What does a bad brake rotor sound like? –


Welcome to rxmechanic.com. We are an automotive mechanic blog that helps mechanics and car users to find the most recent and accurate technical and repair information for their cars. We recently created this blog site to enable us to share our knowledge with other automotive mechanics and car owners.


What Are Other Signs of a Bad Rotor?

Here are other signs that tell you that your rotor is bad.

1. Noisy Brakes

Noisy brakes are the most common symptom associated with bad rotors. A warped rotor ( not perfectly flat) or a worn-out rotor produces squeaking or squealing sounds.

Warped rotors usually make a squeaking sound, while worn-out rotors make a scraping noise. It is also important to remember that worn-out brake pads will also make a squealing sound.

2. Brakes Vibrations

Another sign of a bad rotor is excess vibration or pulsation. Brake pedals vibrate irregularly when the rotors are warped or worn. The vibration can also be felt through the chassis or steering wheel.

Additionally, the pedals have this pulsation when it is stepped on due to warped rotors. This happens because the pedal no longer has direct contact with the rotor surface.

3. Increased Stopping Distances

Grooves and scoring would reduce the working effect of the rotor, i.e., slowing the vehicle, and as well cause pulsation, which will be directly felt in the brake pedal.

Additionally, the pedal’s inability to interact with the rotor will give the impression that the vehicle won’t stop because of the ensuing vibration.

If the vehicle refuses to stop or its stopping distance increases, it could be a dangerous threat, especially when the driver has no other option than to make an urgent stop.

Rotors are one of the major components of the braking system and, therefore, very crucial to the vehicle’s handling characteristics and overall safety.

If your brake rotors are worn out, get an expert to inspect your vehicle to be aware if you need to replace the brake rotors.

4. Crack on the Rotor

Excessively high temperatures will cause cracks an

Excessively high temperatures will cause cracks and gouges to develop in the rotors. This heat causes the rotors to produce dents on the surface.

These cracks do not affect the brake rotors as long as they remain on the surface. But if it goes deeper, it poses higher risks and may be a symptom of a rotor breaking in half.

It is only necessary to replace tires when they reach their tread limit, but this is not the case with rotors. Rotors require replacement as soon as a fault is detected rather than at the point of runout.

Even before that stage is reached, you might have experienced a whole lot of inconveniences stopping your car.

Continuous driving even with a detected bad rotor is absurd and proven dangerous.

5. Score Marks or Grooves on the Rotor

Grooves or visual score marks on the rotor are another sign that a rotor is bad or faulty.

The rotors having constant contact with the brake pads will bring out these score marks over time.

Usually, rotors are designed to be very thick, but the thickness wears down over time.

6. Oversensitive/Insensitive Brakes

If your vehicle features hydraulically-operated disc brakes, observing their behavior at an early stage can save you a lot of money on the cost of replacing worn-out parts.

In this symptom, two situations can occur: First, you almost touch the brake pedal, yet the brakes still engage; second, you depress the pedal so hard that it snaps off before it engages.

Regardless of which out of the two situations you notice when you press the brakes,

It implies that either your rotors are bad, brake fluid is low, brake lines filled with air, thin brake pads, or a much larger problem that involves the hydraulic system.

7. Strong Chemical Fumes

Chemical odors that come out from your car indicate an overheated brake or faulty and locked calipers), leading to your brake failing.

If calipers are faulty, they can place a lot of stress on the rotor, making it warped or off-balanced.

In most cases, you see smoke from the affected steering wheel, but the brake rotors are responsible for the unpleasant odor caused by overheating but will not emit any smoke.

If you experience any of these situations, pull over and let your brakes cool. After that, continue driving but be sure to moderately apply the brakes. Replace the brake pads, rotors, and calipers as soon as you reach a safe location.

Also Read: Squeaking Noise While Driving but Not Brakes Applied (Solved)

Squealing or squeaking

Squeaking sounds could just mean you’ve got cheap brake pads or hot brakes, or they could be a sign of a bigger problem. Brakes that are overheating can cause a light squeaking, especially when the brakes are still cold. But if your brakes are consistently squealing, you should get them inspected. Here are the most frequent causes:

Pad or shoe friction material: In some cases, poor-quality friction material may cause a squealing noise. This is especially common in semi-metallic brakes.

Solution: Replace the brake pads with ones of better quality. Ceramic brakes are a good choice, as they typically make very little noise — though they tend to be a little more expensive.

Worn brake pads: As mentioned above, brake pads have a metal wear indicator that drags on the rotors when the pads are worn out. This will make a squealing or grinding noise.

Solution: You need to have your brake pads replaced.

Foreign debris: Occasionally, debris such as small stones may get trapped between the pad and rotor, or shoe and drum. This can cause a grinding or squealing noise.

Solution: The mechanic will inspect the brakes and disassemble them as needed. The debris will be removed and any damaged components will need to be replaced.

Glazed rotors or drums: Brake rotors and drums wear over time, resulting in a glazed or rough finish. As a result, the brakes may make a squealing or screeching noise.

Solution: If the rotors or drums are still thick enough, they typically can be machined to improve the finish. If they’re not, they’ll need to be replaced. Either way, they should first be inspected for damage such as cracks, scoring and heat spots. 

Lack of lubrication on drum backing plate: In a drum brake system, the shoes and drum mount to a backing plate. If the backing plate isn’t lubricated at the shoe contact pads, you may hear a squealing noise.

Solution: Remove the drum and shoes and lubricate the backing plate.

How Do I Check My Rotors?

  1. Lift your car off the ground with a jack stand and remove the lug nuts from the wheels.
  2. Take off the tires and wheels to expose the brake rotors.
  3. Loosen the bolts on your brake calipers to remove them.
  4. Remove the brake pads and rotors from your vehicle for inspection.
  5. Thoroughly examine the rotor faces and outer/inner edges for any grooves, scoring, or unevenness.
  6. Do the same for the brake pads and ensure they have not yet reached their minimum thickness requirement.
  7. Clean all brake components, including the mounting surface for your brake rotor.

At this stage, you should see any deformities to the brake rotor or damage to individual brake system components. Your findings should point you toward your next course of action.

Next Step

Schedule Brake System Inspection

The most popular service booked by readers of this article is Brake System Inspection. Once the problem has been diagnosed, you will be provided with an upfront quote for the recommended fix and receive $20.00 off as a credit towards the repair. YourMechanic’s technicians bring the dealership to you by performing this job at your home or office 7-days a week between 7AM-9PM. We currently cover over 2,000 cities and have 100k+ 5-star reviews… LEARN MORESEE PRICING & SCHEDULING

Bonus Noise 2: Scraping Noise While Driving or Turning

I have one other noise I run into a lot that has nothing to do with the brakes themselves. Technically, it has to do with rotors, but I thought it was worth mentioning here because it comes from that area, and a lot of customers assume it's their brakes causing the noise.

If your vehicle makes a scraping noise that sounds like something being dragged across a tin plate while driving or when turning a corner, it's possible you have picked up a rock from a dirt road or a freshly repaired pothole—the kind of place where you hear a shower of pebbles hitting the bottom of your car as you drive through. There’s a good possibility that a rock has gotten lodged between the rotor and the backing plate, creating the awful noise you're hearing.

Alternatively, sometimes the backing plate behind the rotor gets bent while the car is being worked on, and it scrapes against the rotor.

How to Fix It

Just have the rock removed and be on your way. There's an easier way to remove a rock stuck behind the rotor: bend the backing plate a little, as shown in the video below! If the cause is a bent backing plate, get the plate un-bent so it doesn't scrape against the rotor.

3. Squeaking Noise While Braking or Driving

Squeaky brakes can be very annoying, and furthermore, they might mean something. A squeak may be a sign of danger of some kind, or it may just be a sign of cheap brake pads.

Most Common Cause: Cheap, Low-Quality Brake Pads

Most commonly, brake squeaking is caused by inferior pads. A cheap brake job sounds good when you’re paying for it, but it may come with years of painfully annoying squeakiness. Cheap brake pads have large metal flakes in the brake material, and when you press the brakes lightly and a flake drags along the rotor, it will squeak. The squeak may go away when that particular flake wears away, but usually, there is another metal flake right behind it. The best way to avoid this type of noise is to choose quality brake pads.

What if the Squeaking Happens When I'm Driving but Not Braking?

If your brakes are squeaking or squealing while driving down the road, but the noise goes away when you press on the brakes, I have a hunch that your brake wear indicator is hitting the rotor and causing the noise.

The wear indicator is a small metal tab fastened to the brake pad. When the brake pads are worn down and need replacing, this metal tab starts to drag along the rotor, warning the driver of the potential problem.

How to Fix It

Don’t ignore the noise too long; the brake pads are thin and need servicing very soon for your safety and to protect the other parts of the braking system.

Here's a quick recap of the three most common brake noises and the most likely causes.

Etienne Martin via Unsplash; Canva

Conclusion  How to Tell if Rotor Is Bad

Faulty rotors are known for their noises – they are capable of making squeal noises. Excessive vibration from the brakes, the inability of the vehicle to stop, or increased stopping distance are also signs that tell you that the rotor is bad.

If you regularly experience any of these signs or have a malfunctioning rotor, you should avoid driving your car.

Consequently, it is best to replace the warped rotors as soon as possible or get the problem handled by a skilled mechanic if it is complex.

Inevitably, the best quality rotors are also bound to decline. However, good driving habits, regular inspection, and severe adherence to organized maintenance will go a long way in seeing that pricey repairs and brake system damage that are likely to occur in the future are prevented.

Can Bad Break Pads Damage My Rotor?

Worn-out brake pads can damage the rotors, so it’s important to replace them before they get too low. If you wait too long, you may need to replace the rotor as well.

The calipers squeeze the brake pads against the rotors when you press the brake pedal. The friction between the pads and rotors slows down the wheels.

Over time, the brake pads will wear down from this friction. If they get too low, they won’t have enough material to grip the rotors properly. This can cause the pads to slip and grind against the rotors, damaging them in the process.

If you let your brake pads wear down too much, you may need to replace the rotors as well as the pads. Replacing both is usually more expensive than just replacing the pads, so it’s best to do it before it gets to that point.

Noises Caused By A Bad Wheel Bearing

Wheel bearings usually take a long time to wear ou

Wheel bearings usually take a long time to wear out. Sometimes they fail early, though, from:

  • Impacts (pothole, curb, etc.)
  • Contamination (water, dirt, debris)
  • Improper alignment

A worn or damaged wheel bearing is quite noisy. So when a wheel bearing goes bad, you’ll notice some noise. Bad wheel bearings usually cause the following noises:

  • Knocking or clunking caused by extra stress on the CV-joint
  • Crackling caused by:
    • A worn or damaged outer CV-joint
    • Excessive bearing endplay due to poor clamping
  • Rumbling or growling caused by the bearing’s inability to turn as freely anymore
  • Grinding caused by bearing roller or raceway damage

2. Vibrations from the Brakes

Another symptom of bad brake rotors is excessive vibration or pulsation coming from the brakes. Warped or excessively worn rotors may vibrate irregularly and cause vibrations that can be felt in the pedal, and sometimes through the vehicle’s steering wheel or chassis. Additionally, the brake pedal may feel like it’s pulsating when pressed due to warped brake rotors. This occurs because the pedal is no longer making contact with the surface of the rotor.

What Are Brake Rotors?

Vehicle brake rotors are essential components of your car’s braking system. Also known as, brake discs, brake rotors are the movable parts of a vehicle’s brake system that allow your car to brake safely and efficiently.

Brake rotors are the parts of the brake system that prevent your wheels from spinning when they clamp down. In most cases, bad brake rotors are signs that your vehicle needs some maintenance.

Does a Bad Rotor Sound Like Bad Brake Pads?

No, a bad rotor does not necessarily sound like bad brake pads. However, if you notice a squeaking or grinding noise when you apply the brakes, it’s important to have your car checked out by a mechanic because that sound is similar to worn brake pads or a bad disk.

Still Not Sure Where The Noise Is Coming From?

If the test drive didn’t help you pinpoint the issue, lift the vehicle and:

  1. Inspect the wheel bearing assembly for damage
  2. Inspect the brake system (calipers, rotors, and brake pads)

Common noises

When brake issues occur, they usually cause the following noises:

  • Grinding
  • Squealing or squeaking 
  • Clattering or rattling

Let’s look at what causes these noises, and what to do about it. Keep in mind that some brake problems can cause more than one type of noise, depending on the vehicle design and how the parts are worn.  

Get it diagnosed by a professional

Cost of Fixing Bad Brake Rotors

The cost of fixing brake rotors depends on the extent of the damage. Visiting a mechanic and expecting to pay around $200 for brake disc replacement is quite reasonable.

The good thing about brake disc replacement is it eliminates the need to worry about the condition of your rotors for a long time. Brake discs may last between 30000 and 60000 miles.

If the damage is not so bad, you could have the brake discs resurfaced, which involves reshaping the discs to create a smooth surface. However, resurfacing can only be done a few times.

It is also essential to know that brake disc replacement should be done simultaneously. Therefore, the cost of brake rotor replacement may add up pretty fast.

Is it possible to drive with bad brake rotors? Probably. However, good driving involves considering your safety as well as the safety of your passengers and other road users.

Good drivers do not merely want to cover the distance, but they also want to do so safely. Long story short, you can drive around with bad brake rotors, but you absolutely should not.

Affiliate Disclosure

OffRoadingPro.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.


Leave a Comment