In mid-July 2002, I installed front disc brakes on my 1972 VW Super Beetle. VW
put front disc brakes on the Super Beetle starting with model year 1973 but mine still had
drum brakes. I ordered the kit from aircooled.net -- find them on the web at www.aircooled.net. I can't say enough good
things about John at aircooled.net. Every order I have placed with him has been
filled promptly, his prices are fair, and the parts are top quality -- and when you call
him on the phone with a problem, he is most patient, even with dumb questions. And,
he answers his e-mail.
Now, about these brakes. After I put them on, I realized it would have been neat
to photograph the entire process -- but I was not about to take the brakes off just to
make photos. So, here are photos of the finished job -- these are of the left
front/driver side wheel.
The kit includes:
- Two calipers with pads installed
- Two flexible stainless steel lines to replace the stock rubber lines
- Two rotors
- Two rear seals for the rotors
- Two sets of wheel bearings
- Two machined aluminum mounting brackets
- Bolts and lock washers
To install the disc brakes:
These instructions assume that you know something about removing and reinstalling the
front wheels -- including packing and installing wheel bearings and adjusting the spindle
locknut -- and that you have worked on brakes before. I also assume you know how to
bleed brakes. CAUTION: You will be removing the old steel brake lines -- use
only a brake line nut flare wrench -- an open-end wrench will fit but it will also round
off the nut and you will never get the steel brake lines loose.
- Remove the rubber hoses and the steel brake line that runs from the outside end of the
rubber hose to the wheel cylinder. Be prepared for brake fluid to leak all over the place.
IMPORTANT: Keep the short steel lines (one on each side)
that run between the old rubber hose and the wheel cylinder -- more about them later.
- Remove the old brakes, including the brake backing plate, all the way down to where
there is nothing but the spindle. IMPORTANT: Save the washer and
the lock nut that are on the outer end of the spindle; save the grease cap -- all of these
parts will be re-used.
- Pack the new wheel bearings; install the outer race in the backside of the rotor, drop
in the inner race, and seat the seal.
- Turn the rotor over, install the outer race of the smaller bearing; set the rotors
- Note that the aluminum brackets have two sets of holes: two holes have threads,
two are smooth. The calipers bolt to the threaded holes, the smooth holes go to the
flat part of the spindle mount.
- Bolt the aluminum bracket onto the spindle using the supplied bolts. The bolts
from the kit go through the smooth holes in the bracket into the threaded holes in the
spindle -- torque to 30-35 ft-lbs. Make certain the bracket sticks out toward the
back of the car. Play with the bracket and you will see how it fits -- the bracket
bolts onto the outside of the spindle.
- Install the rotor. Push the inner race of the outer bearing in place, hold it in
with your thumbs, and shove the rotor on. I had to really push and thump on the
rotor to get it on -- the new seal is tight. Put the outer washer in place and
tighten the spindle nut onto the spindle until the rotor will not turn -- this seats the
bearings. Then, back the nut out ever so slightly until there is the tiniest amount
of free play in the rotor and it turns smoothly. Tighten the Allen head lock nut in
the spindle nut.
- Mount the calipers. The calipers slip over the rotors then bolt onto the brackets.
The bolts supplied in the kit go through the ears in the spindles and bolt into the
aluminum bracket. Torque to no more than 25 ft-lbs.
- Run steel brake line from the end of the hose to the caliper and install it at both
ends. Aircooled.net says to re-use the original steel line, the one that went from
the rubber hose to the wheel cylinder, the ones that you saved in step 2 above. I
found the old lines to be a tight fit, plus, you must re-bend the old lines, running the
danger of crimping a steel line. I went to my local parts store and got two 12-inch
European style steel lines and installed them -- they are a bit longer than the original
and are not as tight to fit. CAUTION: Buy only European style
steel lines -- the flare on the end of the European style is different from the Japanese
or American flare -- it's called a bubble flare and anything else will leave you with no
- Clean everything. Using your flare wrench, make certain all brake line connections
- Bleed the brakes -- bleed right front (passenger side) first then left front (driver)
side. If you use a pressure bleeder, when you step on the pedal after bleeding the
brakes, it will go to the floor -- don't get excited -- pump it a couple of times and you
will suddenly not even be able to press it, you will have such tight brakes. Test
drive the car.
Photos of the installed disc brakes
Here are photos of the installed disc brake kit -- driver side.
Looking from the outside. The caliper is toward the rear
of the car.
Another view from the outside. This view shows the
flexible braided steel hose supplied with the kit.
Looking from under the car. Note how the aluminum mounting
From the left, look at the caliper. Now, moving toward the strut,
see where the steel line fits into the caliper. Then, see the two bolt heads that
bolt the caliper onto the aluminum bracket. Look now at the place where the shiny
aluminum bracket joins the steel spindle plate -- see the two shiny spots sticking out of
the spindle bracket -- those are the ends of the bolts that hold the bracket onto the
spindle -- the bolt heads are on the other side, underneath the rotor. Note also
that I used a new steel line -- not included in the kit -- to get a smooth bend from the
end of the flex hose to the caliper.
Looking from the top down. Note how one half of the
aluminum bracket nests inside the rotor.
Looking from the front of the car with the wheel turned all the
way to the left.
This view shows the flex line and the steel line.
And there you have it. I STRONGLY recommend this addition to your car --
aircooled.net has disc brake kits for just about every year. After I installed mine,
I drove the car around the block a few times, braking from 15-25 MPH. Then, I took
it out on the open road, ran it up to 60 - 70 MPH, took my hands off the steering wheel,
and stomped the brake pedal, did this several times -- the car stopped smoothly, in a
straight line -- I never touched the steering wheel until after the car had stopped, no
swerving, just a straight, solid stop. Try that with your old drum brakes.