Can I Change Out My Brake Rotors Only Without Replacing the Brake Pads?

Thrifty drivers want to know if they can replace their car’s brake rotors independently of the brake pads, or if they must replace the brake pads and the brake rotors at the same time. Learn the signs that brake rotors need to be replaced as well as if you must replace brake pads and rotors at the same time to keep your car in good working order.


Signs Your Brake Rotors Need Replacement



If you hear or feel any of the following, your brake rotors are nearing the end of their useful life and should be replaced, for safety’s sake:


  • Your brakes are making a high-pitched, whining sound

  • Your brakes vibrate when you try to make a hard stop from speeds upwards of 30 mph

  • You need to press down on the brake pedal more than you used to in order to get the brakes to kick in

  • Your brakes make a metallic scraping sound when you try to stop

  • Your car naturally pulls to one side or another when you apply the brakes


Knowing these signs will not only help you understand when it is time to get your brake rotors replaced, it can help you avoid untrustworthy mechanics trying to upsell you on a brake job when your rotors still have life left in them.


All of these issues indicate a brake problem. In some cases, the brake pads may be worn and are causing damage to the brake rotors. If you do not make a repair now, your brake rotors will get damaged. In other cases, the brake rotors need to be replaced, but the brake pads themselves may not be worn enough to need replacement. So, if the brake rotors are worn but the brake pads are not yet worn, do you need to replace the pads too?


Can You Change Only the Brake Rotors?


When you replace the brake rotors but keep your old brake pads, you save money and time. You can get by with just replacing brake rotors, but you may want to replace the brake pads at the same time – even if they do not strictly need it.

Here’s why: the old brake pads and the old rotors were worn down together. The pads hit the rotors in the same spots hundreds of times a day, stopping your car. When you replace the rotors, you have fresh, flat brake rotors and grooved brake pads that will only make contact with the brake rotors in places where the pads have high points. The grooved areas of the pads cannot reach the rotors.



 As a result, you do not have access to your car’s full stopping power. If you needed to come to a hard stop in an emergency, you may not be able to stop in time. Additionally, if you change only the brake rotors, and your brakes keep making noise, it may be due to the uneven wear between the pads and the brakes. Changing your brake pads will end unwanted braking noises and return your full braking power.

If you decide to keep the old pads on, you will have that reduced braking power until your brake pads wear in the new rotors so the full pad makes contact with the full rotor. From that point on, you will be back to enjoying full braking power.  




The choice is up to you and you may decide to keep driving with old brake pads. Yet there are many more reasons why it is beneficial to replace both your brake pads and rotors at the same time. Especially if you are replacing your brake parts yourself, the cost of the components is minor. It may be worth the added peace of mind (and less time spent on brake maintenance later) to just go ahead and replace the pads with the rotors.

No matter which component of the braking system you are replacing, it is important to purchase high quality brake parts from a reputable manufacturer. Poorly made parts can put your car, you, your passengers, and other drivers on the road in danger if a braking system component fails.

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