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How To Choose Brake Rotors [INFOGRAPHIC]

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Ever find yourself lost in a sea of information when looking for brake rotors? Fret no more! We’ve put together a handy infographic that matches the driving style to the most suitable rotor choice.

A word about the infographic

In the world of brake rotors, the choices are endless and the costs can quickly skyrocket. For the purpose of the infographic, we have selected the most suitable rotor for the application based on cost. Also, consider the following rules of thumb for a given rotor, assuming the rotor metallurgy (formula, heat treatment, etc.) is the same:

  • Plain rotors last longer than slotted rotors which last longer than cross-drilled rotors
  • Cross-drilled rotors are lighter than slotted rotors which are lighter than plain rotors
  • Cross-drilled rotors provide more airflow so they are more likely to reduce brake fade
  • Slotted and cross-drilled rotors offer more airflow than slotted rotors but less airflow than cross-drilled rotors. They also provide an added level of “swiping” away dirt thanks to the slots but fall short of the Slotted rotors’ ability to do so. In short, it falls in between slotted rotors and cross-drilled rotors.

Commuting

Use of brakes is minimal when commuting. Even through stop-and-go traffic, the brakes don’t heat up to very high levels as they do on circuits. This being the case, a simple plain rotor would do the job.

Towing

Driving with heavy loads in tow generates a lot of kinetic energy. However, when driving on flat surfaces, you will typically require less brake application to control speed than when driving on declines. To manage the increase in kinetic energy, slots are suggested when driving mostly on flat surfaces. Since the higher energy levels will cause gasses and debris to form and interfere with braking, slots will ensure that the brake pads remain in full contact with the rotors and will clear away debris and gasses as needed. On steeper terrain, with more intense brake periods, the slotted and cross-drilled rotors will reduce brake fade thanks to the increased airflow from the cross-drilled holes and the slots will ensure the surface is kept clean and in contact with the pads.

Recreational off-roading

When off-roading for fun, odds are that you won’t be applying the brakes too heavily since any intense brake application would most likely result in skidding over gravel or dirt. This being the case, the likelihood of heat build up is low and the improvement can be gained from either reducing weight or keeping the pad surface clean of debris. One thing to keep in mind though is that when “playing” in muddy terrain, the last think you’d want is for mud to get caught in between the rotor and the pads. This will significantly reduce the performance of your brakes. For this reason, plain rotors are recommended in wet and muddy terrain. When driving on dry terrain, slotted rotors are acceptable since they wipe away debris and ensure full pad contact.

Street Performance

When upgrading your car for street performance, it’s essential to think about brakes. However, brake upgrades don’t have to be expensive and you can further reduce the cost by considering the type of driving you would like to do. For low intensity applications (highway driving, street driving, etc.) where not much brake use occurs, slotted rotors will mostly suffice. When brake intensity increases (canyon driving, mountain driving, etc.) you’ll need rotors that can help reduce brake fad so cross-drilled rotors are suggested. Of course, the price difference between cross-drilled, slotted, and slotted & crossdrilled is minimal so people mostly decide on the rotor based on aesthetics.

Track days & High-Performance Driving Events (HPDE)

Drag strip: getting off the line the fastest is a great advantage in drag racing. For this reason, the lighter the rotor is, the better. Choices here can be argued based on preferences and recommendations can vary from plain to slotted to crossdrilled. We will recommend crossdrilled here since weight is the most important factor after economy (otherwise, a two piece rotor would work better). Crossdrilled provides a slight advantage over slotted if one piece is required.

Autocross: speeds are typically low so heat buildup is not an issue. The rotor will need to therefore focus on contact surface area. Slotted provides the best option by ensuring the surfaces of the rotor and pads remain in full contact, improving the brake force of the system.

Track: depending on the turns and the intensity of braking, options can range from slotted and crossdrilled to 2-piece slotted. The higher the intensity of braking the more heat dissipation is needed and the lighter the rotor, the easier it is to control through fade. two-piece rotors therefore provide the advantage needed during heavy track use.

Racing applications

When using the vehicle for racing, weight, performance, fade resistance trump cost. Every little advantage helps and two-piece rotors are significantly lighter and provide much better heat dissipation properties than one-piece rotors. Furthermore, crossdrilled rotors provides more airflow for higher brake intensity applications over slotted and since rotor life isn’t much of an issue during racing, crossdrilled are usually the preferred finish for high brake-use circuits.

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