brake rotor
AP Photo/Nathan Armes

What Are Car Rotors and How Do They Work?


Cars are complex vehicles. It's important to know as many components of your car as possible to avoid paying hefty mechanic fees for shoddy or even unnecessary work. It pays to know your vehicle, both literally and figuratively. Each individual component usually has an important role to play in the way your vehicle runs.

Rotors are a perfect example. Rotors are an important component of your braking system. If you don't know how your brake rotors work, some mechanics can easily trick you into getting an unnecessary brake rotor replacement. Knowing how to spot corrosion on the metal discs is key to keeping your braking system equipped for high speeds and maintaining maximum stopping power. But, what do rotors do?

What Do Brake Rotors Really Do?

Rotors are circular discs connected to your car wheels that help change turn motion into thermal energy. When your car's calipers squeeze your brake pads, that action creates friction on the surface area of the rotors. This friction gradually slows the momentum of your vehicle until it comes to a full stop. To make things even more interesting, there are multiple different types of rotors, so you must know which you are dealing with.


There are Blank and Smooth rotors, Slotted Rotors, Drilled Rotors, and Drilled and Slotted Rotors. When your rotors need changing, always purchase the same ones that were originally on your vehicle. The surface of the rotor will be noticeably worn when it's time for a replacement. You can also hear squealing from your wheels when rotors are due for a change.

Replacement costs vary because different brake systems, and brake kits have different needs. Different driving styles also can affect the length of time it takes before you need your rotors changed. There are also performance rotors and performance brakes for drivers looking for more precision, high-performance braking. New rotors can make all the difference for your car's brake system. Now that you know how they work, check yours out and make sure you aren't taking a huge risk with your ride and safety.

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