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Help me help my Honda.
July 28, 2011 8:56 AM   Subscribe

Just had to replace the rotors on my Honda Accord. Again. Help.

My 2004 Honda Accord with 65K miles has needed its rotors replaced 3 times in 7 years. I understand that this is likely due to lack of use, especially during the winter. We live in Montreal, which has very long and snowy winters, and we do not use the car very much (note the low mileage), but we drive it at least once a week during the winter and often more than that. It certainly doesn't sit in a snowbank for months on end. Yet approximately every other year I need to have all the rotors replaced, and they always look like they've been sitting out in the rain for ten years. Is this normal? Am I being suckered by various mechanics? Short of getting a job with a 20-mile commute, is there anything I can do to prevent this?
posted by googly to Travel & Transportation (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
what's the mechanic saying they need replacing for ? warped ? too thin for use/spec ?

And are the brake pads being changed too ?

FWIW, a set of rotors can last a very long time, so 3 times with 65k miles on it isn't right ..

But, if you have bad driving habits (resting a foot on the brake ?), something wrong with the brake system (cylinder, calipers) a mechanic should note that too.

Rust on the rotors is par for the course. It comes off with normal wear. (well, some rust is normal .. how bad are we talking here ?)
posted by k5.user at 9:06 AM on July 28, 2011


what's the mechanic saying they need replacing for ? warped ? too thin for use/spec ? And are the brake pads being changed too ? FWIW, a set of rotors can last a very long time, so 3 times with 65k miles on it isn't right ..

I should have added that each time this has happened after I have taken the car in because of problems with the brakes (e.g. pulsations when braking, etc.). The brake pads are always replaced as well. IIRC, the mechanics have said that the rotors are too thin.

But, if you have bad driving habits (resting a foot on the brake ?), something wrong with the brake system (cylinder, calipers) a mechanic should note that too.

This didn't happen the first few years I owned the car (and drove it more), so I'm inclined to say its not bad driving habits, unless I or my GF, who also drives the car, have recently gotten worse. Oh, and this last time they replaced a CV joint as well.

Rust on the rotors is par for the course. It comes off with normal wear. (well, some rust is normal .. how bad are we talking here ?)


A ton of rust. Like, the entire thing is covered in rust and corrosion, and you can see how much the rotor has been worn away.
posted by googly at 9:13 AM on July 28, 2011


The stock rotors on Honda Accords are notorious for rusting and warping - I'm on my second set of rotors on my 2000 Accord, and I will need to replace those on my next brake job, probably within the next year. I'm told that Brembo rotors are much better than stock, and cheaper to boot - that's what I plan to use on my next brake job.
posted by deadmessenger at 9:14 AM on July 28, 2011


I'm told that Brembo rotors are much better than stock, and cheaper to boot - that's what I plan to use on my next brake job.

And Centric is even cheaper than Brembo and still great quality. OP isn't doing any performance driving so I think Brembo is overkill. Also, he should invest in painted rotors which will help prevent rust.
posted by InsanePenguin at 9:18 AM on July 28, 2011


Montreal is notorious for terrible salted slush that rusts everything it contacts. Another brand of rotor might be better to try next time, but if the rotor is being rusted and then worn away until they are too thin that quickly, there probably isn't that much you can do about it. Are all the rotors being worn away at the same rate?

If you aren't driving much, maybe Communauto would work for you?
posted by ssg at 9:19 AM on July 28, 2011


Are all the rotors being worn away at the same rate?

I'm not sure, but I don't think so. I think that one or two rotors are the worst, and they just replace all of them at the same time (which may be unnecessary).

If you aren't driving much, maybe Communauto would work for you?

Interesting idea. We have a baby, and we do use it often enough for longer trips to Vermont, so having the car is mega-convenient.
posted by googly at 9:29 AM on July 28, 2011


Also, he should invest in painted rotors which will help prevent rust.

I think you mean painted calipers.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 9:45 AM on July 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


So Mk1 Toyota MR-2s are notorious for warped rotors if the wheel lug nuts are overtightened. As in, you won't get a thousand miles out of them if they're not set to within 5-10 lb-ft of 72. Lots of shops don't bother using a torque wrench for the initial tightening, which can easily zip them on to over 100 lb-ft. I don't know if Accords suffer from the same problem, but try loosening them, and using a torque wrench to tighten them to factory spec. Maybe that will help.
posted by TheNewWazoo at 10:07 AM on July 28, 2011


I my anecdotal experience with Honda rotors (I owed and worked extensively on an old Civic and older Accord) you HAD to tighten then PRECISELY TO SPEC, tightening the bolts in the star pattern (see here) or they're gonna warp as sure as the sun will rise. I'm not sure if this is due to aftermarket rotors being lighter (to save gas, maybe) or not as well cast, but if you're comfortable with a torque wrench and working on your own car, this is one of those things I don't trust someone else to do if I'm not watching. Unless you're buying pre-machined re-manufactured rotors (possible, depending on how much you trust your mechanic) a rotor shouldn't be too thin after a year, even with lots of rust. As an aside, I've seen even the grungiest rotors clean right up after a bit of careful driving. Even if the rotors themselves are crusty and nasty, I'd drive it gently for a few days then just put new pads on.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 10:37 AM on July 28, 2011


It doesn't sound like you have brake problem it sounds like you have a corrosion problem. Something that really helps with winter corrosion from salt on the roads is to wash your car during the winter, and often. It is a huge pain in the ass and the part you need to wash isn't the top, shiny part. It is the wheel wells, the undercarriage, you need to rinse out the grime that accumulates under the plastic cladding on the body and such. Which means you have to get down and due it yourself as I have never gone through an automated car wash that did even a decent job on these parts.

By washing off the salt and dirt you really slow down the corrosion, or you could not drive the car on snowy/slushy roads (not really an option I am guessing from your post). When I lived in snow country I would make it a point to take the car to the DIY car wash after the roads were clear after every storm they plowed the roads, and when I started doing this I never had rust problems again. This was in the mountain west and the storms are not constant and the roads get clear in a few days and then stay clear for a week or two till the next storm (usually). Such a strategy may not work where you live but cleaning the car during the winter at least some will help.
posted by bartonlong at 10:39 AM on July 28, 2011


Brakes don't rust out on me and I'm in Michigan, which uses as much salt on the roads as anywhere. Rust shouldn't be killing them unless you're never using them hard enough to scrub it off the friction surface (unlikely).

Rotors almost never warp. They wind up with uneven pad deposits, which still requires resurfacing or new rotors) This can be a result of a bad bed-in process (info here) or just plain junky brake pads.

You might also be getting uneven wear due to a problem with a caliper, typically as a result of the pins that the calipers float on rusting up. Or maybe an improperly torqued wheel or some problem with the mating surface between hubs and brake rotor is the cause. Not nearly as likely as a problem with the pads, though.

There's not a lot of magic to the metallurgy in rotor design, so expensive ones aren't typically worth it. Even a cheapo $20 rotor can take an absolutely tremendous amount of abuse (glowing red hot) without warping. There's HUGE variation in pad compounds, though. What might be worth trying is changing up the pad, either back to OEM ones if you're not using them, or to one of the higher-end street pads.

Get different pads, have 'em lube those caliper slide pins, make 100% sure they torque the wheels lugs down properly and scrub off any rust they find behind the rotors when the replace them and you'll probably solve the problem. As a preventative thing, periodically go out and do four or five hard 45 mph -> 0 stops right in a row to maintain the rotor surface. Obviously on an empty road. ;)
posted by pjaust at 10:40 AM on July 28, 2011


The one thing that bothers me about this is that you're not having your rotors resurfaced. Generally, rotors can be resurfaced (and the value of that practice is debatable) until they're below tolerance, then they have to be replaced -- and I wonder why the rotors would be getting so thin from surface corrosion alone.

It's going to be a bit of a pain, but do this: the next time you start having brake problems, look up the rotor tolerances and buy a tool to measure the rotors yourself. Do a little research in the meantime to determine the thickness at which you should be replacing instead of resurfacing. Presumably you'll find out they're not too thin at all, not even close. Then bring it into your shop, and see if they want to replace 'em because they're too thin. If they say yes, bring it to another shop, and keep going until you find an honest one.

The thing is, replacing a disc brake rotor is less labor than resurfacing one, and they can markup the part instead of just charging their labor rate, so a busy shop will make more money that way. I suspect that's what is happening here. As pjaust notes above, rotors don't generally warp, they typically get deposits that get called "warping", and while I can see you getting deposits, I can't see you having rotors worn so thin that, three times in a row, resurfacing wasn't an option.
posted by davejay at 12:39 PM on July 28, 2011


What's happening is the corrosion on the rotors is enough to cause irregular wear on both the pads and rotors. Fragments (grains of rust) are probably embedding in the pads and creating grooves and generally effing them up to point that they can't be resurfaced. That's not surprising at all considering your description.

I would figure out a way to rinse them off before letting it sit for long periods. Straight water probably won't do, because they'll just freeze up. Maybe a mixture of water and alcohol in a spray bottle? As long as you get that salt and road grime off before it sits for a few days I think you'll double the life of your rotors and pads.

(If you feel silly about rinsing them off, that's what salt-water boaters do with their boat-trailers. Rinse, rinse and more rinse!)
posted by snsranch at 4:30 PM on July 28, 2011


Also, he should invest in painted rotors which will help prevent rust.

I think you mean painted calipers.


Actually some rotors do have a painted section around the center where the lug nut holes are. I just put new rotors on my truck. I chose "economy" for the rear but "daily driver" for the front and the fronts arrived with a black epoxy coating.

Also, nthing slide pins being checked. if they're siezed up (damaged rubber boots?) one pad will be doing most of the stopping, leading to differential heating of the rotor faces, which is a recipe for warping and some of the pedal feel issues the OP is talking about.
posted by werkzeuger at 5:48 PM on July 28, 2011


I think you're getting played. If it happens again, seek a second or third opinion. If a shop sees an opportunity to take your business by proposing a less-drastic fix than total replacement, they'll take it.

Alternatively, ask to have the old rotors back next time (if this happens again) and take them to another shop to get resurfaced. They'll do it, if they're able, and you'll have a good set for next time. If they're out of spec, they'll refuse.
posted by klanawa at 9:59 PM on July 28, 2011


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