You only need to replace your disc brake rotors (sometimes known as just "discs" or "rotors") once every 70,000 miles for most vehicles. Although these items are technically considered wear parts, they last much longer than your pads, and you can often extend their lifespan through resurfacing. Unfortunately, other issues can cause your rotors to wear away much more quickly.
Worn rotors can cause several issues, including reduced stopping power, unpleasant noises, vibrations, and increased brake pad wear. In severe cases, a badly damaged rotor may ruin a new set of brake pads within a few thousand miles. Understanding why your rotors are quickly wearing down can help you repair the problem while extending the life of the rest of your brake components.
What Causes Brake Disc Wear?
Your brake rotors are heavy cast-iron discs. These incredibly durable parts provide a friction surface for your brake pads, allowing your car to turn kinetic energy into heat when you stomp on the left pedal. While they can withstand an incredible amount of force, contact with the friction material on the brake pads eventually reduces them below their minimum thickness, and you'll need new ones.
Under typical conditions, this may take 70,000 miles or more (depending on driving habits). However, excessive wear can create grooves in the rotor surface or wear away the material much more quickly. Worn or grooved rotors will dig into your brake pads, rapidly tearing up the friction material. Uneven rotors may also create balance problems that you'll feel in the car as vibrations when braking.
Unusual amounts of rotor wear usually originate with two sources: severely worn brake pads or damaged calipers. Allowing your brake pads to wear below minimum thickness causes the metal backing plate to contact the rotor surface, grooving and scoring it in the process. A stuck caliper can also leave your brake pad in constant contact, creating significantly more wear.
How Can You Resolve Excessive Wear Problems?
As with most problems, the key to dealing with excessive rotor wear is quick action. Although you can replace the rotors, you'll quickly ruin your replacement parts if you do not resolve the underlying issue. If you notice deep grooves beginning to form on your rotors, always have a qualified shop inspect your brakes for a problem. Taking action is especially critical if you know your brake pads are relatively new.
Repairing the underlying issue causing your rotors to wear away will save you from a premature disc replacement while maintaining your stopping power and extending the life of your brake pads. For more information about brake repair, contact a local auto shop.