worn brake rotor

When should you replace your brake rotors?

In Brakes by Magnus Sellén4 Comments

Under normal conditions you have to cover thousands of miles before you have to change the brake discs.

The brake discs are designed for durability, but at some point they wear out and you have to replace them. The rotors are made of a metal coating and wear due to the constant friction. A rotor winding occurs when the rotor is not perfectly circular.

This leads to the uneven application of the brake pads, which can prevent the vehicle from stopping.

When should you replace your brake rotors?

The brake pads and the disc work hand in hand. The rotor is attached directly to the wheel and is spanned by the axle of the car. The brake pads hold the disc in place the moment you press the brake pedal. The brake pads wear out faster than the disc.

1. Noisy brakes

Noisy brakes are the first sign of brake rotor wear. If the disc is uneven, you will hear squeaking noises from the wheels. Warped rotors produce a squeaking sound, while extremely ramshackle rotors produce a scraping sound. You will need to disassemble the wheel to distinguish whether it is the disc pads or the rotor that are worn out, as both produce a squeaking sound. It is dangerous to drive your car with worn disc brakes.

2. Vibrations from the wheels

The squeaking noise is often accompanied by excessive vibration from the worn brake rotor. If the wear is excessive, you will feel this in the brake pedal. The warped brake rotors can also cause the brake pedal to pulse when pressed. This is because the pedal is no longer in contact with the rotor. Driving with vibrations can be dangerous, especially at high speeds.

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3. Heightened stopping distance

The worn pedals make it difficult to stop the car. You have to apply the brakes repeatedly to bring the car to a halt. The extended stopping distance is extremely dangerous, especially if the driver is forced to make an emergency stop.

4. Grooves on the rotor

Worn brake discs often have grooves on the sides. The rotors are designed to last for tens of thousands of kilometers. Repeated contact with the brake pads causes the rotors to wear over time.

What is a brake rotor?

A closer look at car wheels will reveal a circular disc called a rotor. Whenever you apply the brakes, the hydraulic fluid is activated and the brake pads hold on to the rotor to stop the car. The friction between the brake pads and the rotor often generates a lot of heat. This heat is dissipated by the rotor.

The material used to make the rotor is very robust and you should have traveled hundreds of miles before you need a new set of rotors. The main reason for replacing the brake rotor is wear and tear due to frequent friction with the brake pads. A worn rotor makes it difficult to stop the vehicle and can cause accidents if it is not replaced immediately.

Types of brake rotors

new brake rotors

The first thing you notice when the rotor is worn is that the disc becomes uneven. The replacement options vary. You can choose to use blank replacements. This is the most common type of rotor – it has a smooth and flat disc. Slotted rotors have oblique slots engraved into the disc surface.

They are preferred by those who want additional vehicle performance. Both drilled and slotted discs dissipate excess heat from the wheels through holes in the disc.

The disadvantage of using slotted slots is that they corrode the brake pads faster than the blank rotors. The drilled rotors are less durable due to the materials used. They also do not last long because the material has been removed from the disc.

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How to replace brake rotors

Replacing brake rotors is fairly straightforward if you have the necessary tools. You will need to wear a pair of gloves before starting to remove the old rotors.

  1. Use a jack to lift the car enough to remove the tire. First loosen the nuts with a wrench before lifting the car; do not remove the nuts completely, but make them loose.
  2. Place a stone on the other wheels to prevent the car from rolling. Make sure that the handbrake is applied. You can also use jack stands to set the car up after lifting it from the ground.
  3. As when changing a flat tire, make sure that the jack stand is placed on the thickest part of the chassis.
  4. When you remove the tire, you will notice the rotor and brake pads mounted behind the wheel. Be careful not to lose any of your nuts; you can store them inside the car or on the hub cap of the removed tire.
  5. Use a ratchet to remove the brake calipers. They are usually secured with one or two screws.
  6. When all nuts are removed, you can safely remove the brake rotor. If you have driven your car for miles, the brake rotor may be stuck due to corrosion. You may need to tap it a little with a hammer to loosen it.
  7. Clean the surface where the old rotor was so that the new rotor can be mounted on a clean surface. Due to corrosion, you may be forced to scrape off the rust with a soft brush.
  8. Check the bearings and grease seals and replace them.
  9. Make sure that the new brake rotor is spotlessly clean. You can use brake cleaner to clean all particles.
  10. Mount the new brake rotor on the wheel bolts. Replace all the nuts that you had removed.
  11. Now you can safely reset the tire and lower the vehicle.
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The brake rotor has a lifetime of thousands of miles, but it wears out over time. You will know that your rotor needs to be replaced if you notice vibrations or a squeaking noise from one of the wheels. A worn brake rotor should be replaced immediately to avoid accidents.

4 thoughts on “ When should you replace your brake rotors? ”

  1. I have a 2015 Nissan Rogue, how often am I supposed to replace my rotors?
    My car has 54,000 miles on it. I hear a faint squeak. I’d like to drive to Palm Springs, and I live in Las Vegas. Should I wait to get brakes fixed or should I get breaks repaired now?

    I haven’t been driving much during the shut down. But I do not want to have break problems during a short road trip.
    What do you suggest?

    1. The problem is that garages have found a new profit center and that is rotors. For 50 years I’ve done my own work but I’m almost 70 years old and just recently allowed a shop to replace front pads on my CRV. They wanted to replace rotors . I have bright, think, shiny rotors on the front that are not that old.

      I asked why replace rotors? They said because that is how they do it. I asked are they scoured. Answer – no. Are they warped? Answer no. My answer to them — don’t replace the rotors.

      This was for State inspection and they said my pads were close to minimum specs. I said go ahead replace them, I don’t want to nick the rotors.

      They already had the car up on the lift for the State inspection, the tires were off to measure the pads. So when I picked up the car they hit me for book/flat rate on the pads. He said 1.5 hours labor. I know for a FACT that I can do both sides in my driveway in an hour or less. I wasn’t pleased about it but that is how they do it.

      It is my wife’s car and I asked her how the new brakes feel? She said softer than the old ones. So I went out, started the car, pressed on the brake pedal and it goes 80% or more to the floor. Did it again, same thing. They have air in the lines and should have been bled.

      Now do I go back and complain. I’m already half PO’d and my not be gentle. Or just bleed them myself and be over it?

      I am the garage’s worst nightmare. I can do everything from changing engines to replacing timing belts, etc. I can replace a dual cam older Subaru Outback timing belt, pulleys and water pump in about 2.5 hours. I know how long things take and when they tell me foolish lies — I don’t like it!

      I feel bad for people who know nothing about cars. Flat rate is a con game. They try and justify it by saing a job could take longer and the shop has to eat the charge. No they don’t. Charge for your time, if it takes longer due to rust, etc. just explain to the customer. And mechanics should not make money on parts.

      1. I get what your saying. Rotors should be mic’ed then replaced if necessary. Some places to replace due to the industry standard is going in that direction. I understand book time. But its book time and labor hours that make the difference. Labor hours can be from 95 to 150. Now you saying you can do in an hour or less thats fine. You can have 3 techs doing same type of car and end up finishing at different times. Its not a race average is 1.5 hours thats including turning the rotors. Anyone can do a pad slap and put on new rotors in less than an hour depending on vehicle.

      2. Hi URD! I agree with you completely. Here’s another tip for the readers. When you know you need to have an automotive part repaired / replaced go to rockauto.com and find out the true costs of the parts. This then gives you and understanding of what the minimum product cost is. Ask your repair person to match , or order the parts from Rock Auto ( disclosure I do not work for RockAuto and I am in no way compensated by them or anyone else.) Just a note, do not order parts from RockAuto and expect your repair person to put them on without clearing that with them before you order the parts.

        Lastly, I needed rear discs and rotors for my son’s 2016 Honda Accord. Purchased the parts for $65 and did the install myself in 1 1/2 hrs. … a fraction of the cost $289 to $330 that I was quoted by several service providers. Jeff

  2. Due to very high demand and a high amount of comments, you might have trouble getting your comment answered by me. If you want to get fast answers from a certified automotive technician you should ask your questions here: Ask A Mechanic

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