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Brake Lathe?


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I'm trying to make a decision whether or not to buy a brake lathe. Since brake rotors are not very pricey do you think is better to just sell complete brake job pads and rotors instead of turning them? One of the independent shops I used to work for did not have a brake lathe and it worked out pretty good for him. Does anyone else use this approach, or is a brake lathe needed?

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I bought a used brake lathe on craigslist when I opened up. Can't remember exactly what I paid for it, but I think it was around $2000, maybe $1800. Came with the bench/table, adapters and cones. Cleaned it up with some WD-40, spray painted the the bench, and replaced a boot.

 

I don't know if it was worth it, but it's hard to measure. Selling rotors on every brake job is gonna add ~80-100 I would guess. That could cause some customers to go somewhere else. Not that you want to be the cheapest guy in town, but people do pay attention to price regardless.

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We have a on car lathe and a bench lathe. We are on our second on car pro cut. I do not think we could make it with out the on car lathe. Saves a lot of time and the finish is great. I cannot count the times we have gotten warped new rotors out of the box. Plus the expense for rotors for every vehicle does not make sense to me. I do not think I have seen a brake job for $200 even with out replacing the brake rotors for a very long time.

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Years back we cut most rotors. Today, the metal is not the same, even on cars like BMW, Volvo, Mercedes and Audi. Most of the time its a better brake job to replace the rotors with the pads. That's not to say we don't use our lathe, we do. But it's rare that we do. We do use it a lot with drum brakes and cut most drums when we do a brake job.

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We use our brake lathe a good bit. Some of the medium truck rotors are expensive and hard to get. Of course, the odd ball "high end" car we see gets new rotors with each brake job. I've also noticed most newer GM cars are right at discard after the factory pads wear out. We measure each rotor/drum to make sure we can resurface them.

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We don't own a brake lathe and we sell brake rotors with almost every job we do. I just feel if we are doing a proper repair this customer shouldn't be having a brake related issue for approx. 50k miles or more. (well worth the money spent) I also don't use cheap brake parts.....

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I have thought about one myself for several years but the time lost waiting for the rotors to turn verses just replacing them has kept me from buying a lathe. By the time you add the labor to cover the time spent to turn the rotors, its almost even to just replace the rotors with new ones and you don't normally have to worry about if you will have a vibration when you are done.

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Mine isn't an on car lathe, it's a bench lathe. I charge $200 for a brake job with machining rotors. If I have to replace the rotors, it is at least an extra $100, depending on the vehicle. Keep in mind, I'm using dealer parts 99% of the time and that's what my customers want.

 

If they go for a cheaper aftermarket option, the price reflects it, but not much.

Edited by mmotley
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I'm really surprised at how many people don't have lathes! It's an expensive piece of equipment, no doubt. Car count definitely plays a role in it and also where you get your parts from. Cool to see all this feedback from everyone.

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We only have a ProCut on car lathe at the shop. No bench lathe. Best investment yet!! We charge an hour labor per axle to cut. We actually try to sell cutting new rotors to match the vehicle. There are many advantages to having an on car lathe. Number one being no combacks! You can true it up nice on a bench but if the vehicles stacked tolerances are high then it will eventually come back with a pulsation. +1 for on car!!!

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We only have a ProCut on car lathe at the shop. No bench lathe. Best investment yet!! We charge an hour labor per axle to cut. We actually try to sell cutting new rotors to match the vehicle. There are many advantages to having an on car lathe. Number one being no combacks! You can true it up nice on a bench but if the vehicles stacked tolerances are high then it will eventually come back with a pulsation. +1 for on car!!!

 

 

Hey Dustin, wondering if you could give some insight on a few things.

 

What is your hourly rate? Trying to get an idea of what I can charge for a cut rotor. Do you charge more for cross drilled/slotted rotors?

 

How long does it take to perform the service per side?

 

Have you had an difficulties or problems initializing the system and getting the job done? How often are there other issues that cause problems such as wheel bearings?

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Hey Dustin, wondering if you could give some insight on a few things.

 

What is your hourly rate? Trying to get an idea of what I can charge for a cut rotor. Do you charge more for cross drilled/slotted rotors?

 

How long does it take to perform the service per side?

 

Have you had an difficulties or problems initializing the system and getting the job done? How often are there other issues that cause problems such as wheel bearings?

Our hourly rate is 74.95. I have yet to get any drilled or slotted rotors in but I would probably charge the same.

If you are used to the machine you can setup and cut each side in about 15-20minutes per/side. Also the Procut is designed to be a single pass so that also saves time.

 

I usually like to put a dial gauge on the rotor before and after to see the difference in the runout. But all the turning in the world does not work if you have worn components so an initial check is made to insure that the car is up to par.

 

As for difficulties that I have encountered.. I can't say that I have. You pull the caliper and leave the brackets on then set up the machine. Sometimes I spend a little time finding the correct adapter but that is solved with procut's website. They added a nice adapter search so that clears that issue up nicely. If you have questions or want to chat give me a call.

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Thanks Dustin will do!

 

I've been looking at the Pro Cut a bit more closely, I had a customer recently with a stoptech big brake kit. Has some weird wear on his rotors due to him not driving the car very often. Those rotors are probably in the $400+ range. Got me thinking about an On Car Lathe. I have always debated on how to set apart our brake service from the rest of the competition. We are a German Specialty shop so most of the services we provide are catered toward those car makes and customer generally know they can't get the same service elsewhere even at the dealer sometimes. Brakes on the other hand I've always debated on how to sell since a lot of franchise shops offer crazy deals as well as other chain stores. I know for a fact no one in my area does Rotor Matching and if what is advertised is true, if I can put of a better job and ensure no comebacks and 100% satisfaction I am very much interested.

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I agree, Procut was really good at coming out and training everyone in the shop on the machine. They provide you with TONS of sales material for customers and also nice counter displays. Most importantly they tech you how to sell the service!! They are constantly sending me more kits with additional sales material. We have a lot of equipment here but no company that we deal with put that much effort into helping you make money with the machine they sold you. Usually when they make the sale then they throw you to the wolfs and walk away! (Kinda reminds me of the first day of wrenching way back then)

 

I have found if you actually take the 2 extra minutes to actively (through using material and displays) show the customers the benefit of the service we make the sale.

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Thanks Dustin will do!

 

I've been looking at the Pro Cut a bit more closely, I had a customer recently with a stoptech big brake kit. Has some weird wear on his rotors due to him not driving the car very often. Those rotors are probably in the $400+ range. Got me thinking about an On Car Lathe. I have always debated on how to set apart our brake service from the rest of the competition. We are a German Specialty shop so most of the services we provide are catered toward those car makes and customer generally know they can't get the same service elsewhere even at the dealer sometimes. Brakes on the other hand I've always debated on how to sell since a lot of franchise shops offer crazy deals as well as other chain stores. I know for a fact no one in my area does Rotor Matching and if what is advertised is true, if I can put of a better job and ensure no comebacks and 100% satisfaction I am very much interested.

 

My suggestion is do not try and compete with franchise shops. Or the other shops, or the dealers for the matter. You can put a better job out then the others you mention here. If you do that then the competitions is over with. Your job then is to make sure your customers you have now and the future one know it. From there you will be leading and they will be left scratching their heads to try and beat you.

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When we first opened we had two lathes. One was set up for drums and one for rotors. We only have one now as that is enough. At one time I wanted to buy a Procut on the car lathe now I never will. I don't think I can justify the cost or the time involved in using it.

Do you replace rotors more than machining them?

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I have worked at Subaru and now Hyundai. We turn rotors if we can, which is more often than not. For warranty work we have to use the on-car, if not we can use either-or. We get a lot of brake jobs. Even though our labor rate is high at 105.00, our brake jobs costs are generally lower than the independent shops who (in my opinion, foolishly) only go the new rotors route. We have flat pricing for our brands. 249.95 includes new OEM pads and hardware, turned rotors, serviced calipers for the rear, 299.95 for the same in the front. If it is an off brand pricing varies, but it usually all falls between 199.95 and 299.95. Our brake jobs with turned rotors still take an hour or less for any of our techs to do, I usually get them out in 50 minutes time. Our comeback rate on them is low as well.

 

We charge 0.5 for the turning of rotors per axle. So if they need new rotors it now becomes 199.95 + cost of rotors for the rear, or 249.95 + cost of rotors for the front. This is OEM of course. The average cost of rotors is around 69.95, so we are talking about 339.95 rear or 389.95 front. It's a substantial savings in the customer's eyes. Average brake job with rotors at an indy shop around here is about 299.95 to 399.95, and I couldn't tell you in good conscious what brand parts that includes. Most of them refuse to turn rotors, which helps us stay busy with gravy brakes.

 

Our techs get paid 2.0 with a resurface or 1.5 with replacements.

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I have worked at Subaru and now Hyundai. We turn rotors if we can, which is more often than not. For warranty work we have to use the on-car, if not we can use either-or. We get a lot of brake jobs. Even though our labor rate is high at 105.00, our brake jobs costs are generally lower than the independent shops who (in my opinion, foolishly) only go the new rotors route. We have flat pricing for our brands. 249.95 includes new OEM pads and hardware, turned rotors, serviced calipers for the rear, 299.95 for the same in the front. If it is an off brand pricing varies, but it usually all falls between 199.95 and 299.95. Our brake jobs with turned rotors still take an hour or less for any of our techs to do, I usually get them out in 50 minutes time. Our comeback rate on them is low as well.

 

We charge 0.5 for the turning of rotors per axle. So if they need new rotors it now becomes 199.95 + cost of rotors for the rear, or 249.95 + cost of rotors for the front. This is OEM of course. The average cost of rotors is around 69.95, so we are talking about 339.95 rear or 389.95 front. It's a substantial savings in the customer's eyes. Average brake job with rotors at an indy shop around here is about 299.95 to 399.95, and I couldn't tell you in good conscious what brand parts that includes. Most of them refuse to turn rotors, which helps us stay busy with gravy brakes.

 

Our techs get paid 2.0 with a resurface or 1.5 with replacements.

Your numbers really don't work and being a tech you really have no idea about what satisfactions are and your comback numbers. Most people don't complain, they just don't come back so in reality you don't know the failure rate of the rotors. Two-hundred and fifty bucks for turned rotors and front pads is certainly not any kind of a deal in any town I've ever seen.

 

Dealerships and Independents are from 2 totally different mindsets. As an independent I can and do refuse work or installing parts I do not believe in when working on my customers vehicles. I'm there to provide a needed service to my customers vehicles and I will only do repairs that will do that. A dealer doesn't turn any work down that a nickle can be made from.

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Your numbers really don't work and being a tech you really have no idea about what satisfactions are and your comback numbers. Most people don't complain, they just don't come back so in reality you don't know the failure rate of the rotors. Two-hundred and fifty bucks for turned rotors and front pads is certainly not any kind of a deal in any town I've ever seen.

 

Explain what you mean by "Your numbers really don't work" please...

 

Before you go out and say " being a tech you really have no idea about what satisfactions are and your comback numbers" I would give ADealerTech a little more credit and ask him a question about it before just shooting him down. He may know more then you give credit for. Have you been in his shoes? See instead of me just saying you're not in his shoes I ask have you been in his shoes.

 

$250 bucks for a good job is a deal! $125.00 for a half ass job is not and it's half the price. :)

 

Dealerships and Independents are from 2 totally different mindsets. As an independent I can and do refuse work or installing parts I do not believe in when working on my customers vehicles. I'm there to provide a needed service to my customers vehicles and I will only do repairs that will do that. A dealer doesn't turn any work down that a nickle can be made from.

 

On certain things they are two different mind sets. With customer pay jobs they are one in the same.

 

Look forward to your reply.

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Your numbers really don't work and being a tech you really have no idea about what satisfactions are and your comback numbers. Most people don't complain, they just don't come back so in reality you don't know the failure rate of the rotors. Two-hundred and fifty bucks for turned rotors and front pads is certainly not any kind of a deal in any town I've ever seen.

 

Dealerships and Independents are from 2 totally different mindsets. As an independent I can and do refuse work or installing parts I do not believe in when working on my customers vehicles. I'm there to provide a needed service to my customers vehicles and I will only do repairs that will do that. A dealer doesn't turn any work down that a nickle can be made from.

 

Since you haven't provided anything relevant other than assumptions of what I do and don't know about what goes on in the place of business I work at. I will just say this:

 

I hold an automotive service degree, which I obtained after I was laid off from my previous job, which was an investment advisor for Bank of America. I also hold a finance degree, which was required to hold the job I had. So, I have a little idea of how business works, and by a little, since I helped advise owners of companies multiple 100s of times larger than yours, I mean a lot.

 

I also am currently working on my business management degree, so that when I do finally pull the trigger on my own shop, I will have an excellent shot at staying solvent and viable. Notice how I said shop? That is because I already am an actual business owner, I am registered with the state of RI and carry a personal liability rider and report all my side work as income to keep legitimate and build a client base for my future endeavors. So I do know a little something about running a business of my own as well.

 

Furthermore, I happen to be the one living in Rhode Island, seeing the prices of dealers and independents in my specific area and it qualifies me a whole lot more than you to know what is a deal for the area.

 

Lastly, anyone can open a business, it does not mean they have good business sense, or any sort of authority over knowledge on how to run one.

 

Your contempt for techs tells me a lot about you.

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There are a number of vehicles that the brake rotors don't just slide off to replace. How can you justify to your customer you are doing the best for them by selling them new rotors when these can really be resurfaced. Say they ask why do they need to be replaced. Your honest answer would have to be because we do not have the equipment to resurface them on the vehicle. We do not see a lot of comebacks for vibration or noise (less the 1%). If your answer is quality of new brake rotors warp easier then that's all the more reason to resurface the OE rotors do to the quality difference between them and the aftermarket. I have no argument about aftermarket quality. In general it has been going down for a while. We have seen new aftermarket brake rotors warped right out of the box.

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Brian, for those type of rotors that don't slide of I plan on using a nearby machine shop that will cut them for me and adjust the invoice.

 

 

If you'd don't do enough volume to justify a lathe I completely understand. It will get to a point (hopefully) that you will be selling enough brake jobs to warrant not going through the hassle and wasted time of taking rotors to another shop and losing out on that money.

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ADealerTech, Thanks a lot for your input. Its great to read constructive information from the other side of the coin. Phynny, I think you should take it easy on the techs on the board. The ones like ADealerTech are only trying to help. Lets all get a long!

 

Agreed, this was excellent information from the dealer side.

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If you'd don't do enough volume to justify a lathe I completely understand. It will get to a point (hopefully) that you will be selling enough brake jobs to warrant not going through the hassle and wasted time of taking rotors to another shop and losing out on that money.

 

Gotta start somewhere, and this way is a lot more affordable. I agree

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Would you mind clarifying this? I'm assuming that the 2 hrs refers to techs doing both the front AND the rear, not 4 hrs for both. Just clarifying. Thanks.

 

When I was at the dealer, we got 2 hours to pads and resurface. So a 4 wheel brake job was 4 hours. Front brakes paid 2 hours. Rear brakes paid 2 hours.

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