Brake Rotors: Choosing the right pattern

Brake rotors in a nutshell

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

The braking process occurs when calipers squeeze your vehicles brake pads together, the pads clamp against the disc rotors surface areas, creating friction and eventually slowing down wheel rotation and your vehicles overall speed.


Types of brake rotors

There are four primary types of brake rotors:

  • Standard (Smooth) – Standard brake rotors have a smooth, plain friction surface. This is the design used in most OE (factory) applications.
  • Drilled – Drilled brake rotors have a series of holes drilled in patterns across the surface of the rotor.
  • Slotted – Slotted brake rotors have a number of slots machined across the rotor surface.
  • Drilled & Slotted – These rotors combine drilled and slotted technology into one design.


Drilled rotors

Drilled rotors literally have holes drilled in the friction surface of the disc. The holes drilled into the rotors surface assist with heat dispersion. As a result, drilled rotors allow more air flow through the disc are more effective, than standard type rotors at controlling heat soak.

However, drilled rotors can wear unevenly and develop cracks, especially when used in racing and high-performance vehicles. This is because the drilling of the material compromises the integrity of the rotor casting. Drilled rotors must have raw castings specially engineered for the process.


Slotted rotors

Slotted rotors have narrow slots machined across the friction face of the disc. Slotted rotors work very well in applications requiring a heavy-duty alternative or competition vehicles.

This style of brake rotor delivers much improved braking efficiency, by reducing the build-up of gases (created by extreme heat in the brake friction material) and other foreign deposits on the friction surface of the disc that get between the brake pad and the rotor. The increase in braking efficiency gained by installing slotted rotors means that not only is the performance of the brake system greatly improved, but the brakes will last longer as well.


Drilled & Slotted rotors

Drilled and slotted rotors combine both of the design aspects, advantages, and disadvantages from their individual kin, as detailed above

These brake rotors are generally the most expensive and are usually used in performance applications or for aesthetics.  


Standard/Smooth rotors

Most new vehicles are fitted with standard rotors. These are used for many reasons and are suitable for use across all types driving conditions, and applications; they are also the most cost-effective type of rotor. Standard rotors are just that and are the most common and affordable choice when maintaining your vehicle to factory specifications. Standard rotors offer a smooth, quiet braking operation and, when paired with a quality disc brake pad, will work very well.



Brake rotor replacement is an unavoidable necessity because they wear, just like tyres. The braking process, or action, will wear down the steel friction surface of the rotors and brake pads as well. As these components wear, your braking performance and reliability will also decrease, leading to dangers when driving. Disc brake rotors can also suffer from ‘DVT’ (Disc thickness variation) more commonly known as ‘shudder’. There are many causes for this symptom, but once a rotor suffers from DVT it will generally require replacing.

Brake rotors are critical components in your vehicle’s overall braking system. Be sure to pay attention to how they look and how your braking system is performing.


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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