wear, and reduce
braking effectiveness. It can also lead to rotor or drum warpage and
a pulsating brake pedal.
Most drums are cast with enough thickness to allow 0.090"
of wear. In other words, the difference between a drum's diameter when
new and its discard diameter is 0.090," but that doesn't mean you
can machine a drum right up to the 0.090" limit. You should never
turn a drum that's worn more than 0.060" beyond its original diameter.
The 0.060" limit leaves a 0.030" margin for additional
wear. If you turn a drum that's worn more than 0.060," or if the
drum ends up being more than 0.060" larger after turning, there
may not be enough metal left to handle normal wear until the next brake
The 0.090" discard limit is the maximum acceptable wear the
drum can safely handle before the metal is too thin. Any drum worn beyond
0.060", or that would be over 0.060" larger after resurfacing,
should never be turned on a lathe, it should be replaced.
Wear is checked by measuring diameter with a drum micrometer. If
the gauge shows enough metal left to safely turn it, the drum can be
resurfaced to restore and true the surface.
Like drums, the amount of wear a rotor has experienced will determine
whether or not it can be resurfaced. The two-key rotor dimensions to
take into account are minimum refinish thickness and discard thickness.
Discard thickness is usually cast in the rotor itself, but minimum
refinish thickness must often be looked up in a reference manual or
brake specification chart.
Minimum refinish thickness is the limit for resurfacing the rotor.
If the rotor has worn to the point where its thickness will be less
than the specified dimension after resurfacing, the rotor should be
Discard thickness is the maximum acceptable wear limit. Once the
rotor is worn beyond discard thickness, it must be replaced. The difference
between discard and minimum refinish thickness is the margin the vehicle
manufacturer believes is necessary to allow for normal wear between
brake jobs. It varies considerably from one vehicle manufacturer to
the next, and according to vehicle size and type of brakes used.
The margin specified on most domestic passenger cars is around
0.015." The range is 0.020" to 0.030" for most imports.
A few, such as Jaguar, have as much as a 0.050" difference between
minimum refinish thickness and discard thickness.
Thickness should be measured with a micrometer at six evenly spaced
points around the rotor. The smallest measurement should be used since
this is how far the rotor will have to be machined to restore the surface.
Measuring at various points around the rotor will reveal any variations
in rotor thickness or parallelism. Both surfaces of the rotor must be
within the manufacturer's specified tolerances for parallelism, otherwise
the rotor can cause excessive pedal travel (by kicking the pads too
far out as it turns), front end vibration, pedal pulsation, and chatter.
Parallelism specs recommended by various vehicle manufacturers
range from as low as 0.0001" to as high as 0.0008." Refer
to reference charts to determine how much correction, if any, is needed.
Another critical rotor dimension is runout. Lateral runout is the
movement of the rotor from side to side as it turns. Excessive runout
will kick the pads out as the rotor turns, creating excessive clearance
requiring increased pedal travel when brakes are applied.
Runout specifications vary from as low as 0.002" to as high
as 0.006." You should always refer to the particular specs listed
by the vehicle manufacturer when checking runout.
Runout is checked with a dial indicator while the rotor is still
on the car. If run-out exceeds the recommended limit, the rotor must
be resurfaced or replaced.
Drums and rotors should always be inspected
for heat cracks, distortion, damage, and hard spots prior to resurfacing.
Cracks, damage and hard spots call for replacement. If distortion can't
be eliminated within the limits of resurfacing, replacement will also