a3 VW Jetta TDI 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999 rear drum brake service(shoes and drum)

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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  Any and all information presented on this website is superseded by the official service manual and is not a substitute for the services or advice of a certified professional mechanic.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 not working correctly, 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.

Note that the rear brakes in the jetta are different than the front brakes - they are drum brakes!  The mk3 jetta shares the same front calipers and rotors with the passat but does not share the rear disk brakes.  Rear disk brake conversions are available.  Pics mirrored for archiving from http://faculty.ccp.edu/faculty/dreed/campingart/jettatech/index.htm


new brake shoes
new brake drums 
wheel bearing grease seals
new cotter pins and brake hardware - note, OEM may have better fitment over aftermarket parts
brake fluid - dot 4 fluid only!
wheel bearings, both inner and outer (optional if you want to change the bearings)

brake grease
brake cleaner

related links: 1000q: front brakes for mk3 jetta/passat

Pics from: www.faculty.ccp.edu/faculty/dreed/campingart/jettatech/ .  Secure car as recommended in the factory service manual, see the TOS Agreement for the full legal disclaimer.  Put the car in gear and chock the front and/or rear wheels to help prevent the car from moving.  When removing a wheel, I like to jack it up just enough to get the weight of the car off the wheel you want to remove.  This makes it a little easier to initially loosen the lugs by 1 turn.  Once they are loosened, finish jacking up the car, and then secure the car on jack stands.  Now that the car is safely secured and raised, fully remove lug nuts and fully remove the wheel. 

Do not use the factory scissor jack, that's for emergency use only.  Do not get under the car while it is supported by a jack only, always use jack stands in the factory location.  Do not rest the jack or jack stands on the rear axle as this can damage it.

Below is the various parts of the drum, take a look first.

Release the brake shoes by sticking a screwdriver through the lug bolt holes and prying up the adjusting wedge.  

Remove, in this order:  grease cap, cotter pin and cage, wheel bearing adjusting nut, wheel bearing outer washer, and the outer wheel bearing.   Make sure you place everything on a clean paper towel so that tiny pieces of dirt on the ground does not get stuck to the parts!  Also note that tapered wheel bearings such as these always point their tapers towards each other.

Pictures below are of disc brakes but it's the same general idea.  You don't need to use pliers to remove the cap, you can remove by hand or gently pry with a screwdriver.

You should now be able to remove the drum brake.  It should look like this:

It's possible that if the drum is worn, the shoes have left a ridge in the drum which will catch the drum during removal .  You can move the adjuster indicated by the arrow to retract the brake shoes to wiggle the drum off.

Be careful when removing the springs, they can pop out and take out an eye or cut you.  Always wear safety glasses and gloves when working on your car.


Push and turn the hold down spring. Hold the "nail" on the back side of the hold down spring to keep it from spinning. Don't worry its supposed to turn 360 degrees and the "nail" will come out of the back of the backing plate. Do this for both the hold down springs on one brake.

Here we see the hold down springs and the "nails" still in place.

With a pair of pliers press move the brake shoe off its anchor. Keep all the springs in place.

Carefully shift off the brake drum shoes and springs and have them lie flat. This will require you to shim the wheel cylinder pistons some. Don't worry they are supposed to move. Just don't push them too far. Again leave the springs ALL on the shoes. They help create a "frame" that will aid you in taking things apart.  Remove the parking brake cable using pliers.

Clean off all of the old grease and any brake dust with brake cleaner, pop in the new brake components, lightly lube the moving parts such as the slides and back of the shoes (do not apply grease to the brake drum) with brake grease.  Take care not to excessively grease anything or else it can splatter into unintended areas.  I suggest putting the new parts next to the old parts so you can compare them.  Also make sure the adjusting parts for the parking brake are on the same way you took them off.  It's also suggested to replace the wheel cylinder while you are in there.

torque the 5mm allen nut for the wheel cylinder to 89 ft/lbs

Double check the position of all the various pins, etc.

Lightly coat the bolts and hub mounting surfaces with anti-seize, and reinstall. 

Re-grease all the wheel bearings, etc with wheel bearing grease.

Do not overtighten or undertighten the wheel bearings, especially since they are of the tapered design.  If they are too loose they will shake, if they are too tight they will grind.  Tighten the wheel bearing nut to 8 ft lbs, then loosen it until you can get the cage and cotter pin back on.  You should be able to move the wheel bearing washer with the tip of a screwdriver and the wheel should move freely with the brake off.  Always use a new cotter pin. A rule of thumb is to tighten it and then back off a quarter turn. This is because the metal will heat up once the car is in motion - if it's tight they will bind and grind down.

Reinstall everything.  After you are done, press firmly down on the brake pedal and readjust the parking brake.

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