Brake Rotors

What Are Brake Rotors?

Brake rotors are circular discs connected to each wheel (two in the front and two in the back). Rotors are designed to turn motion (kinetic energy) into thermal energy (heat). When you press down on the brake pedal, it sends a signal via the master brake cylinder to your calipers to squeeze your brake pads together against the rotors’ large surface area. This friction created by the pads pressing up against the rotors resists the wheel’s spin, which slows its rotation and halts the car’s movement.

What Are The Different Types of Brake Rotors?

When the time comes to replace your rotors, remember that not all rotors are made the same.


In fact, there are four different types to choose from, so before replacing your vehicle’s rotors, make sure you’re selecting the right one for your needs.

The four different rotor types are:

  • Blank & Smooth – Blank and smooth rotors are what you’ll find on most passenger vehicles and feature a smooth, blank metal surface around the rotor
  • Drilled – Drilled rotors feature drilled holes around the metal surface
  • Slotted – Slotted rotors feature long “slots” or lines in the metal surface
  • Drilled & Slotted – Drilled and slotted rotors combine the drilled holes and slots for enhanced performance


Luckily, choosing the right rotor for your vehicle is as simple as viewing the existing rotors on your vehicle.


Another thing to keep in mind when replacing your vehicle’s rotors is that the rotors on your family sedan will only work on your pickup truck and vice versa.


Now, let’s look at the different rotors, what they look like, and their respective applications.

Blank & Smooth (Original Equipment-Specific)

Blank and smooth rotors are what you’ll commonly find on most new passenger vehicles. Keep in mind that oe-specific rotors have a basic and premium option, which all depends on how they’re manufactured. Unless you’re a super aggressive driver or you’re driving a luxury vehicle, blank rotors are a great choice for your vehicle.

Basic oe-specific rotors are traditionally made from recycled steel and often don’t perform as well as your original equipment manufacturer (OEM) rotors due to thicker internal fins, which in turn impact the cooling abilities of your rotors. If you will use premium ceramic brake pads with your new rotors, don’t pair them with a basic set of rotors. Basic rotors will also reduce the life of your new pads, as they’ll wear down quicker due to the increased heat.

Drilled Rotors

Drilled rotors have holes drilled throughout the surface.  These holes allow water, dust, and heat to easily dissipate off the surface of the rotor. Drilled rotors are an excellent choice for drivers that live in wetter climates, as they’ll help increase stopping power in wet, rainy conditions. If you’re looking at drilled rotors for a performance vehicle, you’ll want to stay away. Drilled rotors don’t work well under high heat and can fail quickly in a race-type driving scenario.

Slotted Rotors

Slotted rotors feature slots around the exterior surface of the rotor. They’re a great choice for heavy-duty trucks and SUVs, especially those that need improved stopping power when towing or hauling. The slots are designed to draw more air in between the pad and rotor surface, which improves cooling and heat dispersion. They’re also designed to help remove excess brake debris and pad glaze that can occur at higher temperatures. While they are more efficient in a few ways, they come with the downside of not lasting as long, which also affects the life of your pads.

Drilled & Slotted Rotors

Lastly, drilled and slotted rotors are primarily designed for performance vehicles, like sports cars, that need enhanced cooling and heat dispersion. This rotor was designed to improve braking at high speeds during racing or track days. Where there is friction, there is heat. Over time, the continual force and heat with off-road or track driving can sacrifice the integrity of your rotors.

To minimize the adverse effects of high-performance driving, drilled and slotted rotors have both tiny holes and small trenches etched into the surface, acting as gutters for water and heat.

While great at dissipating heat, these performance rotors also have some setbacks, the largest being durability. Because the material has been removed from the surface, the edges can wear away brake pads faster than traditional smooth surfaces.  The removed material also decreases the heartiness of the rotor, making them more prone to cracks. 

What types of brake rotors are available, and how do they differ?

There are several types of brake rotors available, including solid rotors, vented rotors, drilled rotors, and slotted rotors. Each type has unique characteristics and benefits in terms of heat dissipation, performance, and durability. The best type of rotor for your vehicle depends on your driving preferences and needs.

How long I prolong the life of my brake rotors?

To prolong the life of your brake rotors, practice smooth and gentle braking techniques, avoid riding the brakes or heavy braking, maintain proper tire inflation and wheel alignment, and perform regular brake inspections and maintenance. Additionally, avoid driving through deep water or harsh chemicals that can accelerate rotor corrosion.

Can brake rotors be resurfaced instead of replaced?

In some cases, brake rotors can be resurfaced or machined to remove surface irregularities and restore smoothness. However, resurfacing is not always possible or recommended, especially if the rotors are severely worn, warped, or damaged. It’s best to consult with a qualified technician to determine if resurfacing is appropriate.