How Long Should Brake Rotors Last?

Reader Question

Hi, I read this article and have a follow up question please. How long does a typical brake rotor last? I’ve replaced and or resurfaced my VW Routan van front rotors 4 times within its lifespan on only has 49,000 miles
http://www.myhonestmechanic.com/articles/what-does-brake-rotor-warp-mean.shtml

Hi there!

That is a great question and depends on a few factors.

1. How hot the brakes are getting during normal driving, the hotter the brake pads the more heat is transfered to the brake rotors which will cause them to warp

2. How thin/thick the brake rotors are to begin with, and how much material can be shaved off to make them smooth again

You have replaced them too many time in such a short amount of mileage I can only assume you have a problem with one of the following.

1. You are a two footed driver and are riding the brake during normal driving causing the brakes to overheat

2. There is not enough air flow across the front brake pads, maybe a dust shield is being used to keep brake dust off the wheels? I would remove it if so.

3. You are using cheap brake rotors or cheap brake pads which are not venting properly. Some brake rotors are slotted in the middle to allow heat to escape easily, check the OEM rotor against your rotor. And some brake pads have a groove in the middle to allow dust and heat to escape from the brake pad, make sure you are using OEM pads or they look like the OEM pad does.

4. There is a problem with the rear brake adjustment and the front brakes are doing all the work, causing overheating. Apply the emergency brake at 30MPH SLOWLY with the release button engaged so you can do a slow and controlled stop just using the emergency brake, which is just the rear brakes. It should stop the vehicle fairly easily and smoothly.

5. You have too much weight on the vehicle or are pulling a trailer or something that is causing too much work on the brakes

6. You are driving in high water, or going through large puddles of water when the brakes are hot, causing the rotors to warp

7. There is a problem with the front brakes causing them to “drag”, like a stuck brake caliper or collapsed brake hose that is basically applying the brake just enough to cause the rotor to overheat. Lift up the front of the vehicle and try to spin each wheel by hand, they such spin fairly easily.

I would expect to have to replace the rotors every other brake job UNLESS the brake pads were run down to metal on metal or there was a problem mentioned above. See if you can rule out the above list and get back to me.

Blessings,
Austin Davis

Posted in: Brakes

14 Comments on "How Long Should Brake Rotors Last?"

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Excellent article, Austin. Thanks for the wonderful info.

  2. Mike says:

    I dont know, my car is 20 years old and in the 17 years I’ve owended it I know the rotors were never replaced, and its been several years since any resurfacing was done. The last time any brake work was done was when I changed the pads 2 years ago, and i didnt find any warping, but i imagine after all this time they might be too thin to resurface. Id be more than happy to change the rotors if there was something wrong with them, but I’m not going to do it unless its necessary, and so far they have never given me problems and always passed inspection –

  3. Willie says:

    Excellent site great info, great work,great job,keep up the grat work, ty

  4. Kirk Bailey says:

    Hi Austin: Your site is great. You always have usefulinformation which helps me make more informed decisions on auto servicing. Keep up the good work!
    Kirk

  5. bryce taylor says:

    Always informative and easy to understand explanations. Great job Austin.

    Watch out for dealership service departments. Many service desk people work on commission so it is their financial interest to generate more shop work. My wifes Accord needed new pads at about 60k miles. Dealership told her she needed new rotors. They weren’t warped so I asked why they couldn’t resurface/ They said there was rust on the outer part of the rotor. I said the pads don’t contact that area and I would take it someplace else if they couldn’t resurface. They cleaned & resurfaced the rotors while they were on the car, and we finally replaced the rotors at about 122K miles. Never had a pair of brake shoes last 60k or rotors last 120k before, but now you know it is possible.

  6. Brian says:

    Keep it going Austin. Finally REAL HONEST answers to REAL problems.

    Thank You !!

  7. Len Petty says:

    GREAT SITE!
    Austin does an outstanding job in explaining problems / solutions in terms that an average person with minimal mechanical skills can understand. Keep up the good work.

  8. fred wuerstlin says:

    appreciated your article about cleaning throttle body my van was not idling smooth and this helped

  9. he provides very helpful information says:

    great information

  10. Larry Oman says:

    Austin’s website is very useful and easy to navigate. It is an excellent resource and supplies the information needed to be an informed consumer. I recommend it to my friends. I also find his newsletter to be full of useful information. Both resources are well worth the time to review. It makes me a more informed DYI’er and consumer in general. I appreciate Austin sharing his knowledge with us.

  11. Richard Keats says:

    With Your website and emails I find your info very useful.
    Thanks Austin

  12. John Jiretz says:

    I appreciate the professional answers you have given. The thoroughness of your answers shows your knowledge and how much thought you have put into each question.

    Sincerely

    John Jiretz

  13. Nathan says:

    I found the article on cleaning the intake throttle body very helpful. I bought a can of cleaner for $3.50 at a local parts store, took off two screws and solved my start up and idle problems in minutes. My car had been acting up since a battery replacement and could not relearn how to start and idle. This fixed it. Thanks again.

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