Been There, Done That, Vanagon maintenance guide
   Tips and Tricks From the Vanagon Mailing List

Good Books on Amazon
Managing 12 Volts: How to Upgrade, Operate, and Troubleshoot 12 Volt Electrical Systems

Batteries in a Portable World: A Handbook on Rechargeable Batteries for Non-Engineers, Third Edition Isidor Buchmann

email suggestions to:

Home of the Vanagon Mailing List
Vanagon Mailing List

Printer Friendly link

Deutche Methode - Brakes

by Doktor Tim

This is a series of submittals addressing basic Maintenance Repair and Restoration
of European Vehicles, all of which owe homage to the German Engineering Philosophy,
hereinafter refered to as the Deutsches Methode (DM).

All Porsche air cooled designs, including of course VW, can be provided the best
long term economy by understanding the mind of the good Doktor Porsche and others of
the German technical schools who practice the DM. Vanagons have brakes, too, and are
designed under the same school of practice.

Today we give you some brake inspection and service ideas and procedures.

German disc brake rotors, calipers and pads and wheels, tires and suspensions are
designed as a harmonious unit with regard to materials. If you use the soft black
pads the vehicle originally came with, the original rotors will last through some 5
to 7 sets of pads before reaching the minimum specified thickness. Your brakes will
never overheat or glaze or wear unevenly or score the rotors. That assumes you are
renewing ALL the brake fluid yearly to prevent varnish, crud and coorosion from
jaming the calipers which is the DM. It also assumes that you are not having the
rotors turned every time you replace the pads, which is not the DM.

In fact, in most of the German factory manuals it will say that if the rotors show
glazing or cracking or scoring, replace them. Uneven but rounded wear patterns are
not a problem when the proper pads are used, but put in a set of those wizbang
metalics and not only do you eat up your rotors if you can stand the noise, they
will never mate during the break-in process. There is no rotor turning procedure
advised or given. You guys and gals check your Bently Official VW manuals and find
the pages that describe the procedure for the tuning of rotors. Take all day if you

The brake specialty shops either have never read the factory procedures or choose to
ignore them. Every rotor gets turned every time. This gaurantees you will never get
more than three sets of pads per rotor replacement because most of the rotor width
is taken off with the lathe. Of course, if you are interested is selling rotors,
that's the way to do it. If you appreciate the economy of the DM, it's wrong.

You say you don't like that black dust on your wheels all the time. DM says if your
wheels are dirty, wash them. Rarely if ever will you find these German pads or
rotors at the FLAPS. There you will get parts designed to be cheap cause that's what
sells best in America. Why do you suppose there are no NAPA stores in Germany???
Cause the German on the street will not buy Pakistani iron for his properly
engineered vehicle. German materials engineering is not a triffling activity. If he
wants an improvement in braking he goes for the even more expensive factory update
set of calipers rotors, pads, wheels, tires and suspension as a harmoniously
designed package. They don't just stick in a wizbang set of pads to "see what
happens" or cause they're cheaper, which is not the DM.

My 78 Mercedes 280CE now has 60,000 original miles. I put in the third set of pads
last year. The rotors are original and show 0.5mm wear. They have another mm or more
to go before they will need replacing. They never have nor will they ever be turned
on a lathe to help shorten their life. I flush the brake fluid before it turns
brown. They never make noise. They never pull unevenly. This is the result of the

A large percentage of the brake work I do every year is associated with a recent
trip to the Midas shop or fluid as black as carbon. If one caliper or cylinder is
leaking due to contaminated fluid the WHOLE SYSTEM is contaminated. If you fix the
one leak you have a repeat customer for the other cylinders/calipers as they begin
to leak in the months ahead. How economical is that????

I've only had one comeback in the last ten years on a brake job. The rear pads on
this Mercedes sedan were at the 2mm wear limit. The rotors were just thick enough
that they could be expected to last one more set of pads before reaching the minimum
specified thickness. I put in a new set of factory pads. Client complained a few
weeks later of squeeking. This was an occasional little itsy bitsy squeek just as
the vehicle came to a stop.

I replaced the rotors and conditioned the pads with abrasive. Problem solved. Let's
see, that's one problem in perhaps a coupla hundred brake jobs. This is the kind of
efficasy provided by the DM.

Stubborn rigorous adherence to specifications and procedures established by the team
of German engineers who designed the vehicle is not an option if the DM is to be
honored. The problems come with compromise.

Doktor Tim
Maintenance Repair and Restoration of European Vehicles
San Juan Island, WA

Doktor Tim can be reached at doktortim(at)

Free in the Android Market, the Vanagon Rescue Squad app for Android phones. Scan the QR or search the Market for Vanagon.

NEW! Now on the App Store for iPhone and iPad.
Website ©2003-2019 All Rights Reserved
Some contents ©1998 - 2019 Vanagon Mailing List ( logo by Raul Cisneros ~ Header Graphic by Lee Roesner ~ Rescue Squad Logo by Jeffrey Earl is not affiliated with Volkswagen of America, Volkswagen AG, or Westfalia AG.