So, about a year ago I acquired a 2004 Volvo XC90. The tires needed replacing, and almost $800 later I had four new tires. As a matter of course the shop tried to sell me every maintenance task under the sun. Of all the items listed I knew the front brake rotors (and pads) actually needed to be replaced. They were original (110k miles) and the previous owner was pretty aggressive with them. Quote for replacing front rotors: $600. I could tell this had to be a relatively easy standard maintenance job, and it wasn’t in the engine bay where everything is like a puzzle; just pop the wheels off, pop off the calipers and then the rotors. I watched a youtube video where someone did the exact job I wanted to do, but still I pushed it off. I have never done any real maintenance work on my cars. Sure I’ve replaced air filters, lights, wiper, the really easy stuff. But even oil changes were for Jiffy Lube.
Now, a year later, I had moved slowly towards doing it myself. I went to Autozone and picked up the parts. Rotors: $70 each, and pads: $50 for the set, total: about $200 in parts. They sat in the garage for a couple months. This last weekend I finally got down to business, with my roommate’s help we jacked the car onto jack stands and were able to do the whole front end at once. We pulled the tired off, pulled out a couple pins to remove the calipers, compressed the piston to get the pads over the rotor lip and removed a couple bolts to get the brake housing off, removed a set screw holding the rotor in place and popped off the rotor. Repeated in reverse with a little lube and we were done. The first wheel took about an two hours, including a trip back to the Autozone because my car actually used the 2003 sized 316mm rotors, not the 2004 336mm rotors they had originally sold me. They second wheel was done in 30 minutes or less. Total time: maybe 3 hours conservatively, cost: $210 if you include miscellaneous items. Savings: about $400, or $133 an hour for my time. I’m sure the shop would have sold me “nicer” rotors, but I wouldn’t have learned a valuable skill. While the rotors may never be replaced again while I have the car (hopefully another 100k miles), I will certainly replace the pads myself.
Then, for good measure, we replaced the rotors on my wife’s 2007 Toyota Corolla. Despite having only 75k miles, the rotors showed clear signs of warpage (severe shaking when braking. According to service records, the previous owner had had them turned only a year before we bought the car. A local shop could turn them again for $15 apiece, but new rotors were only $30 each and the old one’s probably would’ve needed replacing in 25k miles anyhow. There was also a chance the old rotors were compromised and we could have turned them for nothing. So, despite being significantly easier to remove the calipers, the old rotors took a beating before finally falling off (due to a poorly designed overly tight tolerance). My wife actually did most of the work putting these back together, and now the car brakes as smoothly as we could want. Double Success!