Everyone’s driving style is slightly different, although they can fall into a few general categories. Optimizing your vehicle to fit your particular driving style includes the engine, suspension, tire, steering and brakes. While many people may think that brakes are all alike, there are substantial differences that must be accounted for when making the decision about which ones to choose for your vehicle.
Disc Brake Rotors
Also known simply as “rotors”, these are the discs that the brake pads press down on which creates the friction that slows or stops the vehicle. The rotors are bolted over the hub of the axle and have holes where the wheel mounting bolts will pass through and to rotate the wheels themselves. With the exception of ceramic and certain two-piece rotors that have aluminum centers, the typical rotor is a one-piece unit that uses iron for the maximum absorption of heat.
There are many different rotor styles and designs that are created for all types of budgets, finding the one that has the advantages that you want means understanding the differences and how they apply to your driving style. What follows are different styles of disc brake rotors you can use for your vehicle.
OEM: Most disc brake rotors are OEM and come standard on most vehicles. They are considered a basic style that applies to many drivers. OEMs have a smooth pad contact surface and contain no grooves or holes that allow the heat to dissipate. As with some of the more expensive versions, OEM front rotors are vented to allow air to flow through. This feature allows the metal to expand normally and evenly while minimizing the chances of warping.
The rear disc brake rotors are either vented or solid with no spaces for cooling between the sides. This is a normal feature of rear brakes as they are less responsible for stopping the car than the front brake pads. For those who are normal drivers with very little interest in “road racing”, OEM brakes will be more than adequate for their needs.
Slotted: Also known as “grooved” rotors, slotted brakes are well known for creating a low level of noise while having more stopping power for the aggressive driver. These are two sets of shallow slotted and indented areas across both rotor sides that allows for the dirt, debris, water, heat and so forth to be expelled more easily from underneath the pad. Slotted brakes stay cooler during aggressive driving and are often the perfect choice for all-wheel vehicles, especially those that haul heavy loads or pull trailers. This is because the slots themselves are shallow and the rotor retains most of its mass that holds up to various conditions. However, because of the slotted design, they generally do not last as long as OEM pads.
Drilled:These are often considered disc rotors that are a step up from slotted and they are often used in high performance or high speed driving conditions. Drilled rotors have holes that go through to the opposite side and allow the debris and heat to be vented very quickly. In fact, many drilled designs also have slots as well for even more heat distribution. However, one disadvantage is that these types of pads can strain under a heavy load or towing a trailer for example. Plus, vehicles that have supercharged or turbo engines can also strain drilled rotors as well. In addition, cracks will often form around the holes as well which greatly shortens the life of the pad.
An alternate version of drilled rotors is the “dimpled” variety that only has partially drilled holes. This means a reduction in the cracking, but less heat is vented as a result.
Other Differences between Rotor Designs
Although the surface differences between the rotors is important, there are other differences as well that you will need to consider, such as the different versions of ventilated centers between each of the rotor sides.
For some of the higher-end models, they feature curved cooling fins instead of the normal straight ones. This allows for a difference in how the brake pads are cooled and are called unidirectional because they focus this venting process in a single direction. Other styles include rotors that offer tear-shaped pillars that lie between the rotors instead of the fins which create more contact with the metal and accentuate the heat escape.
The Two-Piece Rotors
For those who want a quicker response to their brakes, a two-piece system may be the answer. A two-piece rotor features an aluminum center that is bolted to more traditional iron outer section that increases the pad contact space. The advantage here is that the aluminum center has roughly the same strength, but weighs less overall. Plus, they are easy to tell apart which makes applying them even easier with center sections that are of different colors which also increases their visual appeal as well.
However, two-piece rotors are generally more expensive and really made for high performance vehicles which helps offset the heavier weight of the larger tires.
Carbon ceramic rotors are crafted from a particular blend of porcelain compound materials that were first used on the 2001 911 GT2 from Porsche. Ceramic brakes have become highly popular options for high performance vehicles as they effectively resist corrosion, withstand greater levels of heat and have great stopping power as well. The aftermarket ceramic brake is a highly popular item that is often harder to find and far more expensive as well.
Another aspect to consider is the finish on the rotors. Iron does not corrode like many other metals, so most rotors are coated with paint or powder to stave off rust from other areas that do not have contact with the pads. While rotors will age over time, the two-piece version will look better, longer because the aluminum center will remain corrosion-free.
For those who use aftermarket auto parts to make custom modifications to their vehicle, changing out the brakes is certainly one option. This is especially true if you use carbon fiber car accessories to lighten your high performance car such as new spoilers, grilles, bumpers, hood, trunk and other areas of the vehicle itself.