JBugs Video Series

VW Beetle Rear Disc Brake Installation:

Video Overview:

If you've ever felt like your VW needs a little more stopping power on your VW Brakes, or are going for the bragging rights of having 4 wheel disc brakes, then an upgrade to rear disc brakes may be for you. We have already shown you how to swap up to disc brakes on the front. Now follow along as we walk you through how to properly install a rear disc brake kit.

Video Tips:

Tools you will need:

Wheel Chocks
Jack Stands
10mm Wrench
11mm Wrench
14mm Wrench
17mm Wrench
Brass Hammer
Side Cutters
3/8" Drive Ratchet
1/2" Drive Ratchet
1/2" Drive Breaker Bar
10mm Socket
13mm Socket
14mm Socket
36mm Socket (5770)
Axle Nut Removal Tool (5750)

Chemicals & Sealants:

Brake Cleaner
Disc Brake Pad Lube
GasGaCynch (5124)

Video Transcript:

Hi I'm Sam with JBugs.com. With the rear suspension on our 1963 Resto Custom Beetle lowered, we're going to finish the work on the rear end and install a wide five disc brake kit. The EMPI 5x205 rear disc brake kit comes with one piece rotors, which do not add any track width to the rear end. This is a nice feature considering our much wider than stock tire and wheel combo. Any off-set could possibly cause the wheels or tires to rub on the fender. The disc brake kit comes with parking brake equipped calipers, mounting hardware, brake pads, caliper brackets, gaskets, parking brake cables and clips. The bolt on kit does not require any welding or grinding and we chose to install the kit with upgraded forged brackets.


We start with the front wheels chocked and then loosen the lug bolts on both rear wheels. The rear end of the car is jacked up and set on jack stands, which are placed under the torsion housing, and the rear wheels are removed from the drums. The axle nut cotter pin is removed with a pair of side cutters and an EMPI axle nut removal tool is bolted to the brake drum. A breaker bar and 36 millimeter socket are used to loosen the axle nut which takes a good amount of force as the nut should have been tightened to up to about 220 foot pounds.


The removal tool is a brace to prevent the drum from spinning while loosening the axle nut. The axle nut is un-threaded and removed along with the axle nut tool, then the drum is slid off the axle. The parking brake cable is unhooked from the brake lever and pushed through the backing plate as our cable bracket was already loose, for some unknown reason. You'll typically need to loosen your bracket.


Inside the car, the parking brake cables are removed from the brake handle then back underneath the car the cables are pulled from the chassis. The steel brake line is un-threaded from the wheel cylinder. Then the four 14 millimeter backing plate bolts are removed from the bearing cap and the backing plate is tapped on either side to free it and the bearing cap from the axle tube. The bearing housing is cleaned along with the bearing cap, the bolts, and washers and then the old axle seal is removed from the bearing cap. The axle spacer is slid off the axle along with the old O-ring and washer.


Finally, the housing and axle are sprayed with brake cleaner to remove any excess debris, oil, or grease. The disc brake kit install begins with a new O-ring which is installed onto the bearing housing, against the rear surface, on top of the back lip. Then a new washer is slid onto the axle, followed by a new O-ring and the original axle spacer, noting that the beveled edge points towards the O-ring, the flat side of the spacer will sit towards the rotor.


A new bearing cap gasket is coated with GasGaCynch. While that sets up, a new axle seal is pressed into the bearing cap by hand, then gently tapped flush with a hammer. The paper gasket is set on the bearing cap, then the bearing cap and gasket are set on the new rear disc brake caliper bracket. The bolts and washers are set in place to help everything line up. The bracket and cap are set in place on the bearing housing. While making sure that the caliper's bracket is fully set against the o-ring on the housing, the four bearing cap bolts can be tightened.


The new rear disc brake rotor is slid onto the axle then tapped repeatedly to make sure it is fully seated against the bearing and spacer. Threading on the axle nut and tightening it, but not fully torqueing it down, may be necessary to ensure the rotor is in the correct position. The disc brake pads are prepped for install with disc brake grease on the back of the pads and springs and then set in place on the caliper. Then the caliper is reassembled sliding the floating portion back in place over the pads onto the pins. The pads need to be pressed down slightly to clear the floating caliper.


With the pads in place and the caliper back together, the pin seals are popped backed onto their bases. The rotor and brake caliper are cleaned off with brake cleaner to remove any oils or grease. Then, the caliper is slid in place over the rotor so we can check the clearances between the caliper and the rotor. The caliper needs clearance on either side and should not touch the rotor. Note that the brake bleeder and the parking brake lever are at the top of the piston. This is the correct orientation of the caliper to make sure it can be bled and the brake cable can be attached.


With the caliper in place, we see how much space is between the caliper and bracket with the caliper centered over the rotor. The caliper is then bolted to the bracket with the appropriate amount of shims (which are included). We ended up using one shim on each bolt between the caliper and the bracket. The short brake hose adapter can be threaded into the brake caliper and tightened down. The hose had tapered thread so no thread sealant is needed.


Now the stock steel brake line can be reshaped and bent carefully towards the brake hose. The stock steel line can be used, but kinks the hose a little too much for out liking, so were going to swap it out. While we're here, we're also going to replace the rear rubber brake hoses. We remove the clips and the steel line and the new brake hose is installed clipping it back in place to the chassis and to the axle tube. We install a longer steel brake line, and after shaping and bending the line to fit over the axle and back towards the caliper hose, it is threaded onto the brake hose on the axle.


Next, the new parking brake cable is slid into the caliper, ball end first. The ball end is pulled over the operating lever then the cable housing is slid into place on the caliper and the circlip is tapped into place to secure the cable. The cable and housing are then routed towards the chassis and the threaded end is slid in place into the chassis tube and the cable is pushed all the way in. The same process is followed for the opposite side and with the disc brakes installed at both sides, the parking brake cables can be reattached to the brake handle.


We've pulled the seats out to show the process, and while removing the seat or both seats makes the job much easier, it's not necessary. The circlip for the handle pivot pin was missing on one side which makes removing the pin much simpler. Otherwise, we remove the pin and slide the pin out of the chassis. The handle is pushed back slightly then lifted up away from the tunnel.


The two parking brake cables are then pulled up from inside the tunnel and set in place on the bottom side of the brake handle. The handle is then set back in place on the tunnel while guiding the cables up and through the loops on the handle. The pivot pin is pushed back in place and the nuts are threaded down onto the cables.


Back at the rear of the car, the axle nuts can be tightened. We thread the wheel studs into the rotor and bolt on the axle nut tool to the rotor. The axle nuts need to be tightened to at least 250 foot pounds with the new rotors, which ended up bending our axle nut tool. Since the axle nut is not quite lined up with the cotter pin hole, we reposition the axle nut tool so we can tighten the nut a bit more. A cotter pin is slid in place and bent over on the opposite side. The wheels and tires are bolted back onto the rotors and the back end is jacked up off the stands. The stands are removed and the car is lowered back down to the ground.


We are done with our disc brake conversion but obliviously need to bleed our brakes. Since we've installed disc brakes at all four wheels, we need to install a large bore master cylinder, and once its installed the brakes will be bled and our brake upgrade will be complete. That video will be coming soon to stay tuned. In the meantime stop by JBugs.com for all your vintage Volkswagen brake parts and accessories,