Brakes: Cross Drilled vs Slotted Rotors – Which is Better?

Brake rotors come in various designs with the most popular being cross drilled or slotted. So what’s the difference between these? Which of these rotors is better and why? We get these questions a lot so we will share some differences and our person preference for which brake rotors are the best.

What’s the purpose of drilled rotors or slotted rotors?
Crossed drilled rotors and slotted rotors (and rotors that are both slotted and drilled) are designed to allow gases to escape that build up between the brake pad and brake rotor. This allows your brakes to run cooler and stop better.

Cross Drilled Rotors
Cross drilled rotors are OEM style blank rotors that have been cross drilled to allow heat to escape that builds up between the brake pad and rotor through the drilled holes. Many people prefer drilled rotors because they like the look and consider it a good upgrade over an OEM blank rotor. Over the years, we have seen drilled rotors crack between the drilled holes due to the rotor being low quality and extreme brake temps causing excessive heat. This shows us that even though drilled rotors are specifically designed to expel hot gases, cheap or inexpensive rotors aren’t drilled in the proper way or with proper drill locations, so the purpose is for looks and not for performance. If you are buying a drilled rotor, we recommend a quality brand such as DBA. The image on the right shows what can happen with a low quality cross drilled rotor when it cracks.

Slotted Rotors
Slotted brake rotors are a great alternative to drilled rotors because they serve the same purpose of expelling hot brake gas, but since they retain the strength of the rotor, they do not crack like drilled rotors can. We highly recommend slotted rotors such as StopTech. Some people argue that the drilled rotors are more for show, and the slotted rotors are more for race and performance. Slotted rotors are also better designed for wet conditions as they move water away from the rotor more efficiently for superior wet braking.

Less Brake Fade and Longer Life?
Brake companies say their rotors have double the life over stock rotors and have less brake fade, but we haven’t seen this. Usually the less brake fade comes from people upgrading their brake pads at the same time but since most brake pads offer better stopping power, they dig deeper into the rotor so any benefit the rotor has from higher quality material is offset by the more aggressive brake pad that eats away at the rotor material.

What’s best for the street vs the track?
Most of our customers will not notice a difference in stopping performance from the brake rotor, but rather from the brake pads. The advantages from cross drilled and slotted rotors comes during extremely hard and repetitive braking such as in competition use. For the best bang for the buck, we recommend a good set of brake pads and if your car is older with rubber brake lines, to replace them with stainless steel brake lines.

Final Recommendation
For the track or the street, we recommend a good quality slotted brake rotor and high quality brake pads. If you decide you want the look of a drilled rotor, go with a high quality brand to lower the chance of cracking between the drills.

11 comments
  1. I think I’ll go with a high quality, non slotted or drilled rotor with a high quality pad for my daily driver. I drive when it’s 20 below out, so I want my rotors to heat up and stay warm for my own safety

    1. I wouldn’t worry about it too much. Disk brakes can’t really ever be too cold to work unless the fluid gels up. The rotor face can frost up if its really cold and humid but that should rub off almost immediately once you start driving. Drum brakes on the other hand can completely frost up and slip since the pads aren’t in constant contact with the drum surface. My old s10 was front-braking-only most all winter long. I finally got sick of the deadliness and put a Camaro rear axle with disks on and got rear ended and totaled 3 weeks later. Se la vie…

  2. Great article. I managed a tire shop for almost 15 years and I can’t tell you how many times I had to show a customer their cracked cheap Chinesium drilled rotors, only to have them try and blame ME for it. I’ve even seen Brembo rotors with small stress cracks and chipping. I don’t even think drilled rotors should be legal for road use as they pose a completely unwarranted safety risk. Once again, thank you.

  3. Thank You. This was very informative and I appreciate the analysis of each rotor type. I will be going with your recommendation and go for quality pads.

  4. I OWE A 2009 LINCOLN MKZ THAT WAS MY HUSBANDS WHO PASSED AWAY. MY HUSBAND KEPT UP WITH ALL MAINTENANCE ON OUR VEHICLES. I NEED TO BUY NEW ROTORS AND BRAKES FOR MY MKZ AND I NEED
    GUIDANCE. COULD SOMEONE RECOMMEND A BRAND OF ROTOR AND BRAKE PADS I SHOULD BUY?
    THANK YOU.

  5. I take my 2006 mustang GT to the winding canyon roads onece a week and use my brakes pretty often then the other 6 days is driven very lightly, would you recommend upgrading brakes?

  6. My experience with Cross drilled Brakes has been anything but positive. My Mercedes came with Cross Drilled Rotors from the Factory but developed a shutter everytime the Brakes were applied. I replaced them thinking they’d probably been through their life cycle and replaced with like for like. The same shutter is happening violently. Am replacing ASAP with Vented/Slotted Rotors, even smooth would be better than cross drilled. My recommendation would be avoid Cross Drilled at all cost, they really are only window dressing and slotted look just as good.

  7. I’ve been running middle-grade rotors for years on my F350 Diesel doing heavy towing., on my wife’s Ford Explorer daily driver up and down mountains. I put about 27,000 to 30,000 miles a year on my truck. My Wife puts about 18000 miles a year never had cracking issues. We live in the Northeast I can get up to a 105 degrees down to -25 degrees. Never had cracking issues warping issues. I get about 3 years out of mine and she gets about 5 out of hers.

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