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VW Front
Disc Brakes

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Pack the new wheel bearings; install the outer race in the backside of the rotor, drop in the inner race, and seat the seal.
  4. Turn the rotor over, install the outer race of the smaller bearing; set the rotors aside.
  5. 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. 
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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 brakes.
  10. Clean everything.  Using your flare wrench, make certain all brake line connections are tight.
  11. 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 bracket works.

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.

 

 

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