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Is there a set lifespan for the brakes? The golf is out of warranty and don't want to go to the dealer anymore. I think that they would probably charge me to take a look.
 

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You change them when they're worn out.

Your car probably has a wear sensor on the brake pad too.

Change the rotors and pads at the same time. Look at the top of the forum, there's a how to list, the brake pad and rotor min specs are listed there.
 
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Also know that with mk4 cars, the rear brakes can wear out before the fronts. The electronic brake distribution applies the rears more than the fronts during light braking, causing the rears to wear out first.
 
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Even autozone or napa brakes will do.

All brakes dust somewhat. Generallly, the more brake dust=more stopping but this isn't always the case.

Hawk, metal masters, all sell performance brake pads. I'm sure brembo also sells brake pads. Since you will replace the brake rotors each time you replace the pads, I wouldn't worry about these pads being harsher on the rotors either.
 

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The VW brand will last a long time. Some people are getting 100,000 miles out of 1 set of brakes. The rears tends to get more braking due to the balance of the braking system more than the fronts, so this helps the front-rear wear out all at once.

The rotors are also planned to be worn down to close their min specs each time
 
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