Best Brake Rotors: Slow Your Roll with These Top Picks
The best rotors to maximize your vehicle’s braking power and dependability
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Without your trusty brake rotors, your vehicle wouldn’t be able to stop. When you hit your brake pedal, the brake calipers clamp the brake pads onto the rotors, creating friction. This friction causes your car to slow down and eventually stop. Tasked with such an important role, it’s vital that you buy only the best brake rotors for your ride. Here’s our guide to help you do just that.
- Best OverallPower Stop K1970 Front Z23 Evolution Brake KitSummarySummaryThe best brake rotors for the money: packs a lot of performance, durability, and quality into one complete kit.ProsProsExcellent heat dissipation, solid braking performance, complete front brake kit includes rotors, pads, and hardware, easy to install.ConsConsCompatibility chart may contain some inaccurate information for certain vehicles.
- Best ValueBosch QuietCast Premium Front Disc Brake RotorSummarySummaryThe best replacement rotors for budget-oriented drivers offer smooth and quiet stopping power for everyday driving.ProsProsEfficient heat dissipation, quiet operation, smooth stopping power.ConsConsFitment issues with some models, quicker wear than some other rotors.
- Honorable MentionBrembo UV Coated Front Disc Brake RotorSummarySummaryThe best rotors for high-performance street driving or track days stay cool and stop steadily in the most extreme conditions.ProsProsOEM style and quality, exceptional heat dissipation, rust-resistant.ConsConsExpensive, only sold individually.
Benefits of Brake Rotors
- Better braking performance. If the brake rotors are worn on your vehicle, then your braking performance will be seriously compromised. You may notice that your car takes longer to come to a full stop or your brakes become less effective after heavy braking. Upgrading your ride with top-rated brake rotors will shorten braking distances and reduce fade.
- Smoother braking. Replacing tired rotors with a set of high-quality brake rotors will give your vehicle smoother, more consistent braking performance. Your brake pedal will also feel less spongy and more responsive whenever you step on it. Lastly, you may feel less vibration or pulsation under braking.
- Improved effectiveness in wet weather. When your brake rotors are faulty, your brakes will not work as well in wet weather. Upgrading your rotors with a set of premium brake rotors, specifically drilled, slotted, or drilled and slotted, will improve braking performance in wet conditions.
- Longer Lifespan. The best rotor and brake pads will deliver stable braking performance throughout their long lifespan. Upgrading both of these vital braking system components at the same time ensures you’ll get the maximum mileage out of them.
Types of Brake Rotors
Blank (also known as smooth) rotors are found on the majority of vehicles straight out of the factory. A blank rotor provides a full-face friction surface for the brake pads to clamp down on. This generates not only a lot of friction to slow down your vehicle, but also considerable heat, which can prematurely warp or wear-down braking system components. Smooth brake rotors can offer durable braking performance for thousands of miles under typical driving conditions. This type of brake rotor is inexpensive to manufacture, so shoppers will find many affordable smooth rotors to choose from.
Cross-drilled brake rotors feature holes drilled across the rotor surface to allow heat generated from the friction to dissipate more quickly. This superior heat dissipation reduces brake fade during heavy braking and delivers long-lasting braking performance. Additionally, cross-drilled rotors can enhance initial brake bite in wet weather by permitting water to quickly escape the rotor surface before it can negatively impact initial braking. Drilled brake rotors are a fine choice for enthusiasts and drivers looking for a great performing all-weather rotor upgrade.
Slotted brake rotors feature thin slots or lines in the rotor surface. Much like the holes featured on cross-drilled brake rotors, the slots are an effective measure to increase cooling and remove water. One advantage that slotted brake rotors have over drilled rotors is that they are not prone to clogging from mud, dirt, and debris, making them the best brake rotors for trucks and off-road vehicles.
Drilled and Slotted
As implied by its name, drilled and slotted brake rotors offer the advantages of both types of performance rotors: responsive initial bite in wet and dry conditions, optimal heat dissipation, reduced brake fade, extended lifespan, and a dashing race-like aesthetic. Drilled and cross-slotted brake rotors are the best type of brake rotors for enthusiasts, racers, and the discerning driver looking to give their ride the ultimate braking performance. Predictably, drilled and slotted rotors are the most expensive option on the market.
Established in Bergamo, Italy in 1961, Brembo is a manufacturer of braking systems primarily for high-performance vehicles and motorcycles. Acclaimed for its innovative braking technologies and advanced friction materials, Brembo supplies a host of prestigious brands such as BMW, Ferrari, and Porsche. The brand manufactures everything from brake calipers to brake rotors. One of its hottest products is the Brembo UV Coated Front Disc Brake Rotor.
With over 30 years of braking component expertise under its belt, EBC Brakes is a privately-owned company based in the U.K. The renowned brand develops all its brake products in its own factories based in the U.K. and U.S. One of its best-selling products is the EBC Brakes USR Series Sport Slotted Rotor.
Operating from Bedford Park, Illinois, Power Stop is an American manufacturer of high-performance brake components. Though the brand has only been in business since 1997, it’s garnered the accolades of car enthusiasts and racers everywhere thanks to its diversified line of brake pads, disc brake rotors, brake calipers, and more. A particularly popular product is the Power Stop Front Z23 Evolution Brake Rotor Kit.
Brake Rotor Pricing
- Under $30: Penny pinchers, rejoice—you’ll have many value-priced brake rotors to choose from. While many affordable rotors are well-built and long-lasting, there is no shortage of poorly-made rotors available today, so be sure to perform a brake rotor quality comparison before you buy inexpensive rotors.
- $30-$90: The marketplace is flooded with high-quality brake rotors available in this price range. Shoppers can expect to find rotors from the best-known brands featuring a variety of finishes and materials.
- Over $90: Some of the best replacement brake rotors are priced at over $90 per rotor. Consumers will find a wealth of high-performance and premium brake rotors in this price range, as well as complete brake rotor kits which include everything needed to replace old rotors.
As previously discussed, there are four major types of brake rotors: smooth (also known as blank), cross-drilled, slotted, and drilled and slotted. Each brake rotor type has a set of advantages and disadvantages. Before you select your replacement brake rotors, consider your driving style and the environmental conditions you typically face when you’re out on the road.
Brake rotors are usually constructed from cast iron. This is an adequate material, but it’s the heaviest. Another material used is steel or layered steel. Steel rotors are lighter and dissipate heat better than cast iron. Aluminum is another material used for rotors, which is favored by motorcycles because it’s lightweight. Additionally, some rotors are constructed from carbon. Carbon rotors offer excellent heat dissipation and performance. Lastly, ceramic (and carbon-ceramic) rotors promise unbeatable cooling capacity and heat dissipation.
The brake rotors on your vehicle are subjected to a barrage of moisture, dirt, and debris every time you go for a drive. This may accelerate the spread of rust on your brake rotors, a particularly painful reality for those who see snow during their commutes. To protect brake rotors against rust and corrosion, some manufacturers coat their rotors with specialized protective chemicals. Coated rotors can reduce rust and corrosion, and ultimately extend their lifespan.
Most shoppers desire replacement rotors designed to provide an OE-style fit, so they purchase rotors sized the same as their stock units. However, some drivers choose to purchase “big brake kits” to get the beefed-up stopping power, and hopefully, competitive edge on race tracks. These kits include larger rotors and other performance-built components. Bigger isn’t always better in terms of braking performance, so buyers should do their homework before buying one of these kits.
- Driving Application: If your commute is mainly light highway miles, then smooth rotors should suffice. If you commute in heavy traffic, tear up the tarmac on mountain roads, or frequently drive in wet weather, cross-drilled or slotted rotors will fit your needs. Off-road enthusiasts should equip slotted rotors on their rigs for the best results. And for those adrenaline-junkies and track rats, high-performance drilled and slotted rotors are just the ticket.
Best Brake Rotors Reviews & Recommendations 2019
Best Brake Rotors Overall: Power Stop Front Z23 Evolution Brake Rotor Kit
Overall, the best front brake rotors for your money are the Power Stop Front Z23 Evolution Brake Rotors. This complete front brake rotor kit delivers an optimal blend of performance, reliability, quality, and value.
According to the manufacturer, the Power Stop rotors are cast using the finest G3000 metallurgy with stringent OE tolerances, making them an ideal braking upgrade straight out of the box. The rotors are drilled and slotted for maximum heat dissipation and smooth, repeatable braking performance. They’re also plated with silver zinc dichromate to help prevent rust and corrosion. This ensures these drilled and slotted rotors will give you maximum longevity.
Another huge plus is that this is a complete front brake rotor kit, which includes two front rotors and pads, upgraded stainless steel hardware, new pin bushings, and high-temperature brake lubricant. The included carbon ceramic brake pads score high marks for delivering smooth, nearly-silent, and dust-free braking performance. The whole kit is easy to install as well, a feature that weekend and seasoned mechanics alike will appreciate.
We didn’t find too many faults with the Power Stop kit. Some of the information on the manufacturer’s compatibility chart was incorrect, but it looks like they’re addressing this issue. Drivers who demand ultra-high-performance brake rotors for regular track duty may want to consider a more specialized set built for this purpose. All in all, we believe the Power Stop Front Z23 Evolution Brake Rotor Kit is the perfect choice for the majority of drivers.
Best Value Brake Rotors: Bosch QuietCast Premium Front Disc Brake Rotor
If you’re working with a shoestring budget but need a solid brake rotor that doesn’t compromise too much on quality, durability, and performance, the Bosch QuietCast Premium Front Disc Brake Rotor is a superb choice.
This front disc brake rotor employs an advanced aerospace alloy construction and a rubber core multilayer shim for added strength and insulation against noise. The result is quiet, smooth, and strong braking performance in typical driving conditions. A protective coating also protects this brake rotor against rust and corrosion.
If we had to point out the Bosch’s faults, the longevity and performance aren’t quite as robust as some more expensive, better-built brake rotors on the market. Also, there have been a few fitment issues with certain models that are supposed to be compatible with these rotors. We advise that you contact the manufacturer to confirm that these rotors will fit your car, truck, or SUV.
Best Brake Rotors Honorable Mention: Brembo UV Coated Front Disc Brake Rotor
If money is no object and you’d prefer a product from one of the best rotor brands in the business, the Brembo UV-Coated Front Disc Brake Rotor gives you the quality, performance, and reliability you’d expect from the maker.
These high-end brake rotors are crafted from high-carbon cast iron designed to minimize noise and vibration for smooth, confidence-inspiring braking performance. Its drilled design uses pillar-venting technology to improve cooling capacity and boost strength by 40 percent compared to its competition. Coupled with a UV coating engineered to resist rust and corrosion, these premium front disc brake rotors will stay cool, steady, and strong under the most demanding driving conditions.
Complaints are minor, but worth mentioning. The Brembos are priced beyond some motorists’ means. Additionally, the lofty price tag is for a single front disc rotor, so the overall cost will only rise as users have to source the other rotors, all the pads, and other hardware required for replacement. If you’re not fazed by its high price tag, the Brembo UV-Coated rotor represents an exceptionally well-built product that’s perfect for rigorous driving and the occasional track day.
- Use a micrometer to measure the wear on your brake rotor. Take five or six measurements around the rotor surface area where the brake pads made contact. Look in your vehicle’s owner manual for the original rotor thickness. If the rotor has worn down past the acceptable thickness level or if the wear is uneven, replacement is needed.
- Listen for a high-pitched whining or squealing noise during braking. When brake pads are completely worn down, you may hear a high-pitched sound from metal to metal contact. Additionally, a poorly-built or worn brake pad can cause grooves to appear in your rotor, which can cause a high-pitched noise.
- Take notice to any bad vibrations. If your ride shakes when you hit the brakes, then your brake rotor could be warped. This vibration means that your rotor has some wear on part of its surface and is no longer of consistent thickness.
- Know before you tow: Towing generates a massive amount of heat in your brake rotors and pads, increasing the risk of brake fade and failure. To sufficiently cope with this additional heat and stress, outfit your rig with cross-drilled, slotted, or drilled and slotted rotors.
- Treat your brakes well, and they’ll return the favor. Try to go the speed limit, do not tailgate, anticipate stops, and gradually slow down when you approach an intersection where you know you’ll have to stop. These simple measures can extend the life of your rotors and pads.
Q: How do I “bed” my brake rotors?
A: The process to bed (break-in) your rotors varies depending on the rotor manufacturer. It’s always a good idea to perform five gradual stops from 35 mph, followed by four or five harder stops from 45 mph. This process will remove any dirt or debris from the rotors and pads, as well as ensure that these components will wear evenly. We highly advise that you do this in an empty parking lot or on a back road.
Q: Should I change my brake pads along with my rotors?
A: While you can simply replace your rotors and leave the existing brake pads alone, we recommend you replace both components. Not only will you guarantee that both vital braking components will wear evenly, but it will also give your braking system the best performance and efficiency with these brand new parts. Brake pads are relatively inexpensive components, so you may as well replace them while you have access to the rotors.
Q: Should I change my brake fluid when I service my rotors?
A: Generally, most manufacturers recommend you change your brake fluid every 20,000 miles or two years, whichever comes first. If you can’t remember the last time you swapped out your brake fluid or if it looks filthier than the LA river, it’d be a wise idea to change it while you’re servicing your brake rotors and pads. Consult your vehicle’s owner’s manual for the type of brake fluid your ride needs.
Q: Should I resurface or replace my brake rotors?
A: If your rotors have worn unevenly, warped from heat, become damaged by worn brake pads, or pitted from corrosion or rust, they may need to be resurfaced or replaced. Resurfacing restores a flat, smooth surface to your brake rotors. If your brake rotors cannot be resurfaced without becoming thinner than the manufacturer’s specifications, you’ll have to replace your rotors.
Q: How much does it cost to replace my rotors?
A: Though each individual shop will charge a different amount, you can generally expect to pay about $150 to $300 per wheel. If you’re a nifty DIY kind of guy or gal, you’ll only have to pay for the parts and any specialized tools needed to complete the job.
Q: How long will my brake rotors last?
A: The lifespan of brake rotors varies wildly from vehicle to vehicle. If you have aggressive brake pads in your ride, your rotors will wear down more quickly. If your brake rotors are made from a poor-quality material, you can expect them to wear more quickly as well. Typically, brake rotors can last anywhere from 30,000 to 75,000 miles, but high-quality brake rotors can last even longer.
The best brake rotors overall are the Power Stop Front Z23 Evolution Brake Rotors. This complete front brake rotor kit offers impressive heat dissipation, smooth and silent braking operation, excellent longevity, and easy installation.
Our value pick is the Bosch QuietCast Premium Front Disc Brake Rotor.
Did one of these rotors stop you in your tracks? Do you have another set on your ride? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
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