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Rotors Won’t Come Off? (Fast fix)

I know what it’s like when the job doesn’t go to plan; these little challenges are sent to test your will and resourcefulness. So far, you’re doing great; you haven’t quit.

Remove stuck car rotors in four steps:

  1. Remove caliper
  2. Remove brake carrier
  3. Remove rotor holding screw
  4. Strike the rotor sharply

In this post, you’ll learn how to remove stuck rotors safely; I’ll also share how I perform a brake inspection and a few tips for nailing your Brake job like a pro.

Brakes Overview

Brake parts

Brakes last some drivers years, and others may only last six months, depending on the vehicle, mileage, and driving style. Brakes that haven’t been changed in years can be challenging. Corrosion builds on the components making life interesting.

1 Remove Caliper

Brake caliper

Most calipers today are free-floating and slide-on pins that need to be removed. Torx fasteners are the favored type, be sure to clean out the Torx head, especially if the dust caps are missing. The Torx should fit snugly; if not, use a pick to clean and remove grit from the Torx heads.

The bolts aren’t easily accessible, and if the head strips out, cutting tools will be needed. When refitting, apply thread lock, and check torque specs for your vehicle; a normal spec is in the region of 30 Nm (22lb-ft).

2 Remove Brake Carrier

Brake carrier cleaning

In the majority of cases, the brake carrier (Caliper bolts to it) will need to be removed. A breaker bar or impact wrench makes life easy here. While removed, use a wire brush and copper grease to prep the carriers for reassembly. When refitting apply thread lock, check torque specs for your vehicle, a normal spec is in the region of 133 Nm (98 lb-ft).

3 Remove Holding Screw

New brakes

The Rotor holding fastener is countersunk and may go unnoticed. Most rotors will employ a Torx head screw to locate and hold the rotor in place when the wheel is removed. The fastener holds the rotor to the wheel knuckle. The screw often becomes damaged, so you may need to use an impact driver to loosen it.

4 Strike Rotor Sharply

Before we strike anything, we’ll need a dusk mask and eye protectors. Brake dust is some nasty crap, and you don’t want it in your lungs. Spray down the components again with water. If your car has lug nuts instead of bolts, thread them all in one turn, this protects the threads from an accidental hammer strike.

Spray some WD40 around the hub and allow to soak for 10 minutes.

Using the preening side (ball end) of the hammer, strike the rotor at the hub in a star configuration. Keep striking until she breaks loose, and she will break loose.

Brake Inspection Pro Tips

Brake rotor

The brakes are the most important systems on your car and doing a brake job is totally within the skill range of most DIY weekend worriers. But brakes are serious business and we’ll need to get this right. I’m a mechanic for more than twenty years and I’ll share all the brake hacks and tricks for nailing the job like a pro.

Before any brake job, I like to drive the vehicle and check brake function. Typically I’ll drive the vehicle far enough to warm the brakes but before that, I’ll do some static checks.

Static vehicle checks:

  • Check the brake fluid level – Low fluid level is usually caused by brake pad wear but it cold be a brake line or seal leak.
  • Fluid condition – Dark particles in the fluid suggests it’s old, brake fluid should be golden in color. Change fluid every 3 years.

Checks on Start-up:

  • Check brake booster – Place foot on the brake and start vehicle, pedal should sink a little.
  • At start up does the ABS light go out – ABS system is self diagnosing and the light stays on if the control module detects a problem.
abs fault light

Checks on the road:

  • Brake pedal travel and feel – How far the pedal goes to the floor, a low spongy pedal suggests air in the system.
  • Brake performance – Are the brakes efficient, do they pull the vehicle up quickly.
  • Brake noise – Squeal or metallic cyclical noise from the brakes suggests brake pad issue.
  • Steering Vibration under braking – Suggests warped rotors, bushing, ball-joint or wheel-bearing fault.
  • Brake pedal pulsing – Suggests warped rotors (excessive run-out)
  • Vehicle pulling to one side under braking – Suggests a brake caliper imbalance and requires further investigation.

Wheels off inspection:

  • Pads/shoes check – Inboard pads will show more wear than outboard (floating calipers). Minimum thickness 2mm.
  • Check calipers – Floating calipers should be free to move laterally.
  • Check rotor wear – In excess of 1mm requires resurfacing, more than 2mm replace.
  • Check flexi hoses and steel brake lines – Pershing, cracking corrosion and leaks.
  • Check park brake tension – Lube mechanical cables and check for EPB fault codes.

You may find the brake resources page useful, it’s a fluff-free guide to DIY brake repairs.

Brake inspection chart

Brake Fitting Tips

The correct tools will make the job move like butter. Not all of these tools are necessary.

Tools you’ll need:

  • Jack
  • Axle stand
  • Water spray bottle
  • Dust mask
  • LED inspection light
  • Long flat screwdriver
  • Wrenches
  • Sockets
  • Wind-back tool
  • Copper grease
  • Moly dry grease
  • Silicone grease
  • Wire brush
  • Bungee cord
  • Impact wrench
  • Torque wrench would be nice, but not critical.

Check out all the tools I use for a brake job on the Brake repair tools page and if you need brake system parts check out the Amazon link below.

Amazon Brake Parts

Here’s a list of useful tips when executing a brake job.

  • Remove brake fluid reservoir cap, prevents fluid overflow and splashing.
  • Clean wheel hub and apply copper grease, prevents wheel sticking.
  • Clean and lube floating caliper floating pins.
  • Use only silicone grease on rubber components.
  • Rear calipers pistons need to be turned and pushed simultaneously.
  • Replace brake pad clips when replacing brake pads.
  • Use anti-sequel or copper grease on pad shoulders and backs.
  • Torque road wheels in star formation when fitting.
  • Change brake fluid every 3 years.
  • Avoid mixing different brake fluid types and never silicone with glycol based.
  • Check fluid level and top up after brake pad procedure if needed.
  • Caution – Build brake pressure by pumping the pedal before test driving, the brakes won’t be effective when fitting new pads.
  • Test drive and brake normally, brakes will feel ineffective at first.

Related Questions

Which brakes go out first? Front car brakes wear out the fastest for two reasons, the front of the car is heavier and when breaking most of the weight of the car is transferred to the front axle causing an increased workload for the front pads and rotors.

You may find the following posts helpful:

What causes a wheel to lock-up?

New brakes smoking on one side