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

by Nick Davis
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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.

Visually checking

Step 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.

Step 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.

Step 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 burned appearance, ridges and brake dust caked in the grooves, the rotor needs replacing.

Step 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.

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


Step 1

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

Step 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.

Step 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.

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.

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