Can You Drive With Warped Rotors?

Nobody can or wants to deny it: having a car is the ultimate freedom. Cruising around in the summertime with … Continued

Nobody can or wants to deny it: having a car is the ultimate freedom. Cruising around in the summertime with great company and the power to go wherever you please is one of the greatest feelings in the world. Yet along with this privilege unfortunately comes great responsibility. Making sure that your car is in working condition is part of the job description of being a trustworthy driver.

Although many motorists among us state that having warped rotors ‘isn’t such a bad thing’, we’re here to turn that argument on its head. Read on to discover what they are, why they’re important, and what signs we can watch out for to identify them.

So, What Are They?

The rotors in your car are arguably just as important than the brakes themselves. These moving components, commonly called brake discs, are designed so that your car can brake safely and efficiently. In other words, they’re what your brakes clamp down on to stop your wheels from spinning.  A warped rotor is a common occurrence and not a sign that you’re driving incorrectly. In most cases, they’re just indicative that your car needs a little bit of maintenance done. The terminology warped means that your rotors aren’t completely flat or badly worn, compromising the efficiently of your brakes.

brake rotor

How Do I Know If My Rotors Are Warped?

Although warped rotors are a common issue for the average driver, when it comes to checking them many of us don’t know what to look or listen out for.

Thankfully, this type of problem can be easily spotted by novice and seasoned drivers alike when made aware of the indicators:

  • Looking Out for Signs

In most cars, the rotors are metallic disks which can be seen through the wheel wells. By turning your steering wheel either to the very far left or right, spotting the rotors living in the inside of the wheels should be a lot easier. The next step is to get up close and personal with your wheel; if at least one ¼ inch of brake pad isn’t detectable then get them changed. If you’re finding it difficult to measure the pad thickness, then take your car along to a trusted mechanic; better to be safe than sorry.

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  • Listening Out for Signs

Let’s face it, we’re all guilty of blaming our fellow road users of that irritating squeaking we hear whenever approaching a new junction – even though these worrying noises seem to coincide with our own braking. It’s time to stop living in fantasy world and admit to yourself that your own brake wear could be compromised. This noise is most likely caused by the brake pads working at uneven intermissions, caused by the rotor’s now-bumpy surface.

  • Let your brakes do the talking

Ever noticed that your brakes tend to vibrate from time to time when applying pressure onto them? This vibration is your rotors’ telepathic way of telling you that they need fixed. What’s more, as the rotor becomes thinner, the lack of mass compromises the rotor’s ability to absorb and dissipate heat which causes the entire braking system to overheat. In this sense, best not to define bad, just accept that they need changed and get ready to part with your hard-earned cash.

Why Should I Be Worried?

If a problem with your brakes doesn’t seem to worry you, we’d ask you to think again about the risks of what a potential braking problem could cause.

  • Temporal Brake Failure

Due to the erratic wiggling about of the brake pads, brake fluid often foams up which therefore prohibits the braking system from not receiving the correct amount of hydraulic pressure. Even temporary loss of brake control could cause a not-so-temporal amount of damage to yourself and those around you.

  • Problems with Your Overall ABS System

Cars are humans are more like than one may think. For example, if a human breaks their leg and can no longer walk, then odds are they’re going to put on a little weight. Likewise, when a car has a fault, other parts of that car are going to suffer the consequences. This can be said of the ABS (Anti-lock Braking System). The handy sensors which warn us that the brakes are dangerous, if ignored, will be subjected to damage if the rotors aren’t treated immediately. Therefore, changing them sooner rather than later will cost a lot less money.

  • Changes in Weather

It may be summer now, but weather is subject to change. When driving in dangerous conditions such as snow, braking often becomes unbearable and warping may reach a point when the car starts to shudder; which reduces traction, braking efficiency, and will certainly become more costly in the long run. Don’t put yourself and others at risk in this way.

How Much Will This Problem Cost Me To Fix?

The price of fixing warped rotors really depends on how warped they are. Going into a mechanics with an estimation of around $200 is a pretty reasonable deal. However, after this fix-up, chances are you won’t have to worry about your rotors for a long time. Rotors tend to last from anywhere between 30,000 to 70,000 miles. If you’re lucky, they could hold out for even longer! Obviously, this all depends on a wide variety of factors; overall driving style, vehicle weight, and the quality of the brake material are only a few which come to mind.

When the damage isn’t too bad, it’s possible that your rotors could be resurfaced – meaning that the rotor can be shaped in order to create a smooth surface once again. Yet bear in mind that new brake pads must be installed simultaneously and that brake rotors can only be resurfaced a number of times. In other words, don’t be disappointed if those mechanic bills mount up.

So, can you drive with warped rotors? It’s possible, of course, but driving properly is having respect for other road users’ safety and not just covering distance. To sum up, you can drive with warped rotors, but you absolutely shouldn’t!

Sources:

  1. How Brakes Work – Auto HowStuffWorks