How Often Do Brake Rotors Need To Be Replaced?

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drilled slotted rotors

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When you own a vehicle, you need to keep maintaining it in order for it to continue functioning optimally. You’ll need to do routine things such as changing the oil every 3,000 miles or so and rotating the tires. However, there are a lot of aspects of car maintenance that are just as important that we rarely think about. Brake rotors are an example of this. They tend to be out of sight, out of mind. However, they are a very important aspect of vehicle functioning. What are brake rotors? And how often do brake rotors need to be replaced? Those questions and more will be answered in the following article.

What Are Brake Rotors?

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Before we answer the title question, “How often do brake rotors need to be replaced?”, it’s important to know what brake rotors are. As their name would suggest, brake rotors are an important part of the braking system. The rotors are what the brake pads make contact with in order to get the wheels to decelerate so that your vehicle can stop. While we tend to hear more about brake pads than the rotors, the rotors are actually just as important when it comes to a vehicle’s braking system. So, when and how often do brake rotors need to be replaced?

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What Causes Brake Rotor Problems?

It actually depends on many factors, including your driving habits! Brake rotors will eventually start to degrade over time, but there are a couple of bad habits that may cause brake rotors to deteriorate a little faster than they should.

Being Parked For An Extended Period

If you’re keeping your car in your driveway all the time and only rarely taking it out for a spin, then there’s a strong possibility that your rotors may develop surface rust, which may mean that they need to be replaced quite quickly without you getting much use out of them.

City Driving

City driving often has a lot of a lot of stop-and-go traffic which means that you will be pressing on your brakes a lot. This could be a problem because constantly pressing on your brakes can cause excessive heat in your brake rotors, making them much more susceptible to warping.

Signs Your Brake Rotors Need To Be Replaced

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The question to ask isn’t “How often do brake rotors need to be replaced?” Depending on how you use your vehicle, your brake rotors may need to be replaced at 15,000 miles, or they may last you up to 70,000 miles. Since it varies so much, the best question to ask on the subject of brake rotors is “What are signs that I need to replace my brake rotors?” Here are three signs that indicate that your brake rotors may need replacement sooner rather than later.

Vibrating Steering Wheel

When your steering wheel starts vibrating as you’re driving down the road, that’s a major sign that your brake rotors are warped and need to be replaced. It might sound as though the steering wheel would be unrelated to the brake rotors at first glance, however, it’s actually all very interconnected.

Over time, your rotors can warp from normal usage. If that happens, you’ll likely first notice it through your steering wheel. When you apply the brakes, you activate the brake pads. In turn, the brake pads touch the warped rotors. Your steering wheel will vibrate due to the brake pads contouring to the warped rotors. So if your steering wheel starts vibrating, it’s time to see if your rotors may need to be replaced.

Unpleasant Screeching Sound

This is one sign that’s hard to ignore both for you and for everyone in the cars you pass on the road. When there’s a problem with your brake rotors, you may notice an unpleasant sound that could be described as a screeching, squealing, or grinding sound. Brake rotors might make this sound because of grooves caused by wear and tear. The reason that the rotors might make noise can be compared to why a record album makes noise. Just as a groove in a record album makes noise with the assistance of a needle, the aging brake rotors make noise because of their grooves.

Blue Rotors

This is something that the majority of people won’t just happen to notice one day unless your car’s wheels have fewer spokes than normal, allowing you to see the rotors. In order to see the rotors’ true colors, you’ll need to remove the tires to get a good look at them.

Rotors will turn blue due to an excess of heat. This often occurs in cars that are often driven on hilly or mountainous terrains or cars that are used by a driver with a habit of “riding the brakes,” which means that the driver is keeping the brake continuously engaged over an extended period of time. Blue may be a nice color, but it’s not something you want to see on your rotors. If you see blue, the heat that caused the color may have also affected your entire braking system.

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How Often Do Brake Rotors Need To Be Replaced?

Whether or not you notice any of the above signs at the moment, you will still need to have your rotors replaced every so often as they are disposable items. How often do brake rotors need to be replaced, really? Rotors tend to need to be replaced every 15,000 to 70,000 miles, depending on how you drive your vehicle and what the terrain you drive on is like.

If you notice a vibrating steering wheel, a screeching or grinding sound, or you happen to discover that your rotors are blue, then it’s time to get new rotors. If you notice any similar signs of deteriorating brake rotors, bring your car into a local mechanic to see if you need to replace your brake rotors or if there’s a possibility you could get more use out of them.

How To Replace Brake Rotors

Replacing brake rotors is a process that is simple enough to do yourself if you have a bit of car knowledge. The process involves the removal of your current brake rotors. To access them, you will need to remove the wheel and the calipers first. Then you will need to remove the old rotor. Before you install a new rotor, make sure that it is properly clean and free of debris that could negatively affect its performance going forward.

Once you have installed the new rotor, then you must put the wheel back together again. Before you go out for a drive, make sure to test your brake rotors first. You can do this by starting the vehicle and then allowing it to slowly roll forward. Then, slowly pump the brakes a few times. With your new rotors, there should not be any unpleasant sounds or unfavorable functioning. Once you’ve done this test, it’s time to take it out for a road test.

Getting More Use Out Of Brake Rotors

For those wondering how often do brake rotors need to be replaced, it might actually be less often than you think. If your rotor damage isn’t too bad, you might be able to get more use out of them before replacing them. If you take your vehicle to a trusted mechanic, you may be able to have your brake rotors smoothed out to create a better and more usable surface for your brake pads. You’ll probably have to get new brake pads if you choose to go this route since your current brake pads are likely uneven from the brake rotors.

You can only resurface the brake rotors so many times before you need to replace them. Every time brake rotors are resurfaced, the rotors are worn down and as such, they are less able to absorb and dissipate heat. Plus, the rotors need to be at a certain level of thickness in order to ensure proper rotor function. This level of thickness is set by the manufacturer, so you’ll need to make sure to follow the manufacturer’s recommendation for safety and function reasons. No matter how well you maintain your car and how well you get your rotors resurfaced, you will eventually need to replace your brake rotors.

Conclusion

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Brake rotors are something you don’t think about when you drive your car every day when you go on your daily commute or run errands, but it’s important to give a little bit of thought to them to see if you notice signs such as a vibrating steering wheel or an unpleasant sound while you’re driving. The question of “How often do brake rotors need to be replaced?” doesn’t have a cut and dry answer.

You may get anywhere from 15,000 to 70,000 miles of use out of your rotors and there’s no telling where your rotors will fall on the spectrum. Your best bet is to stay aware of the signs of deteriorating brake rotors and act accordingly.