In a car, the brake system consists of three main components: Rotors, which are metallic wheels inside your tire, Calipers, which squeeze the rotor to cause friction to slow the car, and Brake pads, which protect the calipers against scraping against the rotor directly. You should generally replace your brake pads every 10,000 to 20,000 miles to ensure that they last as long as possible. With your rotors, you have a little bit more time. For your brakes to work at their best, you should replace your rotors every 50,000 to 70,000 miles.
Why do brake pads and rotors need to be replaced regularly?
The reason why you even need to replace your brake pads and rotors may seem strange to you. You should keep in mind that your car is like a living organism, as everything works together to ensure a smooth, reliable ride. When one part begins to wear out, it can cause other problems. The brake pads and rotors in your car can be replaced if your car has trouble stopping or pulls to the side when you brake.
What are the causes of brake rotors wearing out?
The manner in which circumstances and causes combine over the life of the vehicle can affect what indicators indicate that the rotors are worn out or damaged. Rotor wear and tear is caused by a variety of factors, including, but not limited to:
- During the construction, treatment, and distribution processes of brake rotors, the manufacture implements quality control standards and materials.
- Various brake rotor physical characteristics affect heat dissipation capacities, including solid, drilled, slotted, and vented rotors.
- The quality of the brake pads: Using cheap, hard pads or pads not installed properly will lead to damage.
- The driving style and environment: City, mountain, and aggressive driving, as well as extreme weather conditions (think desert heat or freezing winter cold) all contribute to rotor wear rates that are faster.
- If the vehicle has been upgraded or modified, the rotors and pads wear down more quickly.
- As well as (typically) forward bias proportioning, the front axle usually carries more weight than the rear axle. Because of this, the front usually wears rotors and pads more quickly than the rear due to the increased braking load.
What is the function of brake rotors?
Essentially, brake pads squeeze brake rotors to slow and stop a vehicle, but it isn’t that simple. Taking it step by step, let’s examine how the whole system works.
- As the driver depresses the brake pedal, he or she wishes to stop the car.
- Brake fluid is forced from the reservoir by a plunger in the master cylinder.
- Flow of brake fluid to the wheels is accomplished by rigid brake lines.
- The fluid then enters the calipers through flexible brake lines.
- By pushing the pistons out of the brake calipers, fluid pressure is applied.
- Consequently, the pads are pressed against the backing plate.
- The brake rotors and pads begin to rub, with the pad linings squeezing against the rotor surface from both the inside and the outside.
- As a result of friction, the vehicle slows down or comes to a halt.
- The brake rotors and pads reach a high temperature as a large amount of heat is generated.
How often should they be replaced?
A car’s brake rotors typically wear at a two-to-one rate over its brake pads, but you should check them for wear at each maintenance and service appointment. A surefire way to tell if they are near the end of their lives is to measure their physical thickness and see if they are too thin. Vehicle service manuals define the minimum thickness, and some manufacturers even engrave the thickness on the brake rotors.
Furthermore, brake rotors may also need to be replaced if any of the following signs appear:
- The driver feels a vibration as they press the brake pedal or the steering wheel.
- A pad deposit is the cause. High spots can be created when brake pad material collects on the rotor face. Overheating, or underheating, of the brake system results in this problem. As the piston is pushed in and out of the caliper, these deposits typically become more apparent in the pedal feedback.
- Preventing brake pad deposits can be achieved by choosing the right brake pad compound formulation. If the deposits are not removed after repeating the bed-in process, the rotors may need to be turned or replaced.
It is possible for steering wheels to shudder or to feedback, but significant vibrations are usually caused by the suspension system and not the brake system.
When to replace brake rotors?
Corrosion or worn-out components are probably to blame. The tight tolerances between brake components may be affected by heavily corroded brake components, causing dragging or grinding. As brake pads wear, they are typically equipped with “mechanical wear sensors,” which are metal clips that rub against the rotor when a brake pad becomes too thin, causing an audible noise to warn you that it is time for a brake replacement. Even though these systems are designed to highlight worn brake pads, they are a great way to remind you to check your rotors, too!
- There are surface cracks on the brake rotor.
- The cause is excessive heat. As the rotor cools and heats, it expands and contracts with different characteristics, which leads to different kinds of rotor cracks.
- In the following image, hairline fractures are visible on the friction surface of the rotor because of heat checking. This heat checking is perfectly normal and expected during high-temperature usage, such as during racing. Rotors displaying this characteristic are not necessarily considered to be worn out.
When brake rotors are damaged, they need to be replaced immediately. Because brake rotors have a significant impact on driving safety, they need to be replaced as soon as possible. The vehicle manufacturer’s instructions should be followed when selecting brake rotors, and it is best to buy branded products that are cross-drilled and vented, and made of quality materials. As some aftermarket manufacturers have identified rotor weight and engineering weaknesses and addressed them in their products, researching known issues with your make and model of car can reveal better options than OEM products.
Having experienced safe braking in your vehicle, you know what it feels like. Certain types of damage will immediately affect a rotor’s ability to brake, requiring prompt and urgent attention. Although brake rotor wears and tears gradually over time, it is equally important to check their thickness, corrosion level, and surface condition at every service.
- When should I replace my rotors?
You might need to replace your brake rotors if one of these four signs appears.
- Can brake pads be replaced without replacing rotors?
If your brake rotors are in good condition, yes. In most cases, replacing only the worn brake pads won’t harm them or thin them beyond their discarded thickness
- Should I replace my rotors or just my brake pads?
It will be recommended to have your brake pads and rotors replaced if they appear warped or worn beyond the thickness recommended for discard.