How Can I Tell If My Rotors Need to Be Replaced?

Written by nick davis
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How Can I Tell If My Rotors Need to Be Replaced?
It's not hard to determine if your brake rotors need replacing. (brake image by Jan Will from

Your vehicle's disc brake system consists of a number of components including pads, calipers and rotors as well as mechanisms for lubricating the parts. When you press down on the brake pedal, the calipers squeeze the brake pads against the rotors and your automobile begins to slow down and stop. The rotors eventually wear down due to the pads pressing against them again and again. Your vehicle's rotors do emit warning signs to tell you when it is time for replacements.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Crowbar or tire iron
  • Flashlight

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  1. 1

    Park your vehicle on a level surface and turn your car's steering wheel to the far left or right so the tires are at an angle.

  2. 2

    Use a crowbar or tire iron to remove one of the wheel covers from the right or left tire, if a cover is in place.

  3. 3

    Shine a flashlight into the wheel--you will see the brake rotor and caliper. Look at the rotor's surface. If it has deep grooves, a burnt appearance, ridges and brake dust caked in the grooves, the rotor needs replacing.

  4. 4

    Go to the other wheel and shine the flashlight. Look at the rotor's surface. If it too has deep grooves, ridges and brake dust caked in the grooves, the rotor needs replacing.

  5. 5

    Repeat steps 2 through 4 if your rear wheels contain disc brakes.

  1. 1

    Drive your vehicle on a street that is quiet and doesn't contain a lot of automobiles.

  2. 2

    Press on the brake pedal. If you feel the pedal bouncing or pulsating back toward your foot, one or more of your vehicle's rotors are failing.

  3. 3

    Listen for a grinding noise--metal against metal. This is an indication that your brake pads are bad and grinding into the rotors which are also in need of replacement.

  4. 4

    Look at your vehicle's dashboard warning lights. If the “ABS” light is on, this is an indication of a brake problem including one or more of the rotors failing. The ABS, anti-lock braking system, contains sensors that monitor the rotors, pads and other brake components.

Tips and warnings

  • If you experience any of the telltale rotor signs, repair your car or take your car to a repair centre immediately. Driving with worn brake rotors is dangerous and your brake system will fail.
  • Rotors have a two to three brake pad replacement lifespan, but depends on the type of brake pads installed on your car.

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