A car's rotors work to slow down the spinning of your wheels. If you don't change them regularly, they can warp and cause uneven brake pads, which will lead to poorer performance on the road. Therefore, you must take care of your car by washing it at least once a month and replacing your rotors when needed.
If you neglect these things, then eventually, your new brakes won't be working properly because warped rotors constantly overwork them. And this could result in an accident or even death! So make sure to stay safe with regular maintenance of your vehicle.
What is the rotor, what does it do, and how does it work?
A car rotor is part of your car's braking system. It is a flat piece of metal that helps reduce the speed of your wheels when you press on the brake pedal. Rotors are attached to the wheel hub and spin with it when you drive, so they help slow everything down when you stop.
There are different types of rotors. For example, there are aluminum, cast iron, and carbon rotors.
- Aluminum is lighter than cast iron. Therefore, it takes less energy to stop your vehicle.
- Carbon rotors are also stronger than the other two rotors but more expensive to buy and maintain.
If you live in colder areas where roads freeze or anywhere that has high ice content in the air (which increases your chances of braking problems), choose an aluminum rotor. If you live in warmer areas and don't have any concerns about ice or snow, a cast iron rotor is the best choice.
Rotors need to be replaced regularly because they naturally become pitted and grooved as you drive and brake.
What are the benefits of changing your rotors regularly?
Regularly changing your rotors can help you avoid having to change or fix your brake pads, calipers or bearings. Furthermore, when you regularly change your rotors, the lifespan of your brake pads is extended.
To ensure better braking performance and ensure you are getting the most out of each brand new set of brake pads (which is an added expense).
If not, your rotors will eventually become corroded and warped in the spots where you burn your brake pads.
10 Symptoms That Mean You Need New Rotors
As we mentioned earlier, you need to stay up-to-date with your maintenance to ensure safety and avoid accidents.
Notice these 10 Symptoms That Mean You Need New Rotors to ensure your vehicle stays in its best shape.
#1 Pulsating during braking
The most common symptom of warped rotors is pulsating during braking.
If you notice this symptom, your rotors are most likely warped and need to be replaced with new ones as soon as possible.
The sooner you replace them, the better it is for your safety and brakes.
#2 Grinding noise
When you press on the brake pedal, a grinding noise occurs.
You may hear it on one side of your car more than the other, but either way, if you notice this symptom, then get new rotors for your safety and the safety of others.
#3 EMR (Electronic Motor Remediation) warning light comes on
If your Electronic Motor Remediation (EMR) warning light turns on, this means your vehicle's computer system has detected a problem with the brakes or rotors.
If you see or hear this symptom, have an expert diagnose the issue for you to determine whether the brake pads, calipers, bearings, or rotors are damaged.
#4 Vibration during braking
When you apply your brakes, vibration can occur.
If this happens, have the rotors checked as soon as possible because they could be warped and will need to be replaced with new ones.
#5 Loud grinding noise when driving at low speed
If a loud grinding noise occurs while driving, your brake pads are likely worn down, and your rotors may be warped or corrupted. Therefore, they need to be replaced with new ones immediately for safety purposes.
#6 Squeaking during braking
Squeaking during braking is another indicator of defective rotors that need to be replaced ASAP. To avoid accidents, it's important to know about these symptoms right and get them fixed as soon as possible.
#7 Smoke coming from the wheels during braking
When you apply your brakes, smoke may come out of your wheels. This is another indicator that something is wrong with your vehicle's brake system. Have it inspected by a professional to determine what needs to be replaced or repaired immediately.
#8 Loud screeching noise during hard braking when coming to a stop at high speeds
This loud screeching sound means your rotors are worn down and need replacing ASAP for safety reasons.
If you notice this symptom, take action immediately to avoid becoming involved in an accident due to defective brakes or worn-out rotors.
#9 Rumbling noise braking
This symptom also means your rotors need to be replaced.
For safety reasons, have them inspected right away by a reputable mechanic who can determine what is wrong and fix the problem as soon as possible.
#10 Steering wheel vibration during braking
If you notice steering wheel vibration while braking, then have your vehicle inspected ASAP for worn-out or defective brake pads, calipers, or bearings. In all likelihood, the rotors are warped and need replacing asap for safety purposes.
How much does it cost to replace the rotors?
The cost of replacing the rotors varies from $300 – $500, depending on the make and model of your car.
Keep in mind that it costs less than getting into an accident, so it's worth spending a few hundred dollars to avoid such a situation.
You can also contact companies that specialize in brake services since they will be able to inspect your rotors and determine if they need replacement or just resurfacing.
Remember that rotors replacement costs differ significantly depending on the vehicles' brand. For example, rotors replacement for certain Volvo models can cost $400 to $700, while BMW rotors can cost you up to $1,000.
How to change your own rotors?
If you're planning to save on labor costs, you might want to replace the rotors yourself, assuming you have the right skills. Here's a step-by-step process to replace the rotors:
- Park your car on level ground
- Secure the steering wheel so that it doesn't move with a suitable tool or by placing bricks behind the wheels
- Remove the cap on the brake fluid reservoir so you can access it easier, then release some of this fluid through the small bleed valve located next to the reservoir's lid.
- Now remove your wheel lugs. Use a lug wrench for this purpose. Most cars use 14 or 15-inch lugs.
- Remove your caliper by loosening its “lower” mounting bracket
- Pry off the brake pads using a screwdriver
- Once this is done, you'll be able to see your rotor
- If possible, use compressed air to dust off any dirt or dust that may have built up on your rotors; if not available, wipe them with a clean cloth before proceeding to step 7
- The next step is to remove the old rotor by taking out the screws securing it to your wheel hub, and then sliding it out
- Mount your new rotor – this will require tightening its screws using a screwdriver once again. Then slide back in your brake pads and re-mount the caliper, tighten it and bleed brakes until they're firm. You might need to repeat those steps a few times for everything to work properly.
To avoid problems with rotors, make sure you have your car's brakes regularly inspected as indicated by the manufacturer's recommendations. For example, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 1985 model year or newer cars should be inspected at least once every 12 months or 12,000 miles, whichever comes first. It may be a good idea to have your vehicle inspected at least twice a year, every six months, or 6,000 miles for older cars.
To ensure the safety and reliability of your car's brakes, you should replace the rotors as soon as a symptom is detected. Rotor replacement can cost from $300 – $500 depending on the brand and model of the vehicle.
You might also want to contact companies specializing in brake services since they will inspect your rotors and determine if they need replacement or just resurfacing at lower costs than dealerships or mechanics who don't specialize in brake services/repairs.
How often do you need to replace the rotors?
The most common symptom that you need to replace the rotors is when you notice a pulsating when applying pressure on your brake pedal. Other symptoms include grinding sounds, squealing when braking, and vibrations when driving at higher speeds.
While some car models may not require rotor replacement for 80,000 or even 100,000 miles, others might need replacement when they hit around 40,000 miles.
Can I drive my vehicle with a bad rotor?
Since rotors are part of your braking system, you should never drive your vehicle if one or more of its rotors are physically damaged. Driving with a bad rotor means putting yourself and other drivers on the road at risk.
You can also check for cracks in your rotors by striking them lightly with a small hammer or rubber mallet. Cracks will usually lead to more serious problems, so you might need to replace the rotors.
You should also know brake deterioration signs, including grinding noises when brakes are applied, vibrations in the steering wheel, and noise when applying pressure on your brake pedal. These can indicate a mismatch between the thickness of your brake pads and the rotor. If you notice any of these signs, have your brakes inspected immediately to prevent damage to other components in your vehicle.
Can I replace brake pads and not rotors?
If your brakes are making noise when you apply the pressure on your brake pedal, don't replace pads. However, to make sure that you won't experience any problems with rotors in the future, it might be a good idea to replace them along with your brake pads. If, for some reason, this is not possible, at least check whether the thickness of your brake pads matches the thickness of your rotors.
If you drive a lot, which means that your brakes are subject to extreme wear and tear, it might be a good idea to replace both rotors and brake pads after you notice symptoms indicating they need to be replaced. Otherwise, you might risk not only damaging your vehicle's braking system but also driving without brake capabilities.
Removing and replacing rotors is a very complicated process involving special tools, training, knowledge of procedures, and a high degree of precision. If you are not sure whether your brakes require only replacement of pads or complete rotor removal/replacement along with pads, have your vehicle inspected by professionals specializing in brake services/repairs.
How can I prevent my rotors from wearing out?
The most important step you should take to prolong the lifespan of your vehicle's rotors is proper maintenance. More specifically, consider these tips and tricks to help you extend the lifetime of your rotors:
- Check the thickness of your rotors. Rotors that are too thin or too thick are subject to greater wear and tear, which means they might need replacement more often than others.
- Consider buying special brake tools that can help you measure the thickness of your rotors. Digital calipers for measuring rotors allow precise measurement, and if well-maintained, they should last a long time.
- Look for signs indicating that you require rotors replacement, such as grinding noises when applying pressure on your brake pedal or vibrations when braking.
- Replace defective brake pads immediately to prevent damage to your vehicle's rotor system. If possible, replace brake pads and rotors at the same time.
- Check rotors for cracks or any other physical damage, including corrosion. These are signs that your vehicle's rotor needs to be replaced as soon as possible.
- Know when you're due for brake inspections and have them done regularly.
Rotors are an integral part of your car's braking system, so keeping them running at peak performance is important.
When you notice any of the symptoms listed in this article, replace the rotors as soon as possible for safety purposes and a longer life span. The cost varies from $300-$500 depending on make and model but it will be much cheaper than getting into an accident.