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Hot Rod Home School (Lesson #3): How to Replace Brake Rotors and Pads

Hot Rod Home School continues with your another job that aspiring home mechanics can perform to get their feet wet: brake replacement.

Particularly, we’re talking about brake pads and brake rotors.

Again, we turn to friend of Summit Racing Eric the Car Guy…and again we include his video on using jacks and jack stands to begin the process.

So, how do you know it might be time for new brakes?

Here are 10 telltale signs:

  1. High pitched squealing
  2. Vibration in the steering wheel when stopping
  3. Grinding noises when stopping
  4. Increased braking distances
  5. Longer pedal travel
  6. Feeling the car ‘pull’ to the left or right when stopping
  7. A weak emergency brake
  8. A bad smell after coming to a hard stop
  9. Pedal ‘fade’
  10. Not stopping

What about pad and material choices?

Brake pads come in a variety of materials: organic, semi-metallic, and ceramic.

Organic pads offer quiet operation and longer rotor life. If you opt for semi-metallic or ceramic, here are some general guidelines:

Semi-Metallic Pads
• High-horsepower street cars
• Tow vehicles and heavy-duty hauling (passengers or cargo)
• Racing, especially circle track and road racing
• Severe-duty applications that generate high brake temperatures (hilly/mountainous terrain, city or other heavy stop/go driving, etc.)

Ceramic Pads
• Daily-driven vehicles
• Performance-oriented, street-driven vehicles
• Applications where improved pedal feel, longer rotor life, and low noise/low dust are important

You’ve also got choices when it comes to brake rotors. Solid rotors are most often found in OE applications and non-performance vehicles. These are relatively quiet and offer long life.

Slotted rotors are ideal for competition drivers and heavy truck operators. The advantage is extra stopping power for these applications; however, brake pad life will be slightly shorter and you may experience some pedal flutter at high speeds.

Cross-drilled rotors are lighter in weight and offer even more stopping power than slotted rotors, but uneven wear can be an issue. There is also the risk of cracking in rigorous racing conditions.

Finally, you can choose cross-drilled AND slotted surface rotors. This type of rotor dissipates heat, provides long brake life, and delivers good stopping performance in street driving.

Now, let’s get to work on replacing those front pads and rotors with our buddy, Eric the Car Guy.

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3 Comments

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