Brake Lathe Buying Guide

Equipment Essentials – Brake Lathes

3 questions that you MUST ask yourself BEFORE choosing the right brake lathe:

Brake LatheA brake lathe is a piece of equipment that you can use to fix imperfections on the surface of a wheel rotor. Oftentimes, when people feel or hear vibrations and/or noises while driving or braking, what they’re actually experiencing is a rotor-related issue. And generally, these issues involve the surface of the rotor itself. Over time, with prolonged use or even from exposure to corrosive contaminants (like road salt), the surface of the rotor can become uneven.

A brake lathe can take a layer of metal off of the rotors to even them out and fix the flaws, which should enable the brake pads to ‘grab’ the rotor just like they did when it was new. ‘Machining’ the rotor (as it’s often called) can lengthen its life—thereby saving you time, trouble, and money. New rotors aren’t cheap—so lengthening their life-span definitely doesn’t hurt where the wallet is concerned.

A quality brake lathe can be a helpful and profitable step for any garage or shop owner—though choosing the best lathe for your needs might not be quite as easy as it sounds. There are actually two different basic types of lathes to choose from (on-car or off-car), and beyond that there are a ton of options to consider as you shop for the best model/brand for you.

In this blog, we’re going to discuss three questions that you really need to answer before buying. These questions might seem simplistic—but they may also help to steer you clear of some options that might not be the best for your situation.

Is the brand/model in question going to be quick to set up and run?

A brake lathe is considered a quantity-focused machine—and most of them are designed to be fast and easy to use. With that being said, some are definitely faster and easier to use than others—and this is going to be an important thing to consider.   To ensure you get the best selection of options and models, it is always wise to get multiple quotes from authorized equipment sellers.  Let’s be honest—buying one of these machines isn’t going to be cheap—so you need to think about recouping your investment. The more you can get done with it, the quicker that will happen—but it’s never going to happen if changing rotors and attaching tools is too time consuming.

Never buy or lease a brake lathe before making sure that it’s not going to take you a ton of time to do anything with it. If you’re running a garage, then you know better than most that time is money.

Should you buy an on-car brake lathe?

Thinking MechanicOn-car brake lathes offer some distinct advantages and disadvantages, though one may work better in your situation than the other. On one hand, they tend to be very accurate because they’re mounted to the rotor just like a brake caliper, and thereby don’t require you to remove it from the vehicle. On the other hand, it isn’t possible to just ‘turn’ rotors brought into the shop this way without a lot of extra work—so this choice can sometimes be a tough one.

Is it easy to maintain and keep clean?

One of the primary reasons for inaccuracy on rotor machining jobs comes from a failure to mount the parts correctly to the lathe. And one of the main reasons for mounting problems is a failure to keep the lathe and its parts impeccably clean.

Is the rotor in question easy to maintain? Would it be difficult to keep rust, metal particles, and other debris from messing with the process?

If you feel that a brake lathe has some design problems in this area, than make sure to test the theory by reading or watching some reviews before the purchase. The main responsibility here lies with the operator, of course—but some brake lathes may not offer a design that’s incredibly ‘intuitive’ in the maintenance area. This could cause needless problems that may not be worth dealing with—especially when there are so many brake lathes out there that are designed with this issue in mind.


These might not necessarily be end-all questions that will guarantee the right purchase—but they’re a starting point and should probably always be considered. For best results, do your research and explore your options before making the purchase. This will greatly increase your odds of buying a brake lathe that will work perfectly for your garage or shop.


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