Because rotors are not replaced as often as brake pads, your mechanic might suggest that the rotors get replaced when they start grinding. If you have it done by a mechanic they’re usually happy to recycle the rotors for you.
If you do your own brake work though what do you do with your leftover rotors? The real question is “should you throw away old brake rotors, or is there a better safer option?”
You can throw away your old brake rotors. The best option for the environment is to dispose of your old brake rotors by bringing them to a junkyard that recycles scrap metal. This can get you a few dollars and is much better than throwing them in the trash where they will just sit in a landfill for decades.
Most brake rotors are 100% recyclable, but you can’t just throw them in with the regular recycling unless you check with your waste management company.
If you can’t just throw them in with the regular recycling then what do you do with them? Can they be repurposed?
Recycling Your Brake Rotors
The process of recycling your broken rotors is fairly simple. You do have to physically take the rotors to the junkyard that recycles them. Be careful because most rotors are made of cast iron making them extremely expensive to move compared to their size.
Rotors don’t contain any toxic elements like other automobile parts such as batteries, so they don’t require any kind of special handling. The reason you don’t want to put the rotors directly into your household recycling has more to do with their weight and size than with their toxicity. Remember, rotors could damage the machines that are used to sort through household recycling, so taking them to the junkyard if you don’t plan on repurposing is the preferred method of recycling.
Exceptions to the Rule
Carbon-ceramic rotors and pads, typically found in higher-end sports cars like Porches and Ferraris, cannot be recycled. These rotors should not need replacing but if you do have to replace them, they should be thrown in the garbage.
Let’s explore the different options available to you and how to utilize them.
- Do a quick search to find your local dump or recycling center. Checking with your city or town hall is a great way to get this location.
- A quick call to the recycling center before loading the heavy rotors is always a good idea.
- Flatten a piece of cardboard to lay the rotor on if you are concerned about a mess or damage to your car.
- Take the rotors to the recycling site.
- When you get there you can ask an employee where to properly dispose of your rotor. If you put them in the wrong bin you could damage sorting equipment.
Taking your rotors to the junkyard could make you some money. Depending on the location of your scrapyard, it may not be worth the trip though unless you are taking large amounts of metal for recycling, it may be more trouble than it is worth. In a Win-Win fashion, you could make up to $2 per rotor depending on weight and the going rate of redemption.
The amount you will make from the scrap yard varies and depends on the following factors:
- Market value of the type of metal
- Time of year
Rotors can weigh anywhere from 15 to 40 pounds for normal mid-sized cars. Generally the larger the vehicle the heavier the rotors. So if you are going to take the rotors to a junkyard for redemption you should locate and call ahead because some junkyard will not take small amounts of metals. The junkyard will weigh your metal and pay you to recycle your rotors.
Craigslist or Other Social Media Sites
Maybe this all seems like a lot of work to do. If you don’t want to go to the trouble of loading the rotors in and back out of your car for a trip to the junkyard, then placing an ad on social media for a “Scrapper” or “Junker” to come to take them away is a pretty effective way to get rid of them. Though you won’t make any money going this route, you will have some extra space in the garage.
Back when I was a kid it was common practice to resurface your brake rotors a couple of times before replacing them, but that is not the case now.
Rotors used to be made thicker and the safety laws are more stringent now so it is not recommended to resurface rotors because even one resurfacing can reduce the rotor to a point where it is no longer legally usable.
Practically, it is not smart to pay the costs of resurfacing anyway since it only costs about the same to replace the rotors and that can give you the peace of mind that the problem is fixed.
Recycle, Reuse, Reduce, But How
If your old rotors are rust free, they can be great for a DIY project.
I knew a guy once who would melt down his old metal and used it to make fishing weights out of it. He had a 5-gallon bucket of salvage metal that included everything from broken screws to car parts.
Here are some of the ways other people are recycling, reusing, and creatively reusing their old rotors:
- Boat Anchors
- Wall clock
- Weights for your tractor wheel
- Sculpture base
- Grinder stand
- Floor lamp base
- In your outdoor garden
Yes, you should try to recycle your old brake rotors. They are not toxic and landfills are full of materials that will spend an eternity there.
Limiting the amount of usable waste in our junkyard and landfills is the key to our continued survival. Recycling just one aluminum can use 95% less energy than crafting one from new materials. Now imagine how much more your rotor weighs than that can.
There are so many creative and waste-conscious ideas out there for every type of material. We most definitely all have a responsibility to reduce our carbon footprint in this world.