Front brake, rotor, and brake pad DIY on Volkswagen Jetta and Passat-mk3

Apr 18, 2017
Front brake, rotor, and brake pad DIY on Volkswagen Jetta and Passat-mk3
  • How to change the front brakes, rotors, pads on a Volkswagen Jetta and Passat (mk3)

    difficulty: 2/5

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 Any and all information presented on this website is superseded by the official service manual and is not a substitute for the services or advice of a certified professional mechanic.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


    This article shows the basic procedure for changing the front brakes on the a3/b4 VW Jetta and Passat.

    If brake fluid has not been changed in last 2 years or is contaminated, change the brake fluid. New brake fluid is normally clear, so look at the brake fluid reservoir to see if the fluid may need to be changed. Note that the rear brakes are different and need a special tool. Please read 1000 answered questions: basic brake tips for tips on brake pad and rotor selection, and more.


    brake pads
    new or resurfaced brake rotors
    brake fluid, DOT 4. Do not use DOT 5 silicone based fluid!

    or mk3 VW brake kit from ID parts (click link to check current pricing)

    C-clamp or some other tool to press back the brake piston into the caliper (for front brakes only, rear brakes require VW special tool 3272 or substitute)
    brake grease
    brake cleaner

    front rotor wear specs: Check rotor runout, machine rotors as needed or replace
    Diameter: 256mm
    Thickness: 20mm
    Wear limit: 18mm

    Secure car as recommended in the factory service manual. Here are some additional tips. Put the car in gear and apply the parking brake. Chock the front 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 one wheel, making it a little easier to initially loosen the lugs by 1/2 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 wheel. The carrier is outlined in red, the caliper is outlined in green.


    There are two options here: change just the pads or change both the pads and rotors. Please read both sections so you can understand what to do and what to leave alone.

    Changing just the brake pad
    To just change the brake pad, you can slide the carrier out of the way by loosening the caliper slider bolts. (13mm socket for the end bolt outlined in green, counter hold the bolt with a 15mm wrench at the spot outlined in yellow). I suggest spraying them with PB blaster to loosen the bolts. Just remove the lower one and loosen the other, then rotate the caliper to get access to the pads and piston. The caliper should come off, just pop out the old brake pads and press back the brake caliper pistons with a c-clamp. If your rotors are worn, the old pads could get stuck on the edge of the rusty rotor lip. If this happens, just press back the pads a little for clearance.

    The new pads will not fit onto the rotor since the new pads are thicker than the old ones and the caliper pistons were set for the old ones. You may want to open the brake fluid reservoir to let some pressure out. I don't like opening the bleeder since an air bubble might get into the fluid system. If you have a speed bleeder it'll be fine but I don't like speed bleeders on brakes. (I do like speed bleeders on clutches since you can't build up line pressure by pumping the pedal like the brake system). If you note, the bleeder nipple (outlined in red in the pic below) is always on the top of the caliper to let air out and help prevent air from getting in, but I still prefer not to open it if you are only changing the pads.

    Clean everything with brake parts cleaner, re grease the slider bolts underneath the boots, and reinstall. A pic of greased boots is seen a few pics below.


    Changing both the brake pad and rotor
    To remove the rotor, you have to remove the entire caliper (and pads). To remove the entire caliper, remove the caliper bolts (2x 17 mm bolts). In the below picture the top one is circled in red, in the 2nd below pic they were located at the red circles. The two pictures were taken at different times so there are some differences. I suggest spraying them with PB blaster to pre-loosen the bolts. The caliper will come off, just pop out the old brake pads and press back the brake caliper pistons with a brake caliper reset tool as shown below. These can be rented or Autozone loans them free with a deposit.

    When removing the caliper, do not let it hang by the line. Tie it up with some string or rest it somewhere to avoid stressing the brake line.



    Again, the reason you have to do this is because the new pads will not fit onto the rotor because they are thicker than the old pads and the caliper pistons were set for the old pads.

    Use brake parts cleaner to clean the slider bolts and caliper, regrease as necessary as circled in red below, and push the slider bolt boots back.


    Scrub the rust off the hub with a wire brush and wipe a very thin coat of anti-seize to help prevent rusting. This helps ensure that the hub is not seated perfectly flat and helps prevent wheel vibrations and other problems.

    If you are changing the rotors as well, remove the rotor set screw.

    CAUTION: The set screws tend to rust and seize in place. Then they strip and you have to drill it out. Before you strip it and make this job harder than it has to be, spray it with some penetrating lubricant like PB Blaster to loosen it. Hit the rotor around the screw with a metal hammer and let the penetrating lube sit. Then use an electric impact screwdriver to loosen it. This always seems to be successful for me. If you use a manual screwdriver, make sure the tip fits correctly into the screw head and press forward (hard) to help reduce the chance of stripping it. If you stripped the first one, go out and buy an electric impact screwdriver because you'll probably strip the other ones too. You can buy them at harbor freight for about the same price as some drill bits and screw extractors from sears.

    Make sure that the hub seating surface is flat otherwise you will have a wheel vibration! Make sure to not stress the brake line when removing the assembly. Wipe clean all surfaces with brake parts cleaner, replace the old rotor with a new or resurfaced rotor, and reinstall everything.

    Clean off all of the old grease and any brake dust with brake cleaner, pop in the new brake pads, lightly lube the moving parts such as the slides and back of the pads (do not apply grease to the brake rotor) with brake grease. Lightly coat the bolts and hub mounting surfaces with anti-seize, and reinstall.


    Note that the rear brakes are slightly different and require a special tool to press the caliper back in AND turn it at the same time.