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Today's vehicles typically have disc brakes that do the actual work of making the car come to a stop. The most common type is the single piston floating caliper Brake Disc. Main parts of your Brake Disc system are the brake pads, caliper and rotor.
Simply put the brake pads squeeze the rotor and the force is transmitted hydraulically. The friction between the pads and the Brake Disc slows the disc down; which in turn slows your car down to a stop when you hit the brake pedal.
Typically when you have your brakes worked on it is the pads that need to be changed. The pads have a wear indicator which is a piece of metal that will actually touch the Brake Disc and make a loud squealing sound. This is how you know it is time to change the pads.
If you do not change the pads when they are worn out you can do damage to the rotors. You know this is the problem when you hit the brakes and you get a shudder or vibration feeling. Typically if you change your Brake Disc pads when they begin to wear down, you won't have to worry about the rotor.