When To Check Your Brake Rotors

The brakes on your car or truck are vital for your family’s safety. Watching for signs that you have brake problems on your disc brakes goes beyond the brake pads. You also need to keep an eye on the rotors. We have some tips to help you understand what rotors are and when you need to get to Les Schwab to have yours resurfaced or replaced.

What Are Brake Rotors

In simple terms, brake rotors are the circular, smooth discs attached to the wheel hub. If you look inside one of the front wheels on your vehicle, you’ll likely see the rotor.

Car disc brakes

As you drive, your rotors turn with the wheel. When you press on the brakes, pressurized brake fluid and a series of brake assembly parts push the brake pads together, which in turn press against the rotor to slow down and stop the vehicle.

To work properly, rotors need to be both smooth and even. As they age and stop your vehicle thousands of times, they can form pits, grooves, and rust. They can also develop high and low spots, affecting how fast your car or truck stops when you hit the brakes.

How To Check Brake Rotor Thickness

Get your car or truck rotors checked regularly for even wear, warping, physical damage, or cracking. Over time, the rotors on your vehicle will get thinner due to the friction caused when braking. However, there is a minimum thickness for every rotor. You can usually find the minimum thickness engraved on the side of each rotor. If your rotors are thinner than the minimum, it can result in brake failure.

To check the thickness of your rotors, our pros will remove your tire and wheel assembly, giving them access to the brakes, including the pads and rotor. Then, using a micrometer, they’ll measure the thinnest point on your rotors. If the rotors are too thin, they may need to be replaced. If they are pitted, or grooved, or they are slightly warped due to excessive heat from towing or too much braking, it may be possible to resurface them.

The pros at your local Les Schwab can take a quick look at yours and make recommendations for your safety.

Common Signs That You Need New Rotors

The rotors on your vehicle will wear out over time as they rub against the brake pads. They will also wear over time depending on how aggressively you drive, where you live, the weight of your vehicle (vehicle weight affects how hard your brakes need to work to bring you to a complete stop), as well as what you haul and tow. To know if you need new brakes, including rotors, look for these signs.

Squealing Sounds

When the brake pads get low, they can emit a high-pitched noise when you apply the brakes. As that noise and your brake pads get worse, it can damage your rotors.

Banging Sounds

Loud noises can be caused as brake pads come in contact with a crack on the rotor. Rotor cracks can be dangerous and require immediate attention from the pros at Les Schwab.

Pulsating or Vibrations

Anytime you feel a pulse or vibration in your steering wheel or brake pedal when you’re slowing down, it could be that your rotors are uneven or warped. As the brake pads push against an uneven rotor, it will cause vibrations and more.

Longer Stopping Distance

Is it taking longer to stop? Do you need to hit the brakes harder as you near an intersection? The rotors on your vehicle, as well as the brake pads, may need some attention.

Large Edge on the Surface

The place where the brake pads make contact will cause the rotors to lose thickness over time. This can leave a large edge on the inside or outside end of the surface of the rotor.


Depending on where you live, rotors can look rusty. This is perfectly normal. However, a bluish color can mean your rotors are overheating due to excessive weight (from hauling or towing), too much braking, or your brake pads need to be replaced.

ABS Warning Lights

The anti-lock braking system (ABS) reduces skidding and stopping distance in emergencies. When you see either of these ABS warning light indicators, your car’s ABS may have an electrical problem or it could be your rotors. Go straight to Les Schwab.

ABS Dashboard Brake Lights

Keep Your Car's Rotors Safe at Les Schwab

Get the most life out of your brakes and keep them working when you need them at Les Schwab. Our pros have been specially trained to inspect, repair, and replace the brakes on your car or truck. Schedule your appointment today, or just stop by your local store.

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