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Silverado Brake Rotors: How Size and Style Matters

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Shop Silverado Brake Rotors

Brake rotors, being the heavy iron discs that they are, absorb and take heat. Upgrading your Silverado's rotors to something less prone to warping under high stress situations, will ensure your brake system is up to the task of off-roading or towing.

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The brake rotors on your Silverado are responsible for stopping your pickup truck that weighs a little over 4,000 lbs. Add in some weight to the bed or on the trailer hitch and that becomes a lot of mass reliant on your braking system. The brake rotors on your Silverado play an integral role in making your Silverado stop and with a litany of aftermarket options, it can be tough to find the right rotors for your truck. This guide will go over everything you need to know about Silverado brake rotors and how to pick out the right set for you.

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Silverado Brake Rotors’ Place in the Braking System

Depending upon how you look at it, the brake rotors are the last stop (pun intended) in the braking system. When you press on the brake pedal, brake fluid rushes through the lines to the calipers, which press the pads up against the rotors, slowing your Silverado to a stop.

The rotors are attached to the wheel hub assembly and are what ultimately slows everything down. The brake pads grip the rotors, creating friction and heat until the truck is stopped. Brake rotors are considered a wear and tear item as over time they will need to be resurfaced or replaced. Depending upon driving habits and other variables, brake rotors need to be resurfaced every 20,000 to 30,000 miles.

What Does it Mean to Resurface Brake Rotors?

Resurfacing brake rotors is taking them and having the top layer machined down for an even and flat braking surface. Over time, brake rotors can become warped due to heat or uneven wear from non-typical mechanical issues. If you wear your brake pads down past the point of when they should have been replaced, the clips on them cut into the rotors and score them. 

Resurfacing the rotors shaves away a small amount of the rotor which allows you to retain the structural and functional integrity of the rotor while providing a ‘like new’ braking feel. However, it is possible to leave these issues too long and have to replace the rotor entirely since there is only a small amount of the rotor that can be machined away. It is important to get your Silverado into a mechanic (if you don’t have the means or knowledge to address it yourself) at the first sign of uneven or slower braking to prevent total replacement.

When Should I Replace My Silverado’s Brake Rotors?

There is no straight answer to this question as you can replace them at several different times. If your rotors have become too warped or damaged as outlined previously in this guide, then you will absolutely need to replace them for safety reason. Under normal conditions with no expedited wear or damage, it is reasonable to expect brake rotor replacement at around 50,000 to 70,000 miles (again this all depends on your driving habits and style). 

On the flip side, you could drive a brand new 2019 Chevrolet Silverado right off the lot with 0 miles on the odometer and replace them right away for enhanced braking performance. Although the stock options are fine and well, upgrading to a more powerful rotor will give you a quicker, smoother stopping truck, and depending upon the rotor, one that brakes harder for longer without overheating.

What is the Construction of Stock Silverado Brake Rotors?

Stock Silverado brake rotors are constructed from cast iron that is created at 1,040 degrees Fahrenheit. They are a flat, smooth design with no cross drilling or slotting in the rotor surface. The front rotors are 15” in diameter while the rear Silverado brake rotors are 13” in diameter.  Typically, these rotors weigh in at 27-28 lbs.

Differences Between Stock & Aftermarket Silverado Brake Rotors

The stock Silverado brake rotors are a simple, no-frills option that do the job they were intended for. However, they still suffer from the same shortcomings as most other stock rotors. These shortcomings can include over heating with hard/repetitive braking and warping when these actions are prolonged. 

Aftermarket brake rotors are more resistant to these issues as aftermarket options are designed to directly address these issues. The main benefit of aftermarket rotors is they do not warp as easily, nor do they hold heat as long as or as much as stock rotors. There are two main aftermarket rotor designs that are excellent at addressing these issues: cross-drilled brake rotors and slotted rotors. 

Cross-drilled brake rotors have small holes drilled through the face of the rotor to help with cooling the brakes. Cool air is allowed to pass through the holes, dissipating the heat that gets built up. 

Slotted brake rotors have a crevices/veins dug into the face of the brake rotor to help the heat not build up as quickly. Cool air is allowed to get deeper into the rotor of the surface, keeps the temperatures more reasonable. 

There are pros and cons to each option you should be aware of. Cross-drilled rotors can crack if enough heat builds up, but this is relatively a rare occurrence with quality rotors. Slotted rotors can be more prone to warping over time due to the veins, but again, this is relatively rare when using quality parts. Both cross-drilled and slotted brake rotors offer a huge improvement over the stock option.

Silverado Brake Rotor Size and Cooling

The size of your brake rotors plays a role in how efficiently they dissipate heat and remain cool. The smaller the rotor, the less surface space there is. The less surface space there is, the more heat gets contained in a smaller area. When you have a large rotor, there is more surface area for the heat to occupy as well as a larger area for cool air to bring the rotor temperature down. 

Stock Silverado brake rotors can be anywhere from 12 to 15 inches depending upon the year and options. Aftermarket brake rotors can be anywhere from 12 to 17 inches, with sizes skewing more towards 14 to 16 inches. 

Before you go swapping out your stock rotors for a larger set of aftermarket rotors, it is important to check your wheel clearances. The size and design of your wheels will dictate the size of the rotor you can fit onto your Silverado.

Best Silverado Brake Rotors for Towing

Although this question can be somewhat of a subjective one, if you are looking to help dissipate all of the heat generated from the brakes while towing heavy loads, there is one safe pick that will accommodate most owners. A slotted brake rotor can help keep the rotor temperature down, while not sacrificing any braking integrity. Slotted rotors are easy to maintain and are great for staying cool, even when you are stopping in a hurry with 6,000 lbs in tow.

When to Consider Upgrading to Aftermarket Silverado Brake Rotors?

Again, this is a very personal question and is going to come down to a mix of personal preference and driving habits/styles. With that said, the moment you start to question the power of your brakes or the amount of distance you need to stop from 45 to 60 MPH, is the perfect time to consider ditching the stock rotors for a set of aftermarket ones. Likewise, when the stock rotors wear out and you need to replace them, consider going for something better than the bare minimum and enter a whole new world of braking performance, regardless of whether it is your daily driver, farm truck, or drag star.

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