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When Should I Replace My Brake Rotors? (and Other Important Questions)

When Should I Replace My Brake Rotors? (and Other Important Questions)

Unless you’re a mechanic or you’ve spent a considerable amount of time working on and studying vehicle maintenance, you likely don’t keep a schedule in your head for when you should replace your car’s parts.

For some parts, there isn’t a standard schedule. You replace them when they fail. Maybe you’ve thought about things like when should I replace my brake rotors, or how long should my fuel pump last?

Certain vehicle parts have an average lifespan of 8-10 years. But you don’t run your car over to the mechanic at the 10-year mark and request a replacement part unless it’s no longer giving you good service.

No one wants to spend money on unnecessary car repairs. Also, no one looks forward to their car stranding them on the side of the road because a repair wasn’t made.

We have a few tips that should help you determine when the best time is to replace things like brake rotors and other parts that often cost you a chunk of change.

The Brake System in Your Vehicle

Since it’s one of the major systems in your car, you should know at least a few things about your brakes and the parts associated with them. Starting with where you apply force with your foot, your brake system includes some of the following parts:

  • Brake Pedal
  • Brake Lines
  • Master Cylinder
  • Brake Booster
  • Drum Brakes
  • Disc Brakes
  • Brake Proportioning Valve
  • Emergency Brake

Drum brakes and disk brakes each depend on unique components working together to ensure your car slows down and eventually comes to a stop.

If you drive a car with disk brakes, the parts you eventually replace are the pads, calipers, and rotors. The beauty of disc brakes is they tend to last longer than drum brakes. The longer lifespan is because they self-adjust and self-clean.

Longer lifecycle doesn’t mean disk brakes, or their components, last forever. Also, even though they self-clean, you’ll still perform routine maintenance.

Should I Replace My Brake Rotors Now?

Generally, your brakes should give you around 40,000 to 60,000 miles or more before they need replacing. Lifespan for brake parts depends on how well you, the car owner, take care of them. It also depends on the quality of the parts you use in your car.

Brake rotors are one component that all drivers eventually replace. It shouldn’t be a surprise when they wear out considering how many times the brake pads clamp down on them. Even steel gives out under repeat pressure.

Rotors should get attention every time you replace your brake pads. Are you scratching your head right now trying to remember when you last replaced the pads?

Under ideal driving conditions, you should replace brake pads every 50,000 miles. Mechanics see completely worn out pads with only 25,000 miles on them while other last 70,000 miles.

Hint: if you live in the Rust Belt, rust, not a pad change, may dictate time between servicing.

How Nice Are You to Your Rotors?

How hard you push your brakes is a big factor in determining how long the pads last. But how often and how soon after you detect wear you replace your pads determines how long your rotors last.

Brake pads usually come with a built-in wear indicator, meaning it shouldn’t be difficult to tell when it’s time for a pad change. If the pads are allowed to wear down low enough, the indicator drags on your rotor. When you hear a high-pitched squeal, it’s time!

If your standard practice is to wait until your brakes squeal, you’ll replace both the pads and rotors more often.

When you or your mechanic check the brake rotors, they feel for whether they’re smooth to the touch. Signs of worn out rotors include:

  • Heavy Rust
  • Grooves
  • Scoring

If you find any of these, it’s time for a rotor replacement. Know something funny about rotors? If you replace one, you should replace the other.

Ever Heard of Brake Calipers?

If you’ve heard of calipers but aren’t sure what they do, don’t feel bad. Many people don’t know exactly what calipers do. After today, you’ll likely never forget about your calipers because, as you’ll see in a minute, they’re one of the most important brake system components.

If you’re car stops when you hit the brakes, you can thank your calipers.

A brake caliper fits onto your rotor like a clamp. Its primary function is to stop the wheel from turning when you apply your brakes. The caliper holds the brake pads.

Calipers get dirty, rusty, and contaminated. Their seals can break down. They sometimes leak.

Want to hear something discouraging about calipers? Depending on where you live and the make/model of your car, a brake caliper replacement can run between $700 and $1500. Hint: taxes are not included in this estimate.

The Cost of Brake Rotor Replacement

Like caliper replacement and essentially any other vehicle repair, the cost of replacing rotors depends on your location and the car you drive.

Brake rotor replacement can cost between $372 and $485. The cost doesn’t include taxes and any other fees charged by a mechanic. Remember this is an estimate, and for an accurate price on any car repair, you’ll need to talk to a mechanic.

Also, keep in mind, if you’re replacing a worn-out rotor, you’re likely also replacing the pads on both sides of the car. Depending on how well you’ve maintained your brake system overall, you may also have other needed repairs.

Sometimes a car owner evaluates repair costs and decides it’s better to junk the vehicle. If that sounds rash, consider how much you’ll spend for repair versus how much you could get for your car.

Maybe it’s a better option to earn a little money by scrapping your current car and using your proceeds for a down payment on one that’s a little newer. Makes sense, doesn’t it?

Thinking About Scrapping Your Car?

Now that you know a few more things than you did five minutes ago about replacing rotors and other brake system parts, you also know you have other options

If you’re like most car owners, you have two questions right now: should I replace my brake rotors, or should I replace my vehicle?

If you’re grappling with the question of whether you should fix it or scrap it, we can help. Contact us today and let’s talk more about your options.