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Symptoms Of Failing Brake Rotors
Brake pad replacement has a definite time frame, but brake rotor replacement isn’t that simple to detect.
Here are common symptoms to help you know a brake inspection is needed and a brake rotor replacement may be imminent:
1. Vibration And Pulsation
Stepping on your brakes should not produce any vibration, except for the brake pedal pulsation you feel when the ABS (Anti-lock Brake System) engages.
Now, brake pedal pulsation doesn’t necessarily mean you need a new brake rotor, but it indicates an issue.
The same goes for a vibrating steering wheel. If you feel your steering wheel is vibrating while braking, you may need a rotor replacement. Chances are your brake pad is pressing against an uneven, worn rotor causing rough steering or braking.
2. Excessive Rotor Wear Over Time
With time brake rotors wear out just like many other vehicle parts. And eventually, you’ll need to resurface or replace them with new brake rotors.
3. Chattering Brake Noise
The chattering noise from a warped rotor is pretty unique, and you’ll only hear it when you apply pressure to the brake.
High-pitched intermittent screeching, squeaking, and squealing sounds from the brake rotors also say it’s time for rotor replacement.
4. Blue Color
A blue tint or spots on your brake rotors usually indicates excessive heat. Blue spots on the rotor surface shouldn’t be machined, as the metal’s hardness and elasticity are long gone. In this case, you should get a brake repair and replacement.
5. Rotor Thickness
Brake rotors have a minimum thickness requirement. If your rotors have been machined more than once, it’s probably too thin for re-use and should be replaced for maximum safety and longevity.
6. Brake Overheating
Driving in hilly areas may result in long downhill braking — easily deforming a brake rotor and inducing brake fade. The solution to this issue can be resurfacing the warped brake rotor.
However, uneven removal of material may result in warping again. So the only permanent solution is to consider a brake rotor replacement.
7. Rotor Surface Condition
Machining is impossible if your rotor surface has deep ridges and corrosion. If you go ahead with machining, you’ll ruin the brake lathe or exceed the minimum rotor thickness.
How Much Does It Cost To Replace Brake Rotors?
The cost of replacing brake rotors will vary depending on your vehicle.
In general, for a common sedan, it may cost a few hundred dollars to replace all four rotors, whereas a luxury SUV may cost a thousand or more.How Urgent Is Replacing Brake Rotors?
How Urgent Is Replacing Brake Rotors?
The brake system is a very important safety feature on your car, and that’s why you must get your brake rotors checked urgently.
A warped or bad brake rotor will hinder the functionality of your brake pads and the entire braking system — compromising smooth braking.
The warped rotor will only worsen if you delay the replacement, and the brake pads will follow.
6 Brake Rotors Replacement FAQs
Here are the answers to some common brake rotor replacement questions:
1. What Are Brake Rotors?
A brake rotor is a metal disc affixed to a vehicle’s wheel hub that receives friction from the brake pads to stop the vehicle. If your car has a disc brake, it has a brake rotor (also called a brake disc).
When you push the brake pedal, brake fluid flows towards the brakes. The fluid helps apply pressure to the brake piston, which engages the brake pads to slow down the moving wheel and rotor.
And since brake rotors make direct contact with the brake pads, they wear down eventually, needing resurfacing or replacing.
2. What Causes Brake Rotors To Warp?
Here are some common causes of disc brake rotor warping:
Brake rotors can warp due to glazing from brake pad material. This means that when the brake pads get very hot, pieces of brake pad material can transfer onto the rotor. As a result, your brake rotor surface becomes uneven.
Your rotor’s surface can wear down over time with use and resurfacing during brake service. Excessive heat can raise metal areas higher. This happens if you always apply pressure to your brakes, resulting in a warped rotor.
3. How Long Do Brake Rotors Last?
On average, conventional steel brake rotors last 15,000 to 70,000 miles. However, rotor wear depends on several factors, such as your driving style, vehicle, and how you treat the brakes.
A carbon-ceramic brake disc can last a lifetime. However, even this rotor’s durable design can be impacted by driving style and conditions.
4. What Is A Brake Pad?
A brake pad is a tiny piece of material used to create friction. It fits into a brake caliper and clamps down onto the brake rotor when applying braking pressure.
Generally, you should get a new brake pad every 25,000 to 65,000 miles.
5. What Are The Different Types Of Brake Rotors?
Here are the four primary brake rotor types:
Blank and Smooth Rotors: These are simple and affordable rotors found in the disc brakes of most passenger vehicles like standard sedans.
Slotted Rotors: These rotors have special slots arranged around the exterior rotor surface. They’re usually found in heavy-duty trucks and SUVs.
Vented Rotors: These rotors have cooling vents located between the two surfaces. Several modern cars have vented rotors on the front of the vehicle, ideal for a daily commute or even towing smaller loads.
Drilled Rotors: These rotors have a series of holes drilled in a spiraling design across the surface instead of slots. Drilled rotors are usually found in cars driven in wet climates, as the design can help with braking in damp and cold weather.
Drilled and Slotted Rotors: These rotors combine both drilled holes as well as slots set in spiral patterns around the outside of the rotor surface. Drilled and slotted rotors are usually used in high-performance vehicles like sports cars.
6. How To Change Brake Pads And Rotors?
Here are the simple DIY steps for rotor and brake pad replacement. These steps are a general outline for most vehicles.
And when in doubt, it’s always better to let a professional deal with a brake job.
Safety first. Park your car on a dry, even surface and install wheel chocks.
Check the brake fluid level. If it’s full, remove some fluid to avoid spillage due to overflow when engaging the brake caliper piston.
Jack up the car, secure it with jack stands, remove the lug nuts, and then remove the wheel.
Remove the caliper bolts and caliper (the steps to remove the brake caliper may vary depending on your vehicle).
Remove the existing worn rotor and pads.
Inspect and clean the rotor mounting surface to ensure the new rotor sits evenly, preventing pedal pulsation.
Clean and install the new rotor. Once done, replace the brake hardware with new ones.
Install the new brake pads. Note the wear sensor position orientation to install the pads correctly.
Inspect and install the brake caliper using a torque wrench.
Access the brake fluid reservoir and ensure it’s filled to the max level. Then pump the brakes. Now recheck the brake fluid reservoir. Top-off again if needed.
Install the wheel and lower your car by removing the jack stands. Repeat the process for all wheels.
Finally, ensure the brake pedal is firm before you test drive. Drive easy to break in the new rotor and pad, and get comfortable with your now improved braking system.