Checking and Topping Up Engine Oil

Brake rotors in a nutshell

Brake rotors in cars are circular metal discs connected to the wheels. There are four brake rotors installed in cars, one for each wheel. The rotors’ primary purpose is to slow down the turning of the car’s wheels by utilising friction. Brake calipers and brake pads are the other primary parts of the braking system that work simultaneously with the brake rotor.

The braking process occurs when calipers squeeze your car’s brake pads together. The pads rub against the rotors’ surface areas, creating friction and eventually slowing down wheel rotation and your vehicle’s overall speed.

Types of brake rotors

There are four primary types of brake rotors:

  • Drilled – Drilled brake rotors have a series of holes drilled in spiralling patterns across the surface of the rotor.
  • Slotted – Slotted brake rotors have a number of slots positioned across the rotor surface.
  • Drilled & Slotted – These rotors combine the drill and slot marking into one design.
  • Blank/Smooth – Blank or smooth brake rotors have a smooth (plain) surface.

The good thing about the naming convention of brake rotors is that you can tell exactly what types of rotors your car has, even if you have little to no knowledge of auto maintenance.

Drilled rotors

The holes drilled into the rotor’s surface assist with heat dissemination and allow dust and water to escape the rotor’s surface without damaging the braking system. As a result, drilled rotors have more friction and ‘bite’ than slotted and smooth rotors.

However, drilled rotors can wear unevenly and develop cracks when used in racing and high-performance vehicles due to the heat and temperature extremes of racing. Drilled rotors do not dissipate heat as well as slotted rotors, and therefore cannot withstand repeated heat and cool cycles, and are thus typically not used in racing.

Slotted rotors

Slotted rotors work very well for heavy trucks, SUVs, off road vehicles, tow trucks, and competition cars. It is particularly important to choose high quality brake rotors when picking a slotted style – if the brake rotors are not properly machined, from the inner to the outer edges, they can crack sooner than they otherwise would or should.

This style of brake rotor delivers improved consistency with every stop, by reducing the friction in the brake pads. Over the long run the slotted rotors also perform well: As the slots shave down glaze from overheated brake pads, they expose fresh material every time you brake. As a result, you can rely on these pads to deliver effective braking even in heavy duty vehicles.

Drilled & Slotted rotors

Drilled and slotted rotors combine both the dissipation and debris removal designs of drilled rotors and slotted rotors. They feature both drilled holes and slots set in spiral patterns around the outside of the brake rotor surface.

These brake rotors are generally the most expensive and are usually used by high-performance vehicles. Supercars are a good example, as such vehicles rely on top-tier cooling and heat dissipation to achieve their phenomenal performance. 

However, the extreme friction generated by these rotors mean that they wear quicker than other rotor types, and thus can be expensive to regularly replace.

Blank/Smooth rotors

Most new cars come with blank rotors installed both for maximum effectiveness across driving conditions and for cost effectiveness. If you do not drive aggressively, have a luxury car, or seek a brake rotor that is quiet above all, smooth rotors can be the right choice for you.

A top choice for endurance racers who need a brake pad that can hold up through a long race, as well as an overall inexpensive brake rotor choice, smooth or blank brake rotors can work very well for many needs. They tend to be the longest lasting overall, while also produce very little dust and are quiet to operate. It is precisely the plain nature of these brake rotors that makes them last longer: Without any drill holes or slots there is little room for cracks to develop.


It’s a good idea to replace your rotors from time to time. Brake rotor replacement is a necessity since braking at all will, over time, wear down the steel surfaces of the rotors and the brake pads as well. As these components wear down, your braking responsiveness and reliability will also decrease, leading to dangers when driving.

Brake rotors are important components in your car’s overall braking system. Be sure to pay attention to how they perform and how responsive your braking action is so you can replace them when necessary, since braking will, over time, wear down the steel surfaces of the rotors and the brake pads. As these components wear down, your braking responsiveness and reliability will also decrease, leading to dangers when driving. 

Need new brake rotors and want to discuss which are best suited to your needs? Auto Parts Central are experts in all things brake-system related, don’t hesitate to see us in-store or give us a call!

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