How Much Are You Bothered By Your Car's Rusty Rotors?

“I hate how our car’s brakes always rust,” my parents often tell me when I visit them. They own a 2015 BMW 320i, and they love it. What they don’t love is seeing nasty orange oxidation on an otherwise beautifully maintained machine, but unfortunately, they’re just going to have to deal with that. Because few cars, not even the Porsche 911 above, are immune to The Orange Blanket that is Fe2O3.

I never really understood why my parents cared so much about rust on their BMW 3 Series, but then I stopped by Porsche’s Werk I—in many ways, the birthplace of Porsche, where original Beetle prototypes and the Type 64 were designed—and saw this expensive Porsche 911 Carrera 4S:


It’s a beautiful machine, and with a price tag of well over $100,000, you’d expect it to be. This particular one was being used to showcase Porsche Exclusive Manufactur, which is basically a program that lets people personalize their Porsches with unique colors and trim options. As you can imagine, it had been meticulously cleaned and polished before any journalists could get near it.

The lights, the paint, the wheels—heck, even the tires, and I bet also the underbody were all in perfect shape. But all of that effort to detail the car couldn’t hide this:

To be clear, this is perfectly normal, and not at all a dig at Porsche. Cast iron plus moisture plus oxygen plus a bit of heat, and you’ll get rust on any rotor in no-time. I myself actually don’t find a bit of orange on a rotor to be aesthetically displeasing, but plenty of people do, and ever since talking with my parents about their 3 Series, I just can’t stop noticing it.

In fact, as soon as I landed back in Detroit from my trip to Stuttgart, I noticed the GTI parked next to me in the long term lot:


The sweet, sweet rust:


More expensive carbon-ceramic rotors do offer more corrosion protection than iron rotors, but those tend to be rare, and even expensive cars like 911s still like to clamp their calipers to ferrous metals.

Plenty of companies coat their rotors with an anti-corrosive layer, but that really only keeps the center hub and outer edges from rusting, as the brake pads wear away at the coating on the swept surface. That’s okay, though, because the pads will also wear away at the surface rust—just go for a little drive, hit the brakes a few times, and that iron should be shiny as a mirror.


Still, I will admit that it’s a bit odd to see visible rust on a car as perfect as that 911. Does this bother any of you, too?

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About the author

David Tracy

Writer, Jalopnik. 1979 Jeep Cherokee Golden Eagle, 1985 Jeep J10, 1948 Willys CJ-2A, 1995 Jeep Cherokee, 1992 Jeep Cherokee auto, 1991 Jeep Cherokee 5spd, 1976 Jeep DJ-5D, totaled 2003 Kia Rio