Troubleshooting your VW brake system yourself will save you money, even if you take your vehicle to a professional for repairs. Symptoms of brake problems include pulling to one side, brake noise, roughness, brake pedal feeling soft, shimmying brakes and a parking brake that does not hold. By diagnosing your own brake system, you will have a better understanding of what a mechanic is does to your vehicle.
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Brake pedal travel is indicative of how well the hydraulic system is applying pressure to the slave cylinders at the brakes. Too much pedal travel indicates there is too little brake fluid in the master cylinder, or the brakes need adjusting.
A spongy brake pedal indicates there is air in the hydraulic system, or the master cylinder bolts are loose. It may also indicate a defective master cylinder.
When the brake pedal goes all the way to the floor, without applying any brake pressure, either the hydraulic lines are damaged, or there is a leak in the master cylinder.
If your brakes pull to one side, check your tire pressure. One or more low tires will significantly affect braking. Another tire issue that affects braking is mismatched tires, especially when front and back tires are different.
Brakes pulling to one side can also indicate the steering is out of alignment, or there is a kinked or restricted brake line. Uneven wear in the steering or suspension can make the brakes dive or jerk to one side when the brakes are applied.
Grease or oil on one brake pad will prevent that brake from gripping properly.
Noisy brakes are usually the result of pads worn to the metal. If your brakes squeal and don't hold evenly, have them repaired, immediately. If you catch the problem soon enough, you may be able to avoid a very expensive repair job. Noisy brakes may also result from stones or mud jammed between the pads.
If your parking brake does not hold, check the cable running from the brake handle to the rear brake. The parking brake assembly has an adjuster to take up slack when the cable has stretched or the pads have worn. If the cable is broken, rusted or jammed, it should be replaced or repaired.
Grabbing brakes may indicate a malfunctioning pressure regulator or proportioning valve. In rare cases, the brake pedal assembly can get jammed.
Tips and warnings
- Take care of your brakes, and they will take care of you!
- According to Consumer Reports, all models of VW have above-average brake system reliability.
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