7 Symptoms Of A Bad Brake Rotor (& Resurface Cost)

The brake rotors heavily affect your car's brake performance, and therefore it's important to maintain them. Here's how to tell your brake rotors are bad

Symptoms Of Bad Brake Rotors

The brake rotors are a vital part of your vehicle. The brake pads push against the brake rotor when you apply force to the brake pedal.

This creates a lot of heat, and therefore your brake rotors need to be of the highest quality.

Without properly functioning brake rotors, an accident is inevitable. Therefore, the brakes must be taken care of effectively. Let’s begin with a quick look at the signs to look for.

Symptoms Of Bad Brake Rotors

The most common symptoms of bad or worn brake rotors are squealing noises when braking or worse brake performance than usual. If your car is shaking and the brake pedal is pulsating while braking, it is also a strong sign your brake rotors are bad.

The brake rotors in a car use the concept of friction to slow the car down. Friction can very easily wear out any component, and brakes are no exception.

As a result of their wear and tear, you will feel and hear some signs that indicate that the disc brakes are failing.

Here is a more detailed list of the signs of a bad or failing brake rotor to look for:

1. Squealing Noise from the Brakes

Noise From Car E1609861373258

When the brake rotors get worn, it creates an uneven surface and edges on the inside and outside of the brake rotor surface. These edges and surfaces can create high pitch sound when you drive normally, but most often, when you apply some force to your brakes.

If you hear high pitching squealing every time you touch the brake pedal, it is definitely time to check your brake rotors for any damages or edges.

2. Vehicle Takes Longer to Stop

Rusty Worn Brake Rotor

When the brake rotors get worn, they tend to create many uneven surfaces, which will cause the brake pads to get less “braking surface” on the brake rotor. This will reduce your brake efficiency dramatically.

See the picture above; as you can see, there is rust on 30% of the rotor surface’s inner part. This is because the brake pad is not using this surface to step the car. This will probably also reduce your brake efficiency by 30%.

The rotor on the picture will probably get fixed after a few hard braking, but I guess you get the idea.

3. Shaking steering wheel when braking

Jerky Steering

If your front brake rotors are going bad, you can often feel it in the steering wheel while braking. This can because of rust on the brake rotors or if they got imbalanced due to overheating.

If you feel that your steering wheel is shaking when braking, it is definitely time to look up the front brake rotors.

4. Pulsating Brake Pedal

Brake Pedal Push

You can not only feel a worn brake rotor in the steering wheel. If you feel that the brake pedal is pulsating when you press the brake pedal – it might be caused by rust on the brake rotors or uneven surfaces.

When you feel a pulsating brake pedal while braking, it can be caused both by the front and rear brake rotors; however, if it is a problem with the front brake discs, you will probably feel it in the steering wheel also.

5. Loud bangs while braking

Brake Rotor Damage

You can also experience loud bangs while braking if your brake rotors went really bad like the picture above. If your brake rotor has these kinds of cracks, you should replace it immediately because you might actually lose the whole brake function – which might cause accidents.

6. Scratch Marks on The Rotor

Brake Rotor Scratch Marks

If you check behind the rim to see the brake rotor and notice that the brake rotor has many scratch marks, it is maybe time to replace the brake rotors.

All brake rotors get a small number of scratch marks pretty soon after replacement, but if you can see many deep scratch marks, it is probably time to replace the disc rotors.

Deep scratch marks are often caused by stones that got stuck between the brake pad and the rotor. If you hear a bad noise while braking sometime before, it was maybe caused by a stone there.

7. Large edge on outer part of the brake rotor

Worn Brake Disc Edge

The best way to see if a brake rotor needs a replacement is by checking the small edge on the brake rotor’s outer or inner part.

You can see how much of the brake rotor is worn by checking this edge compared to when it was new. These edges can create loud noises, so it is recommended to remove them if the brake rotor is not too worn and needs a replacement.

Brake Rotor Inspection

Should I Resurface or Replace my Brake Rotors?

Resurface Brake Rotor

20 years ago, it was very common to resurface brake rotors instead of replacing them. This was because the brake rotors were quite expensive compared to today. Probably also because labor work was a little bit cheaper.

However, some people want to resurface their brake rotors nowadays also.

If you ask me, I do never recommend anyone to resurface their brake rotors because it will probably cause you more problems than the money you will save.

The car manufacturers have a minimum thickness of the brake rotors before they need replacement. Check if your brake rotor’s thickness is close to this minimum requirement.

If you have warped brake rotors and they have a lot of thickness left – it can maybe be worth trying to resurface them. But remember that a bent disc/hub can cause this imbalance, and in the end, you will anyways have to replace them – which will cause a double cost. Learn more here: Resurface vs Replacement of Brake Rotors.

RELATED: When should you replace your brake rotors?

Brake Rotors Resurface Cost

The average brake rotor resurface cost is between $10 and $30 per rotor. Some workshops offer free resurface for people who order brake pads replacement, though the brake pads are not too bad.

If you have to pay for it, I recommend replacing the brake rotors instead.

To find more exact information on brake rotor replacement cost, check out our guide: Brake Rotors Replacement Cost

Front brake rotor replacement cost is often slightly higher than a replacement on the rear axle. This is because the front brake rotors cost is mostly much more expensive than in the rear.

However, if you replace the rear brake rotors, you might have to replace the parking brake parts on some car models simultaneously. This can cause the price of rear brake rotors replacement to increase a little bit.

Conclusion: Bad Brake Rotor Symptoms

The main symptoms of bad brake rotors include:

  • Squealing noise from the brakes
  • Vehicle Takes Longer to Stop
  • A shaking steering wheel when braking
  • Pulsating brake pedal
  • Loud bangs while braking
  • Scratch marks on the brake rotor
  • Large edge on the outer part of the brake rotor


Magnus Sellén
Written by:

Magnus is the owner and main author of Mechanicbase. He has been working as a car mechanic for over 10 years, and the majority of them specialized in advanced car diagnostics and troubleshooting. Certified Automotive Diagnostic Technician.