How to Replace Brake Rotors

by Tom Keaton

Replacing brake rotors may sound like a mysterious and difficult job, but within a short time and with the proper tools, you will be able to replace your rotors without much difficulty. You'll save a ton of money, too.

Jack up the car and remove the wheel. Use wheel chocks to prevent the car from rolling and never rely on just a standard jack while working. Always use proper jack stands.

Inspect the rotor for wear to be sure it does need replacement and that you are not having another issue. Track marks or thinning out of the rotor would indicate need for replacement--but if it is very smooth and level to the exterior rim edges, the rotor may be fine and you might just need to replace the brake pads or discs.

Use a basic turkey baster or similar siphon to draw brake fluid out of the master cylinder. Remove about one-third of the fluid and leave the cap off. You may reuse the fluid if you put it into a clean container. When you depress the brake caliper, the fluid level will rise in the cylinder; this is why you need to reduce the level ahead of time.

Use the large C-clamp to compress the brake caliper by placing one side of the clamp on the inner side and the other end of the clamp on the outer side of the caliper. Hand-tighten the clamp until you cannot go any farther; this should be sufficient to depress the caliper, and then remove the C-clamp. This is the time when the level in the master cylinder will rise, so keep an eye on it in case it overflows. if it does overflow, it won't harm anything, but it will be messy.

Remove the bolts that hold the caliper in place. Be careful not to twist or disturb the rubber brake line connected to the caliper. You don't want to create a leak in the fitting or line. Keep your hands on the caliper and don't let it hang with all the weight on the rubber line. The brake pads are within the caliper, and they should be carefully removed and put on the side if you plan to reuse them. Replace the pads whenever you replace the rotors so you will ensure even, smooth braking. Take note of the position they are in within the caliper for easier installation later.

Hang the caliper up somewhere above with wire if you cannot set it out of the way in a stable position, again without disturbing or twisting the rubber brake fluid line. Do not rely on the lines to hold the caliper up on their own.

Pull the rotor straight back toward you. If it does not pull off smoothly, you may have some rust along the edges. In that case, may have to twist hard and pull back simultaneously or tap the edges of the rotor from the rear with a mallet until it comes loose. Sometimes a rust-buster spray will also help if sprayed along the edges. The rotor is meant to come off, but at times it may take some effort.

Slip the new rotor in place so that it is seated all the way back against the axle plate. Put the brake pads/discs back within the caliper in their proper position and slip the caliper back over the rotor in the same position it was in before removal. Install and tighten the bolts that hold the caliper in place.

Use Brake Kleen or a similar spray on the new rotor surface to be sure that any oils are debris that may have been picked up on it are cleaned off. The fluid will dry on its own quickly and should not be wiped off. It is important that the surface of the rotor is oil-free. Turn the rotor as you go along so you don't miss any areas.

Replace the wheel and change the other rotor on the same axle. Always replace both rotors at the same time.

Fill up the master cylinder with brake fluid after the new rotors are installed. You may use the fluid you originally siphoned out if it was kept clean and then close and secure the cap on the master cylinder. You are now ready for a test drive.


  • check To remove some rotors you mave have to also remove the axle/spindle bearing assembly.
  • check Read more: How to Replace Brake Rotors |
  • check Pay close attention to the way the brake pads fit within the caliper so when you install them back it will be easy and won't take guesswork.
  • check Sometimes you can have your rotors cut by an auto supply store if they can be saved. The shop will measure the depth and let you know if they can be cut or if new ones are needed.
  • check Only remove one-third of the brake fluid from the master cylinder. You don't want the level to get too low, which could cause air to get into the lines. At that point, bleeding the lines would be required.


  • close When test driving a vehicle after brake work has been done, drive in an area without traffic or people, being cautious at all times until you are confident that the brakes work properly.
  • close Never rely on just a common tire changing jack or even a hydraulic floor jack to support the vehicle while working. Always use jack stands for proper and safe support.

Items you will need

About the Author

Tom Keaton has been writing professionally since 2007. His background includes experience in mortgage banking, pest control and classic-car restoration. Keaton has also worked as a licensed stock broker.

Photo Credits

  • photo_camera car wheel image by Tammy Mobley from