How Long Do Brake Rotors Last?
Even on a short trip to the grocery store, you’ll probably use your brakes 20 to 50 times. Now imagine how much work your brakes do in rush hour traffic or on long road trips! That’s a lot of wear and tear building up with every press of the brake pedal.
Your brake rotors play an important role in your vehicle’s braking system and need to be replaced periodically. Read on to learn how long brake rotors last and some telltale signs that your brake rotors need to be replaced.
What Are Brake Rotors?
Your vehicle has one of two braking systems—disc brakes or drum brakes.
Disc brakes are the most common system you’ll find in vehicles today. The main components are a brake disc (usually referred to as the brake rotor), a brake caliper and brake pads. When you press the brake pedal, the caliper squeezes the pads against the rotating brake disc/rotor. The friction produced slows down and stops your vehicle.
Drum brakes are usually only in older models, but some modern vehicles have drum brakes on the rear axle and disc brakes on the front. Drum brakes function similarly to disc brakes, but instead of pads squeezing the rotor, brake shoes push out against the brake drum.
One reason for disc brakes’ popularity is their improved ability to absorb and dissipate heat. The pressure of the brake pads against the rotors produces friction, and friction produces heat. The more you press the brakes, the more friction—and heat—is produced. Over time, all that friction and heat causes the brake system to wear down and reduces your braking ability.
What Is the Average Lifetime of Brake Rotors?
So how long do brake rotors last? It depends. A variety of factors, like your vehicle size, driving style and brake quality, contribute to the lifetime of your brakes.
Industry experts recommend replacing rotors every 30,000–70,000 miles. But you should get regular brake inspections and pay attention to your vehicle to know when you might be due for brake service.
Replacing vs. Resurfacing Brake Rotors
Depending on your rotors’ condition, you may be able to make your current set last longer by getting your rotors resurfaced instead of replaced.
Resurfacing rotors, also called “turning” or “machining,” involves grinding down the metal disc until it is smooth and even. Rotors can be resurfaced if they have minimal wear and only a few problem spots.
If your rotors are warped, cracked, grooved, heavily rusted or thinner than the manufacturer’s recommended level, resurfacing isn’t an option—you’ll need new rotors.
While resurfacing your rotors may be cheaper than replacing them, it’s only a temporary solution. Be realistic about the condition of your rotors and listen to a trusted mechanic’s recommendation before you choose.
Extending the Life of Your Brake Rotors
No matter what, your brake rotors will eventually wear down and need to be replaced. But following the suggestions below could help you maximize the life of your brakes.
How quickly your rotors wear down depends a lot on your driving style. Riding the brakes and making frequent hard stops causes undue wear on your rotors. Simply put, being nice on the road = being nice to your brakes.
Here are a few simple steps you can take to make your brakes last longer (and keep your passengers from getting carsick!):
- Travel the speed limit.
- Practice coasting when possible.
- Use one foot to press the pedals.
- Keep a safe distance between you and the vehicle in front of you.
Do you commute in stop-and-go traffic? If so, your brakes will wear down faster than if you mostly drive on a wide-open freeway. Practice coasting when possible to reduce the impact of frequent stopping on your brakes.
Driving on windy or mountainous roads will also wear down your brakes more than driving on flat, straight roads. You can use engine braking when going downhill to keep your brakes from overheating or getting damaged.
Also, the heavier your vehicle is, the harder your brakes have to work to stop. Avoid overloading your vehicle and causing undue wear on your brakes.
Good brakes and good tires go hand-in-hand. Your brakes and your tires work together to stop your vehicle. If one is in bad shape, it negatively affects the other.
For example, tires with a low tread depth (below 4/32”) take longer to stop because they don’t have a good grip on the road. This makes your brakes work that much harder for that much longer.
Follow recommended tire maintenance guidelines and replace your tires when the tread gets below 4/32”. Your brakes will thank you.
Brake Pad Replacement
The brake pads are the part of your braking system that push against the rotor, causing your vehicle to slow down. Brake pads wear down over time and need to be replaced every 30,000–70,000 miles.
If you let your brake pads wear down too much, it will damage your rotors. The metal base of the brake pads rubbing against the rotor damages the rotor and the brake caliper, causing hundreds of dollars’ worth of avoidable repairs.
How Do I Know If I Need New Brake Rotors?
If you notice any of the following issues or experience any other problems when you brake, make an appointment to get your car looked at as soon as possible!
- Squealing – A high-pitched screeching or squealing noise is an indicator that you need to replace your brake pads. Replace them in a timely manner to avoid damaging your brake rotors.
- Grinding – A grinding noise when you brake could mean that your brake pad material has worn down to the metal plate. Continuing to drive your vehicle in this condition will cause further damage to your braking system.
- Vibrations – If your steering wheel or your brake pedal pulses when you brake, you might have warped or worn-down rotors.
Although you may think you can wait to get your brakes serviced, waiting could cause more damage to your car’s braking system, putting you and those around you in danger.
Brake Service & Repair at Virginia Tire & Auto
Not sure if you need new brakes? Bring your vehicle to any of our locations to get a FREE visual brake inspection or get an in-depth inspection and diagnosis for just $39.99.