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2002 GMC Sonoma Truck Brake Rotors

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What Are Brake Rotors?

Your vehicle’s brakes are an essential safety system, and the rotors are a critical component of said system. Brake rotors are large, metallic (typically gray iron) disks attached to your vehicle’s hubs. Every time your wheels rotate, the brake rotor rotates alongside them. As you press the brake pedal, the rotors provide a contact surface for the brake calipers and pads to cinch onto, thus creating the friction necessary to bring your vehicle to a stop. 

When Should You Replace Your Vehicle’s Rotors?

Brake rotors are one of those components without a set-in-stone lifespan, considering their longevity depends entirely on your driving style and brake pad compound. If you regularly ride the brakes, commute in stop-go traffic, or frequent mountainous areas, the rotors may incur wear far quicker than another driver that primarily drives at low speeds around town or commutes on open highways. 

Regarding brake pad compounds, certain formulas–like semi-metallic–are highly abrasive. While they stop well, they can cause significantly more rotor wear than a comparable ceramic or organic pad. 

Signs of Excess Wear

With such variations in rotor lifespans, assessing when your rotors require replacement can be challenging. However, several characteristics can indicate excessive rotor wear, including: 

Warping 

If your brakes get excessively hot, or if you slam on the brakes with a heavy load in the bed or trailer on the hitch, the rotors may warp. Once warped, rotors typically require a replacement. Symptoms of warped rotors include intermittent squeaking as the pads pass over high and low spots and pulsing in the brake pedal with the brakes applied. 

Grinding 

If you notice a metallic grinding noise when applying the brakes, there’s a good chance you’ve worn through the friction material of your brake pads, resulting in metal-on-metal contact. If this is the case, your brake rotors are likely gouged and require a replacement; at a minimum, they’ll require resurfacing. 

Visible Grooving 

While slightly visible grooves around a rotor aren’t abnormal, deep grooves that catch on a fingernail are. If significant grooving is present on your rotors, it indicates that they’re at the end of their lifespan. 

Benefits of Replacing Rotors

Replacing rotors each time you replace your brake pads is a good practice, allowing for a proper pad break-in, even pad wear, and reduced noise. Especially if you run oversized wheels and tires or you’re rough on your vehicle’s braking system (ie: regularly towing heavy, racing, commuting through hilly terrain), it’s never a bad idea to replace your vehicle’s rotors during routine brake services.

Brake Rotor Types

Brake rotors come in several patterns and finishes, but how do they differ performance-wise?

Blank

Blank or OE-style (Original Equipment) brake rotors are available with a traditional smooth rotor surface. Generally, they offer the same amount of performance and braking power as the vehicle’s original brake rotors.

Drilled

Drilled rotors offer greater performance than factory equipment. Holes in the rotor allow brake pads to degas during use, reducing fade and maintaining consistent stopping power. Drilled rotors also create a high-performance look that is sought after by many automotive enthusiasts. However, they are less than ideal for large vehicles that do a lot of towing and hauling due to the possibility of stress fractures.

Slotted

The slots on the surface of the rotor allow for dust and dirt evacuation while driving. Clearing the rotor face of debris allows for consistent contact between the rotor and brake pad, which means greater stopping power. This design is ideal for vehicles that frequently haul or tow heavy payloads.

Dimpled & Slotted

Dimpled and slotted rotors offer all the benefits of drilled and slotted rotors; however, they're just as structurally sound as OE rotors. Dimples are small holes in the rotor face that do not go all the way through but still offer the benefits of holes. Dimpled and slotted rotors deliver maximum performance coupled with excellent durability. EBC Sport Rotors use this design.

Drilled & Slotted

This design combines the benefits of drilled holes and carved slots. Power Stop carries an extensive line of drilled and slotted rotors for cars, trucks, vans, and SUVs. These rotors improve braking at high speed; however, the edges of this rotor type can wear brake pads faster than smooth rotors.