Brake rotors or brake discs are one of the important components in a vehicle’s braking system. These rotors are circular discs that all four wheels are attached to and are what your car's brake pads clamp down when stopping the spinning wheels. And like the other parts that make up the brake system, there are different types of brake rotors. The blank & smooth brake rotors are found on most passenger vehicles and feature a smooth, blank metal surface all the way around the rotor. Drilled brake rotors, as what the name suggests, have drilled holes around its metal surface. Slotted brake rotors have slots in its metal surfaces and lastly, the drilled & slotted, again as what the name suggests has combination of drilled and slotted rotors for better performance. We will discuss these types of brake rotors in depth in this article.
What are the different types of rotors?
When it comes to stopping your vehicle, brake rotors are just as important as the brake pads. As there are different types of rotors it can be beneficial if you know about them. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes and have different benefits and disadvantages.
Blank and Smooth Rotors
These types of brake rotors, also called Solid Surface brake rotors, are what you'll usually find on most new passenger vehicles. They have the biggest surface area on which the pads can create friction. They are sturdy and long-lasting. That is why they are found in the majority of modern automobiles.
Keep in mind that there are two types of OE specific rotors: basic and premium, and it all comes down to how they're made. Blank rotors are an excellent alternative for your vehicle unless you're a particularly aggressive driver or drive a fancy vehicle.
Basic OE specific rotors are typically produced from recycled steel and don't always function as well as original equipment manufacturer (OEM) rotors due to thicker internal fins, which affect your rotors' cooling capabilities. If you're going to use premium ceramic brake pads with your new rotors, don't go with a cheap set. Basic rotors can also shorten the life of your new pads by causing them to wear down faster as a result of the higher heat.
A blank rotor does not have many drawbacks. Some drivers believe that slotted or drilled rotors are better than blank rotors when it comes to performance. This isn't always the case, so don't feel compelled to choose one sort of brake rotor over another because you think it's better. It all depends on how you drive and how you want your vehicle to stop.
If you like the sort of brake rotor that's currently in your automobile (which you should be able to see after removing the wheel), it might be a good idea to replace it with the identical one. If you're looking for a rotor for a specific performance necessity for your brake system, such as wet weather or race performance, you now have the knowledge you need to confidently choose the best brake rotors for your vehicle.
Drilled rotors have holes drilled into the surface, as the name implies. These perforations allow water, dust, and heat to quickly escape the rotor's surface. Drilled rotors are an excellent choice if you live in an area with a lot of rain. They operate well in rainy regions by providing an excellent “wet bite,” last a long time, and provide greater friction and bite than slotted equivalents. If you're looking for drilled rotors for a high-performance vehicle, steer clear. Drilled rotors don't operate well in hot environments and can fail rapidly in a race situation.
Drilled rotors, on the other hand, are better for everyday driving because they are less prone to warping or high spots, and they are usually easier on brake pads, but they do not function as well as Slotted rotors under heavy braking.
Slotted rotors, as previously stated, have slots on the rotor's external surface. They're ideal for heavy-duty trucks and SUVs, particularly those that require increased stopping force when towing or carrying. The slots are meant to allow more air to flow between the pad and the rotor surface, improving cooling and heat dispersion. They're also intended to aid in the removal of brake debris and pad glazing, which can occur at higher temperatures.
For enhanced heat dissipation and cooler brake operation, slotted rotors have carved grooves that draw cold air into the gap between the pad and the rotor. They also aid in the dispersion of brake dust, snow, and rain.
One of the concerns that can develop with employing slotted brake rotors is the increased noise that occurs as a result of the slots creating greater air turbulence. This is due to the fact that the slots are curved rather than straight, and are designed to route as much air as possible to the brake surface while rotating. This is also why it is critical to utilize a slotted rotor on the correct side. Otherwise, the slots will be useless. Also while they are more efficient in some aspects, they have the drawback of lasting less time, which impacts the life of your pads.
Drilled & Slotted Rotors
Drilled holes and machined grooves have been made on the brake surfaces where the pad makes contact on these rotors. Drilled and slotted brake rotors combine the advantages of both drilled and slotted rotors. They, like drilled rotors, are ideal for rainy locations where rain is a regular occurrence.
The through-holes are designed to allow braking dust, offset gasses, and moisture to escape, preventing good contact between the pads and the rotor during braking. The slots are intended to shave off the low-friction glazing layer that forms on pads as a result of overheating.
Together, the perforations and slots increase the contact friction between the pad and the rotor, resulting in increased braking power in more difficult conditions. There are two points worth mentioning. To begin with, these features come at a price, since rotor production becomes more complex and time demanding. Second, a performance rotor will not lessen your car's initial stopping distance, as tire bite and brake pad material are the most important factors.
Finally, drilled and slotted rotors are intended for high-performance vehicles, like sports vehicles, that require more cooling and heat dissipation. This rotor was created to help with high-speed braking during racing or track days.
Motorcycle brake rotors are one of the other types of brake rotors. Although they function similarly to vehicle brake rotors, which work to slow or stop all four wheels at the same time, motorbike brake rotors normally operate independently of each other. Most motorcycles have separate hand-operated braking controls for the front and rear wheels.
The front brake is usually more effective, providing the majority of the stopping power, while the rear brake aids in slowing or stopping the bike. Motorcycle brake rotors are obviously an important part of motorcycle safety.
Drilled brake rotors are standard on most street motorbikes. Nevertheless, slotted rotors are used on most high-performance or on-track machines. Brake rotors on motorcycles are more apparent than brake rotors on cars. To make their bikes stand out, many custom bike builders use decorative drilling or the shape of their rotors.
Truck Brake Rotors are designed especially for heavy duty use. The braking systems of large trucks are put under a lot of strain so the brake rotors must be heavy-duty. The braking systems of large trucks are put under a lot of strain. To withstand the pressure, the brake rotors must be heavy-duty.
Truck brake rotors are extremely crucial because trucks are so large and hefty. Stopping a truck requires a lot of force. Slowing or halting a large vehicle necessitates a lot of friction from the brakes, among other things. Friction between the brake pads and the brake rotors also generates a significant amount of heat. Because of the added weight and heat, the rotors on a large truck are put under far more stress than those on a smaller vehicle.
Despite the additional loads placed on truck brake rotors, they are generally the same as those used on cars and smaller vehicles. Truck brake rotors are typically composed of cast iron or steel and are significantly larger than automobile brake rotors.
Truck rotors, on the other hand, may need to be serviced more frequently than automobile rotors. This isn't because the rotors themselves aren't durable. Rather, the increased effort of stopping a truck causes the brake pads to wear out faster.
Performance Brake Rotors
High-performance brake rotors are used on the street by amateurs and on the track by experts. Most racers prefer slotted rotors over drilled rotors when it comes to high performance rotors. The slots have the advantage of allowing hot gases, water, and other debris to travel away from the rotor's face. Nevertheless, they do tend to wear the brake pads down faster. For most performance drivers, this is unlikely to be an issue. Most likely, you already have ceramic or carbon fiber brake pads, which are already fairly long-lasting.
High-performance types of brake rotors are additionally ventilated to dissipate even more heat away from the braking system and avoid brake fade. The slots in slotted brake rotors are carved into the rotor's face, while the vents run around the rotor's edge. The heat escapes through the vents as the rotor turns. There's less chance of brake fade without the added heat, so the car performs better on the track.
Is there a difference in brake rotors?
Aside from the brake rotor difference by types already mentioned, brake rotors also differ based on materials.
- Cast Iron – the most used brake rotor material. Even a performance car can benefit from the correct design (typically two-piece). It is, however, the heaviest option, which has an impact on your car's total weight and handling because the weight is right up there with your front wheels.
- Steel – They've been the racer's choice for years since they're lighter, weigh less, and tolerate heat better. The disadvantage is that steel rotors are less robust than other materials, and warped rotors can create noise and a pulsing pedal when braking. By laminating and layering steel sheets together, they become more resistant to warping than a straight steel brake rotor. It's a popular choice among racers who don't want to replace and repair brake rotors frequently, but because manufacturers are now mainly targeting professional racers and production is limited, it's not widely used in passenger vehicles.
- Aluminum – heat is easily dissipated, but they also melt at a lower temperature than other materials. Motorcycles are made of aluminum because they are lighter and gentler on the rotors when stopping than a big car, truck, or SUV.
- High Carbon – are composed of iron, but with a significant amount of carbon mixed in. They can withstand a lot of heat and swiftly dissipate it. The metallic composition prevents the rotor from shattering under extreme stress, as well as reducing braking noise and vibration. If you don't care about the price, this is a good option.
- Ceramic – have the maximum heat capacity (85% more than cast iron) and greater heat dissipation, and they maintain a more consistent force and pressure as the rotors' temperature rises. Ceramic brake rotors are the most high-performance brake rotors on the market today.
You can choose from a wide range of rotors, each with its own set of advantages in terms of cost, durability, cooling ability, and brake dust distribution. When it comes to choosing the right rotor, price should not always be the deciding factor.
For safe driving, good brakes are needed. And the rotor is one of the most important parts of a disc brake system. The distance it takes to stop the car may rise if the rotors are not adequate to the task and do not absorb and disperse heat properly. So the right rotor paired with the right friction material can sometimes justify the extra cost not only for your safety but also to secure longer life and less total maintenance or time spent completing yet another disc brake replacement.