How Long Do Brake Rotors Last?

April 8th, 2021 by

Your brake system plays one of the most essential roles in your vehicle and, by its very nature, withstands the harshest treatment. Even short trips to the store require braking around 50 times, so you can imagine the type of wear they face over time. Keeping them in tip-top shape should always be a priority for your safety and those around you.

Most people think of brake pads when you talk about brake service, and rightfully so, as they are the primary part of the brake system that wears out. Your brake rotors are also part of this system, and while not the primary replacement part, they do need regular check-ups. Let’s take a closer look at why.

What Is a Brake Rotor?

A mechanic replaces roto rooters in Marion, IL

“Image” used with permission via Flickr by mtneer_man

Your vehicle has one of two brake systems, discs, or drums. Discs are also known as rotors. Drums are typically found on older vehicles, although some newer vehicles feature disc brakes on the front and drums on the rear.

The brake system is part hydraulic and part mechanical. The brake pedal is the mechanical system that begins the braking process. When you depress the brake pedal, you engage the hydraulic element. This hydraulic element sends pressurized brake fluid to the brake calipers. The brake calipers are like fingers that hold the brake pads. The pressurized fluid squeezes these mechanical fingers to close the pads over the disc. In a drum system, there are shoes inside the drum that push out against the drum wall to create the friction that slows your vehicle.

Discs or rotors work by pads that clamp down on the rotor to create friction to slow your vehicle. The pads indeed wear out first. The rotor’s primary function is to absorb that friction. The more worn down your rotors are, the less heat they can absorb at one time, which results in longer stopping times. Having your brake pads checked and changed regularly will help you avoid more costly repairs to the system down the road.

How Long Do Rotors Last?

The answer depends on several factors. The weight of your vehicle plus whatever cargo or passenger weight contributes to wear. Heavy loads require more brake pressure to stop. If you tow a trailer, this additional weight is a huge factor. Modern trailers have separate braking systems that integrate with some vehicles, which helps.

Your driving habits affect brake rotor wear as well. If you’re a speedster, your brakes work harder. Try coasting, also known as engine braking, and let your vehicle’s natural weight help slow you down before engaging the brakes. Learning to follow at a safe distance and anticipating when you need to stop will help with coasting, as will driving slower.

The quality of the rotors themselves comes into play. High-quality construction and materials will last longer than low-quality construction and materials. Higher quality brake rotors perform better too. Using cheaper rotors might end up costing you more when they wear out sooner.

Your rotors are one of the most durable parts of your car, but the above factors can shorten their lifespan. Expect your rotors to last anywhere from 30,000-70,000 miles depending on the above factors.

How Do I Know It’s Time To Change My Rotors?

Only a professional mechanic should answer this question for you. Because of the harsh treatment they receive every drive, their construction is one of the most durable parts of your car. Unfortunately, there is no firm timetable on how long they will last. It would be best if you had your brakes checked every six months. At Ike Honda, we recommend you inspect your brakes whenever you rotate your tires but are happy to do so upon request.

How Can I Protect My Rotors?

Changing your driving habits is the simplest way to protect your rotors and extend their life. Having your brakes inspected regularly will help too. One of the biggest reasons brake rotors become damaged happens when you fail to replace worn brake pads.

Brake pads are frictional material attached to a metal plate. Your pads wear down with use as designed. Too much wear can expose the metal beneath, which results in grinding or squealing sound. If you hear either of those sounds, you’ve waited too long. Bring your vehicle into Ike Honda, and our factory-trained mechanics will inspect your brake system and advise you how to correct the situation.

Replacing Rotors

If you do need to replace your rotors, you should always replace them in pairs. You might be surprised to know that your rotors don’t always need replacing when they become damaged. Sometimes, resurfacing your rotors will work, but only if the damage is limited to the surface and your rotors’ thickness remains at a safe level.

Resurfacing your rotors involves grinding them down until they are smooth and even again. Small areas or shallow grooves in your rotors can be resurfaced safely. If they are warped or cracked, they will need to be replaced. Deep grooves will often result in replacing the rotors, even if you have the depth to grind them down. The manufacturer recommends a minimum thickness for safe operation, and grinding them thinner isn’t safe. Excessive rust might also require new rotors. At Ike Honda, our expert technicians will assess your brake rotors and pads and recommend the appropriate course of action.

Your brake system contains a lot more than just pads and rotors and should be inspected regularly to maintain proper safety. At Ike Honda, we know how important your safety is to you, which is why we provide you with a free multi-point inspection every time you bring your vehicle in for automotive service, no matter how small. You can schedule service online or give us a call and speak to one of our technicians.

Our friendly, knowledgeable technicians will go over all your vehicle’s systems, including your brakes, to make sure everything is working correctly. If they find anything wrong or in need of attention, you’ll receive a detailed estimate and explanation of the repair process. In most cases, repairs can be done immediately, and we’ll have you back to your busy life in no time.