Similar to gas mileage, the wear and tear on your brakes will vary depending on where and how you drive. Disc brakes tend to wear out faster because they slow the vehicle by creating friction with the brake pads, and will eventually need to be replaced. Maintaining your disc brake rotors is critical to the overall safety and handling characteristics of your vehicle. If you suspect that your rotors may be worn or damaged, watch out for these signs and symptoms:
One of the first symptoms you’ll notice if your brake rotors start to go bad is a loud squealing sound when you press the brake pedal. Usually warped rotors or worn brake pads will create a high pitched squeak, while severely worn rotors will produce a scraping sound.
Another common symptom of bad brake rotors is vibration or pulsation. As rotors become old and warped, they may vibrate irregularly and cause vibrations that can be felt in the pedal when the brake is applied. Sometimes these pulsations can even be felt through the car’s steering wheel, making it more difficult to operate the vehicle.
This one is harder for most car owners to detect but, often times, you can see a visual scoring on the face of the rotor when it starts to fail. Over time, grooves will naturally develop on the rotor from repeated contact with the brake pads. But these marks take away from the part’s capacity to slow the vehicle, as well as cause vibration and pulsation that can be felt in the brake pedal. Generally, scored or grooved rotors, like the ones pictured above, require replacement.
Rust is a big issue for many drivers in New England. If your rotors are severely rusted, like the ones pictured above, they won’t be able to operate properly. Your brakes may feel sticky when applied, or start to squeak and squeal. If your car has any noticeable rust on the rotor, you should have your mechanic take a look to ensure they’re safe.
When the friction material has worn out, both the pad backing and the rotor will wear away very quickly. Rotors will eventually wear to below the minimum thickness even if the pads do not go metal to metal. However, letting the pads wear beyond minimum thickness will quicken the need for rotor replacement. Rotors that could have been machinable before the brakes went metal to metal may need to be replaced.
Brake calipers are another component that can be destroyed if you continue to drive on bad brakes. Once a pad is ejected or worn too thin, the caliper piston can hyper-extend and come out of place, causing brake fluid to leak. If this happens, the calipers must be replaced. The calipers are not normally replaced during a brake job, so this is an extra expense that could have been avoided.
Unfortunately, there’s no clear-cut formula or schedule to follow when it comes to replacement, so getting the advice of your regular technician is the most reliable way to figure out the lifespan of your brakes. Most vehicles should have their tires rotated at least every six months, which is a great time to have the brakes checked out since your mechanic can easily check the thickness of the pads and the condition of the brake hardware.
Our expert mechanics use the latest diagnostic equipment, and high-quality CARQUEST auto parts, to get your brakes back in shape. Plus, our auto repair services are backed by an industry-leading 3 year / 36,000 mile warranty on parts and labor. Call us today at (413) 314-2280 or schedule an appointment online.