Most car owners are aware of the tire, the wheel, the brake calipers, and the brake pads. But, for the brake rotors? Well, this is a totally new statement to most. You see, the brake rotors are important components of your car’s braking system. When cruising down a busy stop-and-go highway, the rotors and the brake pads undergo extreme pressure due to frequent braking. If you’re a keen motorist, then it’s easy to ask yourself what is the average lifetime of brake rotors.
Brake rotors are round metallic disks that are connected to the wheel. Their main purpose is to offer a smooth safer place for the brake pads to hold to when applying the brakes. So, once you apply the brakes, the calipers fold together to force the brake pads to grab the rotor to stop the vehicle.
This, therefore, makes the rotors vital components of your car’s braking system. But, just like other components, the brake rotors are subject to wear and tear after prolonged use. Therefore, to stay safe, you need to understand the average lifetime of brake rotors to know the best time to replace them. This is exactly what we’ll be discussing in this short guide.
But First, What Are the Different Types of Brake Rotors?
Usually when we talk of brake rotors, what comes to mind are the disk and drum rotors. In most cases, these two are considered the most common types of rotors. So, before we discuss the average lifespan of brake rotors, it’s important that we first talk about disk and drum rotors as each type has its own specific length of time.
- Disk Rotors: Disk rotors are the most common types of rotors found in most modern cars. With these types of rotors, you only need to press the brake pedal to activate the calipers. The calipers will then squeeze the pads against the rotor disk to stop the vehicle. The friction created in this action is what stops a moving vehicle.
- Drum Rotors: Drum rotors, on the other hand, are common in most old model vehicles. But, despite being old, these types of rotors are common in most modern vehicles where they’re mounted on the rear axles. While disk rotors allow the caliper to squeeze the brake pads against them, drum rotors allow the brake shoes to push outwards against them.
Now, when comparing these two types of rotors, disk rotors are the most common. The reason for this is simply because disk rotors can absorb and dissipate heat easily. Since heat is known to deteriorate disk rotors quickly, most manufacturers have developed creative ways to design disk rotors by drilling or slotting them. This has led to the emergence of drilled and slotted rotors.
How Do You Know Your Brake Rotors are Worn Out?
Rotors are vital components of your car’s braking system. Since they receive a lot of abuse when driving, they’re likely to wear out at some point in life. So, before we discuss the lifetime of brake rotors, let’s first look at some common signs of worn-out rotors.
- Squealing Sound: In case you hear a high-pitched squealing sound, then it’s a clear sign that your brake pads or rotors need some serious attention. So, here you can inspect the brake pads and the entire brake hardware for any signs of wear.
- Grinding Noise: In most cases, a grinding sound indicates that the brake pads are worn down to a point that the metal plate is grinding against the rotor. In such a case, you should take your car to a mechanic immediately to have the brake pads replaced.
- Vibrations: In case the steering wheel or the brake pedals vibrate when driving, then that’s a clear sign you have warped or worn out brake rotors.
So, What’s the Average Lifetime of Brake Rotors?
Well, the answer to this question will depend on many factors such as your driving habits, the environmental conditions you’re driving on, and the type of technology employed on your rotors. The size of your vehicle can also affect the life expectancy of the rotors.
However, according to most automotive experts, the average lifespan of any brake rotor is anywhere between 30,000 to 70,000 miles. So, once you hit this range, it’s recommended that you start taking your auto for regular inspection while also paying attention to common symptoms that point to a worn-out rotor. Now, what are some of the factors that hurt the lifespan of your brake rotors?
- Driving Conditions: If you’re driving in urban areas such as round cities, then you’re likely to face a lot of stop-and-go traffics. This frequent braking is what will cause the rotors to wear out faster. Also, if you’re driving in areas that record extreme temperatures, the rotors are likely to heat up much faster causing premature wear.
- Size of the Car: If you’re towing heavy equipment with a heavy-duty utilitarian truck, then the braking system is likely to undergo a lot of stress. This will cause the rotors to wear out much faster.
- Quality of the Rotors: Now, most of the disk rotors you’ll find in most vehicles are smooth variants. Although they keep the job done, these types of rotors wear down much quicker when exposed to aggressive driving. For this reason, most manufacturers prefer to use drilled or slotted rotors. The best thing about these rotors is that they lower the amount of heat building up on the surface thus lowering the rate of wear.
That said, Should You Replace or Resurface the Rotors?
In most cases, the ultimate destination for any brake rotor is to replace it. However, there are cases where resurfacing the rotors might seem like a genuine option. This is when the rotors have minimal wear and a few spots. So, resurfacing, also known as turning or machining, is when the metal disk on the rotor is ground until it becomes smooth and even.
However, if you notice the rotors are warped, cracked, grooved, rusted, or badly dented, then the only route is to replace them to avoid risking your life. Lastly, you need to note that resurfacing the rotors is a cheap but temporary solution. Eventually, you’ll have to replace them to have a lasting solution to the problem.
So, there you have it. In case you’ve read up to this point, then you’re aware of the average lifespan of brake rotors, which we’ve said is anywhere from 30,000 to 70,000 miles. We’ve also discussed some common signs of failing rotors as well as factors that affect the lifespan of brake rotors.
In the end, we’ve mentioned that it’s okay to resurface the rotors in case they’re not badly damaged. However, the best solution is to replace them whenever you detect unusual vibrations and noises. This way, you’ll enhance your safety and the safety of other road users.