I Need Brake Pads. What About Rotors?

I Need Brake Pads. What About Rotors?

A fairly common question customers ask when they have their brakes serviced, and discover they need new brake pads, is whether or not they need new rotors as well. They often do this with a grimace; they may not know much about car parts, but they know rotors make for a much more expensive repair.

The answer for each customer is different. That means the answer in general is, it depends.

When a driver hits the brakes, rotors are the surface on which brake pads press in order to stop the car. The design of a rotor ensures that the heat created by this friction is evenly distributed throughout the braking system to eliminate overheating. However, repeated friction will cause damage over time; this is why traffic lights and stop signs make city driving more damaging to a vehicle than highway driving.

Brake systems are designed so that brake pads are the first part to wear out. If you're an observant driver, you can often tell the brakes are wearing down when the vehicle takes noticeably longer to stop than it did when it the brakes were new. If you have the car checked at this point, you can often get away with only replacing the pads. However, if the brakes are squealing, grinding, or vibrating, you may have rotor damage, and for safety reasons you need to have them checked immediately.

When you bring the vehicle in, a normal brake service will consist of three main parts.

  • First, the mechanic will check the brake pads for wear. Worn brake pads will be replaced.
  • Next, the brake lines are inspected. A small brake fluid leak may not be enough to make the brakes fail, but it could be the cause of braking issues.
  • Finally, he or she will check the rotors for rough spots or grooves. The surface of the rotor should be perfectly flat to minimize brake pad wear; if there is minor damage, sometimes the mechanic can spin the rotor so that a different part (which is still flat) will contact the pad. However, if there is damage all around, or if the damage to one part is severe enough—the rotor must maintain a certain universal thickness to be effective—the rotors will have to be replaced.

If you're having any brake problems, play it safe. Christian Brothers Automotive West Road is ready to repair your vehicle and can schedule your brake service today.

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