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Doing the front brakes - Part 1

1978 VW Bus with stock front disc brakes.

Photo gallery here.

Symptoms: Pulsing and vibration during braking. Also, this week they started squealing.

Tools Needed: Ratchet, 19mm socket, 6mm hex bit, rubber mallet or hammer, flat head screwdriver.

Supplies Needed: New rotors, new brake pads, brake cleaner spray, anti-squeal spray or goop. A roll of paper towels, toothpicks and nitrile gloves are nice too.

Since I got the bus, the pedal pulsed severely during braking. The PO said they`d done that since he bought the bus. So I figured it was time to check the rotors:

I used a dial indicator to check to see if the rotors were warped and/or of uneven thickness. As you can see above they definitely are. Both sides were bad, though the driver`s side was worse. So I started pricing rotors.

Darn near every one I found was around $85 EACH. And that`s for crappy Autozone quality. That much plus serious shipping fees to get good German ones from one of the bus vendors. So I resigned myself to saving up for them.

Until the VWs On The Green show here in CO.

$45 for a PAIR of German rotors new in the boxes! Here`s how they specc`d out:

The brand is Sebro. They came in with 12.85mm thickness. The limit as stamped on the rotors is 11mm. They were coated with a waxy oil to protect them from rusting, but where they rubbed on the boxes, they did have some light surface rust. No biggie as that will rub off the first time I apply the brakes, assuming I remove the waxy stuff.

The brake pads are Axxis brand. Made in Australia of all places! Cool! I bought them last year from a small import parts shop in Boulder, CO (sorry, don`t remember the name) and they`ve been bopping around in my parts box since then.

So I jacked up the bus and stuck a stand underneath:

I`ve never seen a "perfect" place to put a jackstand under a bus. But that reinforced point on the frame is what I`ve always used. Also, look at the seepage from my steering damper! Guess what I`ll be buying soon...

And here`s what things looked like without the wheel:


I`ve always been of the "the pads will wear to fit the rotors" school of thought. But these looked like the surface of the ocean during a storm!

Anyway, here is the order I did things:

Unscrew the rotor screws: There are two socket head screws that hold the rotor to the hub. They take a 6mm hex bit. Spray brake cleaner in the heads and follow that with a toothpick to pick out any gunk and prevent stripping it out. If you have a partner helping, have him/ her press on the brake pedal to lock the rotor in place while you`re unscrewing those screws. Otherwise, grab on tight...

Open brake reservoir: Wipe off and remove the cap. You have a choice here: Either carefully remove some fluid, or just stuff rags all around the reservoir. I used the rags, making sure to lay one over the opening as well to keep airborne crap from the brake fluid.

Remove the pins: 2 pins on each caliper allow the pads to slide as they wear. Bentley says to use a punch or something similar to drive them out. Bah. A baby screwdriver worked just fine with a rubber mallet to tap them out. You`ll also get the retaining spring (cross shaped piece) out with them.

Compress the pistons: Since I`ll not be using the rotor or the pads, I just stuck a screwdriver between the pad and the rotor on both sides and pried. Make sure the pistons are as far as the pad will push them. DO NOT pry directly on the pistons. You`ll push them in unevenly or tear the seals. By the way, my seals looked beautiful. These were recent rebuilds judging by the double bleeding screws.

This is the end of Part 1.

Part 2 is HERE.