What Is A Brake Lathe?

on car brake lathe

When a car squeals as it brakes, it can be a little intimidating for the driver. 

After all, out of everything that can go wrong when you’re out on the road, the last thing you want is to be unable to stop your vehicle. 

And although, most of the time, the noise is merely annoying (and not indicative of something more dangerous)… the issue must be addressed.

So, What Is A Brake Lathe?

A brake lathe is a piece of machinery that corrects the thickness variations on a rotor, solving noise and vibration problems in the majority of cases. It looks to resolve uneven wear and tear,  resurfacing a brake’s rotors and drums to increase its lifespan significantly.

What Are The Types Of Brake Lathe’s?

1. On-Car Brake Lathe

An on-car brake lathe is a specialized machine used for resurfacing brake discs or rotors while they are still mounted on the vehicle. Unlike off-car brake lathes, which require removing the brake components from the vehicle and mounting them onto the machine, on-car brake lathes can perform brake resurfacing while the brake components remain in place.

The on-car brake lathe works by attaching to the wheel hub and spinning with the wheel while a cutting tool resurfaces the brake disc or rotor. This process removes any unevenness, warping, or damage on the brake surface, resulting in a smooth and even finish that promotes optimal braking performance.

2. Off-Car Brake Lathe

Off-car brake lathes are specialised machines used for servicing brake discs, rotors, and drums off the vehicle. These machines are designed to provide mechanics and automotive specialists with a way to resurface brake components without having to remove them from the vehicle.

The off-car brake lathe works by securely mounting the brake disc or rotor onto the machine’s spindle, and then using a cutting tool to resurface the braking surface. This process removes any unevenness, warping, or damage on the brake surface, resulting in a smooth and even finish that promotes optimal braking performance.

How To Use A Brake Lathe

When you’ve purchased a brake lathe, you’ll need to find a safe spot for it to sit. Then, depending on what brakes you are working on, you’ll need to adjust the settings accordingly; installing the appropriate cutting tips and selecting your speed and feed rates.

Your machine-specific instructions will help you with this, but here is some general guidance to follow…

1) Lathe Set-Up for Brake Rotors

You’ll need to measure the thickness of the rotor you are working on, adjusting the machine accordingly. When you’ve done so, centre the rotor on the brake lathe and choose your cutting bits.

2) Lathe Setup for Brake Drums

You’ll need to measure the thickness of the drum you are working on (the diameter, not the circumference) and, again, centre the drum on the brake lathe. Then, install the cutting bits.

Why Is It Important To Use A Brake Lathe?

Even when everything seems to be operating perfectly, regularly using a brake lathe will reduce the likelihood of an issue arising during day-to-day vehicle use. This can stop a driver from having to pay an expensive and unwelcome bill and help a mechanic avoid a complicated and extensive repair.

How Often Should I Use A Brake Lathe?

You should use a brake lathe whenever the brake rotors or drums show signs of wear, unevenness, or damage. This can vary depending on how often you use your brakes and the type of driving you do. However, a good rule of thumb is to have your brake rotors and drums inspected every time you have your brake pads replaced. This will ensure that any issues are detected and addressed before they become more serious.

Can I Use A Brake Lathe On All Vehicle Types?

Yes, there are brake lathes that are designed to work on all types of vehicles, including cars, trucks, and motorcycles. However, it’s important to choose the right size and type of brake lathe for your specific application. This will ensure that you get the best results and that your brake system operates safely and effectively.

Top Safety Precautions to Consider Before Using a Brake Lathe

As with all machinery, you must be mindful of your personal safety while using a brake lathe. As such, you should…

  1. Always inspect the machine before using it – looking out for worn, damaged, or missing parts.
  2. Take the time to read the instructions carefully, keeping all the relevant information fresh in your mind.
  3. Only operate the brake lathe in a distraction-free, clean environment with no potential hazards.

As an additional part of this, it’s imperative that you wear PPE (including gloves, goggles and sturdy footwear) and tie back loose hair or clothing.

The Post-Lathe Resurfacing Process

Once you’ve used your brake lathe, ensure the brakes will function properly by:

  1. Deburring and cleaning the rotor or drum.
  2. Testing the rotor or drum for runout.
  3. Checking the rotor or drum thickness.

Remember, if something seems off… don’t risk it. At the end of the day, safety is key.

Best Practices for Using a Brake Lathe

A smart brake lathe from AAQ can be adjusted to your needs. Through it, you’ll be able to change the feed rate for each brake and select the required cut depth – customising each result according to your requirements. 

With some machines, you will also be able to choose your ideal working speed to resurface a rotor or drum perfectly. 

As long as you set it up properly and follow the instructions, you’ll be well on your way to greatness.

AAQ is a responsive and reputable seller of brake lathes, car stackers, hoists, and lifts. Browse our range or contact us today for more information.