How Often Should You Replace Brake Rotors? (Signs It’s Time)

The brake rotors are a part of your car that needs to be maintained from time to time. Here's how often they need to be replaced and the signs to know if it's time

worn brake rotor

The brake rotor works in conjunction with the brake pads to ensure your vehicle stops when you press the pedal. While many people are accustomed to changing brake pads often, most aren’t aware that the brake rotor also requires periodic replacement. So, what are the signs it’s time to replace your brake rotors?

We look at four tell-tale signs that the brake rotors are worn and either require replacement or resurfacing. We also discuss how often you should replace the brake rotors and examine how much it might cost. Let’s take a quick look at the signs to look for:

The most common sign it’s time to replace your brake rotors is vibrations in your car while braking. If you hear loud noises when braking it is definitely time to replace them. If you visually inspect them and see cracks or other damages, you need to replace them.

Here’s a more detailed list of the signs to look for:

Signs It’s Time to Replace Your Brake Rotors

1. Vibration when braking

vibrations driving

When the brake pads or rotors are going bad, it’s common to feel a vibration in the brake pedal. When it gets really bad, the vibration will also extend into the steering wheel. 

Often this vibration comes from brake pad material that has collected on the face of the rotor, creating high spots. In some cases, it occurs when the brake system becomes overheated from excessive use. You may also notice more pedal feedback when the deposits build up. 

2. Loud Braking Noises

noise from car

As brake pads start to fail, you will often hear a squealing or screeching sound. If the pads aren’t replaced promptly, metal-to-metal grinding can occur while braking.

This loud sound also happens when brake components become heavily corroded, affecting the tolerance between them. If the situation is bad, dragging of the brakes can also occur. At this point, you should stop driving your car immediately until the brakes are repaired. 

Modern brake pads offer a wear sensor made from metal. As the brake pads get low, this material rubs the rotor and alerts you with an audible noise so you take action. Changing the worn-out brake pads promptly could save the brake rotors from wear. 

3. Cracks

brake rotor damage

After the rotors are subject to excessive heat, the surface can crack. While there are multiple different types of cracks that occur, they are all related to either compression or expansion. 

Small hairline fractures might seem alarming, but in many cases, these can be repaired with resurfacing. You will most often see the hairline fractures when using the brakes at high temperatures, such as if you are racing. 

However, a crack that occurs on the rotor and extends to the edge will require immediate replacement. There is no fix for this type of rotor damage. 

4. Damage/Grooves

worn brake disc

Over time, the surface of the rotor can become grooved and damaged. This is caused by debris or worn components rubbing against the rotor. 

If the metal backing plate from worn brake pads makes contact with the rotor, it can cause damage. Also, corrosion and rust will create grooves on the surface. 

If you think the rotor is warped, you might want to take a second look. In reality, brake rotors rarely ever actually warp. Instead, you are noticing the unevenness of the surface. 

RELATED: How often should you change your brake pads?

How Often to Replace Brake Rotors?

Brake rotors require replacement every 70,000 miles more or less, depending on the car model and driving style. The only correct way to know if your brake rotors need a replacement is by visually inspect them.

This is far longer than brake pads which are often replaced every 40,000 to 50,000 miles. The conventional steel brake rotors have the shortest lifespan, while carbon ceramic rotors can last the lifetime of the vehicle but cost much more.

The health of your brake rotors depends on your driving style, how much your vehicle weighs, and the quality of the parts you choose. When you take the brake pads off, the rotors should always be inspected for wear. Resurface or replace them as needed. 

Brake Rotor Replacement Cost

Brake rotor replacement might cost around $350 to $500 for each rotor. This price includes about $200 to $400 for the rotor and $150 for the labor. If you can replace the brake rotor yourself at your home garage, you could save some money on the job.

RELATED: Brake Rotor Replacement Cost

Thankfully, your brake rotors won’t usually require replacement every time you change the brake pads. They don’t typically incur as much wear and tear as the brake pads do. 

If there is enough brake rotor material left, you might be able to resurface them instead. The cost of resurfacing brake rotors is much less than replacing them. A qualified shop will be able to turn or cut the brake rotors, giving you a fresh surface to work with. The shop places the rotors on a lathe and removes a thin layer of the material until it is smooth and free of corrosion again.

Typically, you will spend $10 to $15 for brake rotor resurfacing, making this a much more affordable option. However, you would still have to pay to have the rotors removed and put back on unless you can do this yourself. Additionally, it’s never wise to resurface the brake rotors when the material becomes too thin.

RELATED: Resurface vs. Replace Brake Rotors – Pros & Cons

Written by:

Magnus is the owner and main author of MechanicBase. He has been working as a mechanic for over 10 years, and the majority of them specialized in advanced diagnostics and troubleshooting. He has also been a motorsport (drifting) driver for over 5 years.