How to Tell When Brake Rotors Need to Be Replaced

February 16, 2012

Not every vehicle owner knows what to look for, so how do you tell when your brake rotors worn out? Brakes are vital to the vehicle. Squealing brakes can sometimes be a symptom that something isn't right with your system. Sometimes it can be a simple matter and easy to resolve. However, largely it can also be a sign of impending danger. Keeping your brake rotors in optimum condition is of the utmost importance.

Using your Eyes

You can normally see the brake pads through your wheels. Turning the steering wheel until the wheels point to the very far left or right will expose the insides of the wheels for viewing the brakes easier. You should be able see how much thickness there is left on the pad. At least one ¼ inch of brake pad needs to be visible. If there appears to be less, get them replaced.

When the brakes on your car are exerted while driving, the pads exert pressure against the rotor which brings the car to a standstill. Over time, your rotors will also wear down and you may find the pads have created a slight groove in the rotor. This is very harmful to the rotor and this must be avoided. A healthy brake rotor will be a smooth and uninterrupted surface, free of dust, grooves and grit.

Using your Ears

Listen for brake noise. When you drive, the car will tell you if the brakes or brake rotors are in need of replacing. Squealing or squeaking is usually an excellent indication. If you hear grinding, head straight to the mechanic, because this is a definite sign that you have brake wear on your pads and they are worn to the metal. This puts you in danger of ruining your brake rotors.


If your car is equipped with ABS (Anti-lock Braking System), letting your brake pads or rotors wear down to the metal is very dangerous. ABS has sensors that warn when your brakes are too low. Ignoring that with continued driving will cause damage to the sensor, which will have to be replaced as well.


If, when you press your brake pedal, you find that you feel a vibration or wobble, it is very possible that the rotors have become twisted or warped. That will be more likely to be the case if you have been hearing a grinding sound a while and have ignored it. Brakes get tremendously hot when hit and the metal will easily warp. If you feel a wobble or vibration when you brake, it will be a warning that the brake pads are failing to make a good contact with the brake rotors.


Servicing is very important to all the moving parts of your vehicle and you should maintain the car to its best standard, so it lasts you a long time and stays reliable. It is not just the brakes that perform vital functions, but every other moving part too.


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