Why are rotors consistenly failing way too soon?

We have a 2001 Toyota Solara we bought in 2003 with 30K miles. Our issues with front brake rotors began after we installed new front rotors at 173K. 25K miles and 18 months later we brought the car into the shop b/c of a significant shaking/pulsing/shimmy when braking. We were told that the rotors were warped and appeared to have been under constant braking b/c they appeared to have turned blue/hot. On the shop’s suggestion we installed new rotors. 10K miles and 6 months later (209K) the same issue returned. Upon returning to the shop they agreed to resurface the rotors at no charge. Now at 221K miles the exact same issue and we are being told that we need new front rotors. It seems to me that there must be an underlying problem.

At no time do I recall constantly braking that would have turned the rotors blue/hot. Our driving patterns over the past 50K are the same as they were for the first 140K when we had no issues. The first set of rotors were installed shortly after we moved to Southern Oregon. While we live in a mountainous area our house and the places we drive are fairly flat so braking during normal driving is no different than when we lived in the Midwest.

Trying to find suggestions on why our front brake rotors are going bad so fast. Could it be a caliper issue? If so what should be checked? Poor quality rotors? If so what brands of rotors should we be asking for? Something else?

Your calipers are sticking. It may only need to have the caliper bushings (aka caliper pins) lubricated or maybe rebuild calipers would be better for you.

If the calipers and their related hardware don’t appear to be the problem, then have the rubber brake hoses to calipers checked. These hoses can deteriorate internally where a hunk of rubber breaks off and acts like a check valve. That is, the brakes are applied when the brake pedal is depressed but when the brake pedal is released the calipers hold the brake pads to the rotors.

This can be checked by pumping the brake pedal a few times and crack open the bleeder screw on the caliper. If brake fluid shoots out of the bleeder check the hose to that caliper.


Thats what you get now, thin rotors. If you put a rubber band for a timing chain why would you have good rotors. I have a 2000 silverado and its rotors are fine.

Why we got away from front drum brakes I will never understand, they never warped and an average guy could replace the shoes. You could machine a set of drums 10 times if need be, you just needed to adjust the shoes bigger. I ran a 1968 camaro down a mountain pass at 80 mph all the time and drums did me just fine, downshift is all it took.

This is not a cheap Toyota junk problem. This is an aged, high miles car, maybe someone working on the brakes overlooked something problem.

There’s nothing wrong with a rubber timing belt as long as the car owner is aware of the responsibility about changing it at regular intervals.

I don’t think the problem is cheapo poorly made replacement rotors. As mentioned above, there’s aproblem with the brake system somewhere, probably the calipers or the hoses. Since it is a 2003 and driven in a relatively mild climate of Oregon, I’d discount the hoses and suspect something associate w/ the front calipers is sticking. It should be easy to diagnose and fix for an experience mechanic, but it might prove to be somewhat expensive. If this car as ABS, that could be the source too. If you value your wallet, pray it isn’t the ABS. In any event this is a safety issue and need immediate att’n. Best of luck to the OP.

I’m going to suggest this may also be related to the driver’s habits. Extended braking going down hills or off exit ramps, for example. Assuming the wheels are properly torqued, this should not happen.

Again now we are worried that the abs module is bad and it would probably cost 2500 to fix. I will say it again, I have no idea why we got away from drum brakes and loaded up cars with gizmos. I had a 68 camaro and it had 4 wheel drums and i drove it for 15 years and never had a wheel cylinder fail. I used to drive 90 mph down mountain passes and never had a problem. Downshift, that simple.

No one has yet to convince me of why drums were so bad.

yes,yes, and yes all of the above

Why did we get away from drum brakes? Well, let’s see…Brakes are basically a transducer that convert the car’s kinetic energy into heat, and it should be pretty obvious that vented discs dissipate that heat much faster than drums do, not to mention the fact that water spins off discs. I remember the drum brakes on my dad’s car protesting when the pop-up camper was behind. It was no longer a problem after he bought the next car that had disc brakes. As far as maintenance goes, I find it much easier to throw pads on the front brakes and grease the caliper pins than it is to replace the rear shoes.

Drums go out of proper adjustment…get wet…then cannot stop as well. Stopping distance saves lives.

Back to calipers. Any experienced cash register operator would have changed them just for the profit. I don’t know why they didn’t. That’s the usual next step.


as a mechanic I can tell you that disc brakes are much easier to work on. I can replace pads without messing around with any hold down springs and return springs

Plus, I don’t have to adjust anything afterwards

Also, let’s not forget that what is “well adjusted” for me may be too loose or too tight for the next guy. It is somewhat objective

Disc brakes don’t lock up like crazy when the weather is damp or it’s been raining

I would say wheel cylinders leak much more frequently than calipers

I’ll take disc brakes any day of the week over drums with an exception and that would be motorcycle related. Rear drum brakes are preferable (to me anyway) over rear discs on old Harleys. Personally, I always felt the mechanical linkage rear drums were better as compared to the hydraulic rear disc based on feel and stopping power and the drums are less maintenance prone.

The HD front drums are a bit iffier due to the drum and shoes being smaller combined with the weight transfer and fork dive.

@ok4450 Thats my whole point on cars as well, drums have better feel and are less maintaijnance prone. Plus Drum brake linings last alot longer than disc pads. I always felt like when I was barreling down the cottonwood mountain rolling about a buck ten I was in better control of the car with drums, you knew better than to stand on the brakes, thats what downshiftings for. When you did have to stand on the brakes they did just fine.

I always adjusted my drums with a bit of drag for excellent pedal feel, plus when the linings got thin you could “trick” the adjusters in to getting a few more months out of the linings, then I would take them to my friend bobbys shop and he would bond new linings to the shoe for a case of beer. Try that with discs.

@WheresRick when brake pads get thin, you don’t have to “trick” the adjusters in to getting a few more months out of the linings. You replace them.

Your last post made my point for me. With disc brakes, you don’t have to constantly have to worry about the adjustment, plus replacing pads is a piece of cake. No bonding. No buddy. And no case of beer.

My preference on a car would still be disc brakes though due to shortened stopping distances and less tendency for brake fade. A motorcycle is a bit different.

Back in the old days cops used to flog drum brake Harleys in traffic and brake fade was a big issue due to heat from constant applications of the front brake. An accessory called a brake cooling ring was even offered to help counter that problem. Those rings are very difficult to find now and obscenely pricy if discovered so I made one up on the metal lathe. Here’s what it looks like on one of my Harleys; a 1950 FL ex-cop bike.
The ring fits tight on the outer drum and the theory is that brake heat is emitted through the aluminum fins.

Does it work? No idea, because I avoid traffic if at all possible. It’s more show than anything.

Brake Ring 1 photo ring1.jpg

I should have added that I’m not anti-drum as I’ve owned several muscle cars with drums and the brakes were never an issue even during hard stopping.
But 10 feet here and there could make a difference… :slight_smile:

Drums or discs? My Ford truck is drums all 'round, and my Corolla is front disc and rear drums. As the sort of simple-minded shade tree mechanic I am, I think disc brakes are more reliable, last longer before routine maintenance is needed, have fewer if any adjustment problems, don’t pull right or left during a fast stop, the disc’s pistons are much more reliable than the drum’s wheel cylinders, and discs are way easier to change the parts that routinely wear out, the pads. Changing the linings on drums is like taking apart a Rube Goldberg machine.

That said, I wouldn’t loose any sleep over drums vs disc. I’d buy a car if it had all drums, or all discs. I think a good compromise is disc front, drum rear. On my Corolla w/200K I’ve had to change the front pads twice, but the rear drums still have the original linings. I’ll probably have to pull the drum off because of a bad wheel bearing before I’ll have to replace the rear brake linings. But like said prior, it’s 6 of one, halve dozen of the other, both discs and drums after the learning curve are fairly easy and inexpensive to maintain.

ABS? That’s an entirely different story.


Any car with drums all around will be so old that it won’t have:

Stability control
Decent sound system (some people actually care about these things)
Decent fuel economy (this is a generalization, I’m not too sure about the Beetle)

It will also probably have outdated steering and suspension

And since it’s so old, it may very well have significant rust by now.

That said, I don’t truly believe that you would actually buy a car with drums all around

UNLESS it was some kind of a classic