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How Do I Choose the Best Used Brake Lathe?

Jeremy Laukkonen
Jeremy Laukkonen

Choosing the best used brake lathe will depend largely on what you want to do with the unit and how much money you have at your disposal. The first item to consider can be what the unit will cut, since some will only work on rotors while others can also resurface drums and even flywheels. Another factor that can be important is the physical condition of the unit. The motor should run well and properly actuate both the arbor and the cutting tool. Good models to buy used should also have a widespread availability of parts, unless you want to buy an extra unit to scavenge from.

Brake lathes are devices that can be used to resurface brake drums and rotors. There are a wide variety of different designs, but they typically include an arbor that the drum or rotor can be mounted on. This arbor is then turned at a constant rate of speed so that a cutting tool can be applied to the surface of the drum or disc. The cutting tool can usually be adjusted in precise, minute increments so that only a minimum of material is removed to render the surface of the disc or drum flat. Some of these lathes hold up better than others, so finding the best used one often means looking for the unit that is in the best shape for the least money.

Woman holding a book
Woman holding a book

One of the first activities when looking for a used brake lathe is to consider how you will use the unit. Some brake lathes can only resurface rotors, though many can use a separate cutting tool to handle drums as well. It can also be useful to get a brake lathe that has two or more arbors that can be switched out, since the inner diameter of some discs and drums can be too narrow for standard lathes. You may also want to look at a unit that can resurface flywheels, since this is another functionality that is sometimes offered.

There are many different brake lathe manufacturers, each of which has a different reputation as far as longevity and parts scarcity is concerned. If it seems difficult to find parts for a unit, that might not be the best used brake lathe to purchase. You may also find some useful information about particular defects that a manufacturer is known for. That type of information can come in handy, since you will be able to look for those specific issues.

Some lathes use aluminum cutting heads, which tend to wear through repeated use. When this happens, it can be hard to get an accurate or even cut. If you are looking at one of these units, you may need to budget extra money for having such items repaired. Other lathes have problems with main drive nuts that wear out, crossfeed locks that do not hold well, or chain drives that break down often. Finding the best used brake lathe often involves looking for a unit that does not suffer from these types of problems.

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