Does It Matter Which Side Brake Rotors Go On?

When installing new brake rotors, you may wonder if your rotors are directional. Directional rotors are specific to one side of the vehicle. What if you install them on the wrong side? What will happen?

In most cases, it doesn’t matter which side brake rotors go on. A few high performance rotors are directional, and they are marked as such.

Most Brake Rotors Are Not Side Specific

Smooth rotor

It’s common knowledge that basic smooth brake rotors can be mounted on either side of a vehicle. What about slotted or drilled rotors, though? In many cases, slotted and drilled rotors are not side specific as well. Some car owners believe that the presence of slots and drillings means that the rotors are directional. It’s a common misconception. The truth is that in internally vented rotors, the type of vanes determine whether or not the rotor needs has to be mounted on the correct side of the car. 

There are three different types of vanes:

  1. Straight vane
  2. Pillar vane
  3. Curved vane

Straight vanes and pillar vanes are non-directional. You can install straight vane rotors and pillar vane rotors on either side of the vehicle. Curved vane rotors are directional.

Curved Vane Rotors Are Directional

When a curved vane rotor rotates, it creates a centrifugal pump. The rotor sucks air in from the center of the rotor, pumps it through the vanes, and out through the outside edge of the rotor. This “centrifugal pump” design helps the rotor dissipate heat. If you install a curved vane rotor backwards, it won’t be able to pump air as effectively. That means a curved vane rotor installed backwards can’t dissipate heat as well as it should.

To install a curved vane rotor correctly, make sure the vanes at the top of the rotor are tilting rearward. If they are tilted forward, they’re installed backwards.

Some Older Brembo Slotted And Cross-Drilled Rotors Are Directional

Keep in mind that a few brake rotor brands make rotors that are directional, regardless of the vane geometry. Brembo is one of them. Brembo used to make its slotted and cross-drilled rotors directional. Most of its newer performance rotors are interchangeable.

Don’t worry about whether your new rotors are directional. If you buy a set of directional rotors from a quality brand, the rotors will be marked as directional. Many directional rotors will come with a “left” or “right” marking on them.

Should You Get Directional Rotors?

Brake rotors

A main reason people get performance rotors is the incredible cooling benefits they offer. Slotted, drilled, and vented rotors are designed to cool faster than solid rotors. Rotors that cool fast bring great benefits, such as:

  • Longer rotor and pad life
  • Consistence performance
  • Better “bite” and stopping power
  • Better resistance to brake fade

Directional rotors, such as curved vane rotors, are designed that way to provide better cooling benefits. Yet, non-directional rotors (like slotted rotors) can provide cooling benefits that are just as good. So you don’t necessarily have to get directional rotors if you want quality performance rotors that cool fast. Instead, find a high quality set of rotors that are specifically designed to cool fast.

We carry a variety of quality performance rotors by well-known brands. Check out our inventory here. Be sure to select your preferences in the left column to narrow down your options to the perfect set of performance rotors for your vehicle!