JBugs Video Series

VW Beetle Front Brake Rebuild and Brake System Bleeding:

Video Overview:

Replacing wheel cylinders along with brake hoses, shoes and hardware is a job just about any VW driver can manage. Bleeding your brake system afterwards is a necessity and is a very crucial step that will usually require an assistant. Follow along with our tech as he shows you how to keep your VW Brakes working safely.

Video Tips:

Tools you will need:

Lug Wrench
Bullnose/Linemans Pliers
Small Flat Blade Screwdriver
Pry Tool
Large Adjustable Wrench
6mm Allen Key
7mm Wrench
11mm Wrench
15mm Wrench
17mm Wrench
Brake Fluid
Brake Fluid Catch Container

Video Transcript:

In this video we're going to show you how to replace the front wheel cylinders, brake hoses, brake shoes, and hardware. We start the front brake rebuild by loosening the lug bolts, jacking up the front of the car and setting it on jack stands.


On the left side the speedometer cable clip will have to be removed from the speedometer cable so that we can pop off the grease cap with a pry bar or in our case a pickle fork. Now we can loosen the axle nut screw with a six milliliter allen wrench and we can remove the axle nut. The left hand side nut is reversed so left-hand threaded so it will turn to the right to remove it. The right side axle nut has a standard thread.


Now we can pull the break drum off. When pulling off a break drum make sure that the thrust washer and outer bearing are put in a safe spot. With the front brake drum removed it's good time to take a picture with a digital camera. So if you aren't familiar with the orientation of the brake components, you have a good reference for the reassembly.


To remove the brake shoes, take off both break tension springs with a pair of players. Remove the brake shoe retaining cap by holding the pin with a pair of pliers and then twisting the cap. Remove the cap, springs, and pins from both sides and save all the hardware until after the breaks are reassembled.


With the shoes and the hardware out of the way, we can wipe down the backing plate. If you have a drain pan or old rag to place under the brake assembly, now would be a good time to spray down the backing plate with brake cleaner as well. Since the previous owner of the car installed the front right brake hose incorrectly, we need to replace both front brake hoses.


We start by pulling the brake clip that holds the rubber line in place to the chassis with a pair of pliers. If a clip is stubborn a pair of vice grips and small hammer can be used as well. With the clip removed we disconnect the brake hose from the steel line, with an 11 millimeter and 17 millimeter wrench. With the brake hose disconnected the steel line might begin to leak, so tuck an old rag in place to catch any brake fluid. Now that the brake hose is disconnected from the steel line, we can unscrew it from the wheel cylinder and it can be thrown away.


Last for the disassembly, since the wheel cylinder bleeder valve was broken off in the wheel cylinder, we need to replace the wheel cylinders as well. The wheel cylinder is held to the backing plate with a 13 millimeter headed bolt on the back side. Remove the bolt and then remove the wheel cylinder from the backing plate and throw it away. With all the brake components that we are replacing now removed we can begin the brake rebuild.


We start by installing a new wheel cylinder which is set in place on the backing plate and then bolted to the backing plate with a 13millimeter headed bolt. Before installing the new brake shoes and hardware screw in the brake adjusting screws all the way. Make sure to align the screw correctly with the angle of the brake shoe. There's an angle on the screw with a tall side on one side and a shorter side on the other. Match up the angle with the angle that the new brake shoes will fit. Then smear a small amount of grease on the brake shoe, at the wheel cylinder and brake shoe area and also on the backing plate on the nubs were the brake shoe sits against. This will help prevent brake squeals.


We start by setting the top brake shoe in place and then slide the brake shoe retaining pin through the back of the backing plate and then through the brake shoe. Set the spring over the shoe around the pin and then put the cap over the pin and spring. The cap needs to be pressed down over the pin to compress the spring and then twisted 90 degrees to hold everything in place. This can oftentimes be done with your fingers if not, use a pair of needle nose pliers to twist the pin while pressing the cap down.


Install the bottom brake shoe with the pin, spring, and cap using the same method. Install the brake tension spring from the top shoe to the bottom shoe at the front and rear. The thicker of the two tension springs goes on the wheel cylinder side. We installed the spring into the hole at the top and then stretched it down to the bottom with a pair of pliers to the opposite hole to hold it in place.


The last piece we will be replacing is the new brake hose. First we fit it in place to the wheel cylinder. The threads are tapered so there's no need for thread sealant. Put the opposite end of the hose in place at the chassis tab and thread the steel line into the break hose. Tighten the two together holding the break hose in place to keep it from twisting, again there's no need for thread sealant.


With the break those tight, install the brake hose clip in place. Set in place by hand then tap it down fully to seal it with a small hammer or as we do in our case the heavy set of pliers. Now we can install the brake drum making sure that and inner wheel seal are both in place and the bearings are well greased. Slide the drum onto the spindle, followed by the outer wheel bearing and the thrust washer. Then thread on the axle nut. Tighten the axle nut to firmly seat the bearings, then back it off so the brake drum spins freely but there is no play inward or outward on the drum. Tighten the set screw on the adjustment nut and then tap the grease cap in place.


On the left hand side it's usually easier to install the speedometer cable, into the grease cap, before tapping the cap in place. With the brake drum installed we go underneath the car, to the backside of backing plate, so we can adjust the brake shoes. To show you what's happening when we turn the shoe adjusters, we have the front drum off here. We're using a flat screwdriver to adjust the nuts. We access the nuts through the holes in the backing plate. When you turn the adjusting nut the screw movie either in or out to push the brake shoe up or let it pull down to loosen or tighten the brake. We adjust the brake shoes rotating the nut to tighten each shoe until you can no longer spin the brake drum. Then back it off a few times so that the drum spins freely, yet you can still feel the drag from the shoe on the drum. Repeat the adjustment process for both brake shoes.


With the brake shoe adjustment complete we can install the brake inspection hole plugs in place on the backing plate. At this point if you weren't replacing any hydraulic components like we did. We can install the wheels and lug bolts, jack the car up, pull out the jack stands and lower the car back down. Tighten up the lug bolts, snap your hubcaps back on and the front brake rebuild would be complete.


However in our case since we did replace the wheel cylinders and hoses, we still need to bleed the brake system before we drive away.


We start the brake bleeding process with the car up on jack stands at all four wheels so that we can access the brake bleeder valves. We've only pulled the wheels off for visual assistance you don't need to do that at home.


Up in the trunk we go through and make sure that the brake fluid reservoir is full, before starting the bleeding process. We start the brake bleeding process off at the right rear, the farthest away from the master cylinder.


We've put together a simple brake fluid catcher. It's nothing more than plastic water bottle with a piece of hose inserted through a little hole we drilled in the top of the cap and we have a hose running down into the bottle. It's best to use a clear hose but anything that fits the bleeder valve is fine. You want to have a small amount of brake fluid in the bottle before you begin and make certain the hose is actually submerged in the fluid. This will help you to see any air bubbles that may be present in the line when bleeding your brakes.


With the bottle in place underneath the wheel and the hose on the bleeder valve screw, use a wrench; in this case it's going to be a 7millimeter, to open and close the screw. We're going to have an assistant pump the brake pedal about 5 to 6 times while we have the screw tightened. Then we will tell them to hold on the pedal and while they are holding a pedal down you will open or unscrew the valve about one quarter turn. It is very important to make sure your assistant keeps the pedal down whenever the bleeder valve is open.


With the pedal down and the bleeder valve open, leave the bleeder valve open for a couple of seconds and then tighten it and have your assistant pump the pedal again. You want to do roughly ten of these pump and hold cycles to make certain that there isn't any air in the right rear line before moving to the left rear. When you're bleeding the brakes keep an eye on the fluid coming into the bottle, especially while the valve is open.


If there's any air in the line you will see bubbles coming from the hose. If there isn't any air you should see the fluid level in the bottle rise slightly. In our case we didn't change the hydraulic lines on the rear so we're not going to see much air in the rear lines but because there is in the front lines the master cylinder cannot build much pressure so we're not going to see a bunch of fluid rising drastically. The main thing is making we're making sure that there's no air in the rear lines. When switching between wheels you want to make certain to top off the brake fluid reservoir with fluid.


At the left rear we're going to repeat the brake bleeding process again and again we're not going to see any air bubbles. We should see the fluid rise just ever so slightly when the valve is open. With the left rear brake lines bled it's time to top off the brake fluid reservoir once again and we're going to move to the front right wheel. Since we have replaced the front brake hoses and wheel cylinders on the front right, we're going to see a lot of air at first when bleeding the brakes here. Keep doing the pump and hold cycles until you no longer see any air bubbles coming out of the line and you have a steady stream of fluid coming out with each opening of the valve.


It is at the front right where your assistant might mention that the brake pedal actually feels like it's doing some work. Giving them some resistance while there are pumping the brakes. With all the air bled from the front right, top off the brake fluid reservoir again and bleed the front left brake line. With the left bled make sure to top off the brake fluid reservoir and put the cap back on. At this point the brake pedal should be nice and firm. The brake shoes, hardware, wheel cylinders, and hoses replaced. This car's breaking system is now completely rebuilt and ready to stop the car safely.