Before you spend money on big brakes, try using more aggressive rotors and brake pads to increase braking feel because it's cheaper and may satisfy you. Make sure that the brake fluid is flushed, clean, and has no air bubbles. If you have to press twice on the brake pedal to get sufficient braking action there may be an air bubble in the lines. Also remember that without enough tire traction to take advantage of bigger brakes, a brake kit is totally useless! Below is more detailed information on big brake kit conversions.
Because it is so important to know some general braking info, please read 1000 answered questions: basic brake tips and busting big brake kit myths. It includes brake pad/rotor info applicable to all cars, such as race vs street brake pads, drilled vs plain rotors, which direction the brake slots should point, and lightweight rotors. It may also show you why you may not want a big brake upgrade!
The suspension is another major factor in braking performance. A worn suspension changes the way the brakes are supposed to behave. VW TDI suspensions are soft and tend to be worn out by 100,000 miles. New struts, strut bearings, mounts, control arm bushings, and anti-sway bar bushings in the front will do a lot to restore the handling and braking bias on your VW. The rears need new mounts and struts. If your car feels like a heaving hovercraft then a big brake kit won't do much.
Disclaimer: Before you attempt any brake work on your car, refer to the factory service manual and follow all precautions. Any and all information presented on this website is superseded by the official service manual and is not a substitute for the services or advice of a certified professional mechanic. See the TOS Agreement for the full legal disclaimer. If the brakes are faulty or if there's air in the lines, tow it to a mechanic and do not attempt to drive the car. Faulty brakes can result in an accident or loss of control so have your local garage do it if you're not qualified to work on the brakes.
The stock front brakes for the 1996-early 1999 a3 jetta and the 1996-1997 b4 passat are the same. They both use a single piston "g54" floating brake caliper with 256mm vented rotor x 20mm width with 4 lug holes. Some easier options are to convert to the corrado g54 brake setup, girling g60 brake setup, or swap to a 5 lug pattern hub and/or use aftermarket brake kits. You will probably need 15" wheels or larger for brake clearance. Note: The supercharged 4 cylinder engine (G60 Corrado) single piston calipers are called "g54", but are not the same as the TDI "g54" single piston calipers, and are not to be confused with "girling g60 dual piston" calipers - these are all different parts. To help avoid confusion in this article, I will refer to caliper names in lower case "g60, g54", and the corrado G60's model name in upper case "G60".
All modern VW brakes are floating calipers. These are calipers that float and move on slider pins. The piston is on one side only and it lets the rear caliper double as the parking brake. The advantages are: simple, light, and cheap. Fixed calipers are in a fixed position with pistons that push on each side of the rotor. These tend to be heavier and more expensive and are found on more performance oriented cars' 4 or 6 piston calipers and the aftermarket kits linked below. They cannot be used on the rear with the stock parking brake mechanism since the caliper is different. The Jetta TDI also came stock with drum brakes in the rear.
You have three main options for the 4 lug hub: (+1 brake size upgrade) g54 single piston calipers and carriers from the supercharged Corrado and a few other models, (+2 brake size upgrade) Girling g60 dual piston calipers and carriers, or converting to 5 lug. Both upgrade the rotor from 256mm x 20mm (10.1") to 280mm x 22mm (11") corrado G60 rotor. By using a larger rotor/carrier, it moves the lever arm of the caliper out, increasing the torque of the caliper. The corrado single piston caliper may be slightly wider than the TDI caliper more on this in the next paragraph. The girling g60 caliper uses a dual piston caliper and a much larger pad. ECS tuning also sells a porsche boxter brake kit adapter for 4 lug use but you probably need at least 16" wheels and a wheel spacer to clear the brakes, more details below.
Please note that the stock passat and jetta g54 calipers may not provide enough clearance if you only change your brake carrier with the corrado carrier, so it is suggested that you also use corrado g54 calipers. The corrado G60 "g54" caliper is slightly wider to fit the 2mm wider rotor in addition to having a longer carrier. The caliper is the same as early VR6 mk3 cars but is different from the TDI caliper (different part number). Some stock TDI g54 calipers will work if the pads are thin enough, otherwise sand them down slightly. The corrado VR6 rotor has a different offset and is 5 lug and cannot be used.
The third main choice is to convert to the 5 lug hub. You can buy adapter plates, a drilled out hub, or convert to the VR6 suspension. If you swap to the 5 lug VR6 "plus" suspension you can also use the stock (11.3") 280mm x 22 that came with 1992-1995 VR6 models with corrado carriers/calipers or the stock 288mm x 25mm rotors that came in 1996-1999 mk3 models with the VR6 that came with single piston teves/ATE calipers. Both of these use larger rotors and slightly larger calipers than the stock TDI brakes. You can also use Audi TT carriers with a 12.3" rotor on the 1996-1999 mk3 Jetta if you use the 5 lug conversion. There is also a Porsche Boxster, AP racing, and Stoptech kit available for the 5 lug suspension, see bottom for more details and links. Also see 1000q: 4-5 lug swap for mk3 TDI.
The corrado G60 g54 brake upgrade is the lightest (about 10 lbs each rotor) and least expensive. It has the same 54mm brake piston bore as stock so brake pedal movement will be about the same, but uses a slightly wider g54 caliper and larger carrier to fit the larger rotor. Parts availability is better and the calipers weigh less, being a single piston design. You should not upgrade the brake master cylinder to a larger size, but you may need a stock sized replacement anyways due on mileage and age.
To see the installation procedure for the corrado G60 g54 brakes, read 1000 answered questions: corrado G60 g54 brake installation
The girling g60 is the only 2 piston front brake "plug and play" upgrade available and provides the most braking force for a plug-play kit. Piston bore is 60mm, which is larger than stock so you also need to change the brake master cylinder from the stock (non ABS) 22mm brake master cylinder to a 25mm VW# 441 611 021 a master cylinder. Again, if you do not have tires that can handle the added braking force, you could send the car into a brake induced skid so I suggest at least 15x6.5" wide wheels (stock is 14x6") to make sure the wheel can clear the caliper and handle the increased braking force.
The only downside of the girling g60 brakes is cost and weight. They are more expensive to buy, harder to find, and weigh about 13.5 lbs each. As mentioned above, you also have to change the brake master cylinder. To see the installation procedure for the girling g60 brakes, read 1000 answered questions: girling g60 caliper installation. Here is a picture of the brakes in comparison to the stock brakes (pictured is the stock smaller g54 next to the larger girling g60 brake)
If you want even bigger brakes, ECS tuning makes a Porsche Boxster caliper and rotor kit. It fits the jetta TDI and includes a 12.1" rotor (312mm x 25mm) 1 piece 5 lug rotor drilled out to 4 lug rotors, caliper relocating brackets, and Porsche monobloc 4 piston calipers. However, it requires 16" wheels and probably needs a spacer for most wheels. More details can be found here: http://www.ecstuning.com/stage/edpd/pagebuild_v2.cgi?html=info-Braking-Stage2v1.html&make=Volkswagen&model=Corrado&submodel=&engine=G60
If you have swapped your 4 lug hub for 5 lug hub from a VW VR6, you already have larger brakes than the stock TDI but also have more aftermarket options. Below is a table with specs. Also see 1000q: 4-5 lug swap for mk3 TDI.
|rotor specs||model or aftermarket||caliper specs||notes/ part numbers||Vendors/Links|
|280mm x 22mm||1992-1995 mk3 VR6||same caliper as corrado g54 (not same as TDI g54) single piston||5 lug, early plus suspension||Autotech brake kit|
|288mm x 25mm||1996-1999 mk3 VR6||teves/ATE single piston||16" wheels min, 5 lug, 96 model has build date of at least 1/95, updated plus suspension|
|312mm (12.3")||Audi TT carrier||stock vr6 96-99 caliper relocated with Audi TT carrier and rotor||16" wheels min, 5 lug , 96-99 only||Parts 4 VWs Audi TT 12.3" brake kit, for 96-99 only|
|REAR DRUM conversion||for jetta tdi||calipers, pads, bearings, stub axles, and rotors||Performance
cafe rear drum-disc conversion
Autotech rear conversion (bottom of page)
Aftermarket brake kits
|305mm 1 piece rotor||AP racing||AP 5100 4 piston||includes 4-5 lug wheel spacers/adapters, for 2.0L||Performance cafe racing kit|
|312 x 25mm (12.1")||Porsche Boxster||Porsche monobloc 4 piston||4 and 5 lug||ECS tuning Porsche Boxster kit, 4 and 5 lug|
|328mm x 28mm 2 piece directional vents||Stoptech||4 piston ST-40 caliper||Includes adapters, check wheel clearance w/template from vendor, 5 lug only||New dimensions stopkit part # 83-885-4300|
|330mm 2 piece rotor||AP racing||AP 5200 4 piston calipers||includes 4-5 lug wheel spacers/adapters, for 2.0L 5 lug||Eurosport AP racing kit # EBK 698 330 A3-5R|
|330mm 2 piece rotor||AP racing||AP 5200 4 piston calipers||includes adapters, for VR6 5 lug hub only||Performance cafe racing kit|
|356mm 2 piece rotor||AP racing||AP 5500 6 piston||includes adapters, for 2.0L 5 lug||Eurosport AP racing kit # EBK 698 356 A3 5R|
|rotor specs||from model or aftermarket||caliper specs||notes/part numbers||Vendors/Links|
The 1996-1999 mk3 VR6 GTI and 1.8T/VR6 MKIV Golf, Jetta, Beetle, or a Audi B5 A4 or VW Passat with 288mm rotors, all use the same brake carrier.
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