How Long Can You Drive With Bad Rotors?

How long can you drive with warped brake rotors? I would advise that you shouldn’t drive when you have bad rotors on your vehicle. But sometimes money is tight; you may also be in an emergency or some distance away from a safe environment, you can manage to drive to safety.

Yet, it’s really tricky. This is because the danger you’re trying to avoid in the short term may eventually come in the form of a brake failure.

There are a few things that determine whether you can move an inch if your car rotors get warped.
Your driving habits, the quality of the braking system, the condition of your vehicle, and its weight all account for how long you drive with bad rotors.

What Are Brake Rotors And How They Work In Your Vehicle?

If you don’t know what brake rotors are, you may not appreciate how seriously you should take their health. Like all components of your vehicle, the brake rotors are very crucial to the overall performance of your vehicle.

As components of the braking system, the brake rotors are fundamentally designed and integrated into the car to provide friction between the brake pads and the brake calipers.

Rather than allow your car wheel to spin when they clamp down, the rotors will create some friction that will cause the wheel not to spin. The friction does reduce the rotation of the wheel and ultimately the movement of the car.

What Signs To Suggest Bad Brake Rotors

Before you can conclude that your brake rotors have gone bad, there are a few signs you must be on the lookout for.

Here are the symptoms to suspect your brake rotors are in warped condition:

1. Squealing Noise

One of the earliest and closest symptoms to indicate your rotors need replacement is squealing noise. Typically, car brake rotors often come perfectly flat or even, but they can become warped and uneven due to wear and tear.

Once this happens, you may hear some squeals or squeaking sounds. The noise gets scraping if the condition of the rotors has deteriorated.

2. Vibration

Several factors may be responsible for car vibration and warped rotors can be part of this. You’ll usually feel the vibration through your foot as you press on the brake pedal.

This is an indication that the rotors have gone bad. In addition, you may also feel some rattling, shaking or wobbling of the car as you apply the brakes.

3. Wobbling Caliper

There’s a mechanism you need to understand about the braking system, especially how the operations of the rotors affect the brake calipers. By now you know the rotors are right inside the caliper. Once the flat rotors turn, the caliper will float on the caliper pins.

However, warped rotors won’t be able to turn effectively; so, rather than turning with the caliper, the warped rotors will cause the caliper to wobble on those pins.

4. Burning Smell

A burning smell is another sign indicating the brake rotors are in warped condition. When you hear this, especially when driving downhill, you should be wary.

It’s time to stop and know that you cannot continue driving the vehicle. A burning smell can also be a result of oil leaks or faulty brake disc, but warped rotors are a major culprit. The smell comes from overheated brakes or clutches.

5. Mark On Rotor Exterior Surface

If your mechanic notices some groove marks on the surface of the rotors, it’s an indication that your rotors need replacement. The marks are both a sign and a cause of warped rotors.

You’ll find the groove marks on the exterior part of the brake discs when it has made a sustained grinding against the brake shoes. The discs wear down over time and lose their thickness

6. Extended Stop Time

You may also notice that your vehicle takes a much longer time than normal when you apply the brake to slow down or stop. This longer-than-usual stopping distance means that the rotors have gone warped and can no longer make the braking system as effective as it should be.

Rather can coming to a stop shortly after pressing on the brake pedal, the vehicle will start to vibrate a few minutes more before it finally stops. Warped rotors weaken the capacity of the brake shoes and calipers to work effectively.

7. Soft Brake Shoes

The brake pedals can become spongy when you press on them. This sign is an indication that the brake rotors are in a bad shape. When the pedals can no longer resist the force of the braking, then it’s time to take a look at the condition of the rotors.

They may have gone uneven, warped or seriously bad. The next line of action is to call a local mechanic to take a look at the braking system of the car, especially the rotors.

How Long Can Brake Rotors Last?

On average, excellently manufactured brake rotors can last between the 35,000 and 65,000-mile mark. For car owners who maintain schedule servicing of their vehicle and won’t drive like a maniac, the rotors could hold out for a longer period.

Consider a wide range of factors such as your overall driving habit, the weight and condition of your car, and the quality of the overall braking system as primarily responsible for how long the rotors can last. Additionally, the kind of road on which you drive and how frequent you drive the car also matter a lot.

What Happens If I Continue To Drive On Warped Rotors?

Well, I’m sure you wouldn’t want to do it in the first place. Even if you have to drive on warped rotors, you shouldn’t have the entire family in the vehicle. Apart from the fact that it is absolutely unsafe, driving on warped rotors will lead to wearing down of the brake pads.

If you leave the problem unattended for long, you may start to notice high pulsation with high-speed braking. In this instance, you’ll see the tires begin to wobble and the car will vibrate or shake. Warped rotors may also lead to a jerky steering column.

The ultimate consequence is a potential accident caused by the failure of the anti-lock braking system. The final point to make here is that replacing warped rotors is very essential to overall safety.

What’s more, the wobbling of the caliper on the caliper pins may only endure for a short time. This is why some people recommend that you can drive for a short while even with warped rotors.

However, the more you drive, the faster the moving parts move and turn in their respective shells. They will wear out in time and cause a lot of problems that your little budget on car repairs and maintenance may not handle.

How Much Will You Spend On Fixing Brake Rotors?

The truth is that there’s no cast-in-stone or fixed cost for fixing damaged rotors. While your friend may spend around $200 to fix his brake rotors, yours may gulp double. It all depends on the severity of the damage.

Besides, the quality of the rotors, the type of car, the part seller’s price, and your state of residence, all determine how much you’ll spend on fixing your brake rotors.

The rotor damage may require you to resurface the brake discs. On average, buying car rotors cost around $50 to $80. Labor costs can be somewhere around $200, depending on the mechanic and his location.

Overall, you should budget something in the region of $400 to fix the brake rotors. Should you prefer a DIY procedure or hire a mechanic? I think the latter is a better option.

For more information about this topic, I suggest you read the article on How Much Should It Cost To Replace Brake Pads And Rotors?

Final Thoughts

“How long can you drive with warped rotors” is a genuine question, I suppose, from car owners and drivers who truly care about their safety and that of other road users.

The other thing you’ll need to hear, however unpleasant it may sound, is that when replacing the warped rotors, you should change all four rotors. It doesn’t matter whether all four are warped or not.

Tuning or rebuilding rotors is not an ideal thing to do. Don’t leave the rear rotors while changing the front ones. It can be a bit costly to replace the rotors; nothing should stand in the way of your safety.

Needless to say, the health of your vehicle is the health of your budget. If any components get bad, you’ll have to spend a few bucks. While damage is unavoidable, you shouldn’t allow the issue to degenerate to a point where you’ll have to cough out huge money.

In the end, you’ll come back to thank me if you don’t drive for too long before you change your warped or uneven rotors.

Written by Yusuke Kohara

Hi there! My name is Yusuke. I write about automotive topics for Car Proper. I love cars and have a passion for writing helpful articles on tools, car accessories, and how-to to help my readers solve their problems. In my spare time, I'm either working out, reading the book, or spending time with my family. I also work for a digital consulting agency.

How can I tell if my headlights are on high beam or low beam?

What Is The Difference Between High Beam And Low Beam?