By on June 11, 2015

brakes. Shutterstock user MR.YURANAN LAKHAPOL

Gaurav writes:

Hello Sanjeev, (oh dear…*facepalm*- SM)

I am writing you from India. I have a Jetta MkV 1.9 TDI with automatic transmission. It has done about 74,000 km. About a month back, I got the the brake fluid replaced as the service adviser suggested it should be replaced once every 60-70k km. After I got the car back, it felt like the brake efficiency had decreased. I was told its normal and after driving for some time it would be okay. Unfortunately, it never improved.

Yesterday, when I applied the brake, I noticed a burning smell. I took my car to the side of the road and there was smoke coming from the rear brake pads. I stopped to let them cool and then drove back. Since it was late at night I had no help available from VW.

Today, when I took it to VW workshop, they said they are not sure about the problem and have been trying to investigate it for last 8 hours. I am writing this email to you with the hope of getting some suggestions on what should I do.

Sajeev answers:

Gaurav, just so our readers are on the same page, MkV Jettas assembled in India wear 4-wheel disc brakes and the repair procedure is straight-forward enough for your average mechanic. So, even if they serviced the wear items on the brakes (pads and rotors), that isn’t a problem.

Which leads to the parking brake cable. It must be dragging on the brake.

This thread suggests the parking brake lever at the caliper can fall out-of-sync after pad/rotor replacement. It’s possible there isn’t enough slack. This thread suggests tinkering with the lever inside the car works! I reckon that’s your problem and the VW workshop is struggling to make this adjustment!

Some parts of India (hills in the North) are hard on brakes, but in urban areas you probably can’t go fast enough to cook brakes designed for the German Autobahn. I doubt you needed the fluid flush at 70,000-ish km on a MkV Jetta. More miles and many more years on the road is needed for that. But it’s too late for that advice, bhai

[Image: Shutterstock user MR.YURANAN LAKHAPOL]

Send your queries to [email protected]com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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19 Comments on “Piston Slap: Making Masala of a Jetta Parking Brake?...”


  • avatar
    RetroGrouch

    You should replace brake fluid every two to three years regardless of mileage. It absorbs moisture from the air and will corrode brake parts from inside.

    • 0 avatar
      Land Ark

      What if you live in Arizona?

      Seriously though, I’m conflicted by this advice. I have subscribed to it over the last few years but my past experience seems to indicate that you aren’t going to hurt anything substantially if you don’t do it. I’ve had cars for a decade and never changed the brake fluid without any measurable problems. I’m sure there was a performance impact from it as it got older, but it is one of those gradual things that you adjust to without even noticing the change. Plus it should be a sealed system and there should be no air in it to allow the moisture.

      But like I said, I do change it regularly now and since it is fairly simple to do it isn’t a problem to do it (and is fairly cheap if you want someone else to do it) and I don’t advise people to ignore it.

    • 0 avatar
      STRATOS

      The system is sealed.The only air is at the top master cylinder reservoir .Flushing brake fluid is over prescribed.You would do more harm than good doing it that often.

      • 0 avatar
        John

        Brake fluid is extremely hygroscopic, and will absorb atmospheric water through rubber brake lines, sealed system or no. How can you do harm changing brake fluid?

        I specifically remember a used car I bought a while back, flushed the lines, the old fluid was turbid and full of rust – the rust was due to atmospheric water absorbed by the fluid, which caused rust to the insides of the brake lines and brake calipers.

        Not only will the water cause rust, it will boil when the brakes get hot, causing a spongy brake pedal.

      • 0 avatar
        RetroGrouch

        The system is probably not sealed. Master cylinder reservoir caps usually have a small vent.

        • 0 avatar
          redmondjp

          Bingo. And water gets past the lip seals on the calipers. Not much, but it does add up over time.

          I experimented with the silicone DOT 5 fluid about 25 years ago, switching several cars over to it and then leaving it in for over a decade. Water still gets in and corrodes the snot out of everything. And this was on American cars that have a rubber diaphragm to seal the master cylinder (so they were unvented, unlike most modern cars).

          Change the fluid every few years, as stated above.

      • 0 avatar
        Sigivald

        Brake systems (unlike transmissions and P/S systems) are *meant to be flushed*.

        Just with a little gentle pressure (on an ABS system) or vacuum (non ABS) or the pedals (both).

        A flush is *how* you change the fluid, after all.

        (I checked, and the apparent interval for a Mk V Jetta, per VW, is “every two years” for a fluid change. [After three years with the initial fill? The schedule is confusing.]

        VW says every three years, and the system is definitely NOT hermetically sealed.

        Follow the schedule.

        (I’d change the fluid every two in a damp place, and every year if I lived on the coast or in Hawai’i.)

    • 0 avatar
      Crosley

      It’s a good practice, but is complete overkill to change the brake fluid that often. It’s hydraulic fluid, it’s mainly there as simply a form of pressure for the system.

      In 99.9% of situations, if you change your brake fluid when you change pads you’ll be well ahead of the game.

      Changing brake fluid is one of the biggest “wallet flushes” car shops love to do on unsuspecting consumers. They would have you believe the lines will rust from the inside out from all the moisture. It’s complete nonsense.

      • 0 avatar
        JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

        Except that moisture will cause rust, and since its inside, it will rust from the inside out. Ive seen it. Its not nonsense. Yes, doing it every 70k km is excessive, but doing it at all is certainly not.

        Your post reminds me of old timers who say that any fluid flush (or drain-and-fill) is a scam because their 54 Studebaker never needed it, forgetting the fact that getting 100k out of those kinds of cars was like getting 300-400k out of a modern car (possible, but rather uncommon unless damn near everything has been rebuilt or replaced several times).

        Sure, cars last longer today. I drive a 20 year old Taurus that is rapidly closing in on 200k and Id leave tonight on a cross country trip with it without hesitation. That fact (that cars last longer today than 50 years ago) doesnt preclude regular maintenance. If anything, it should encourage it.

        • 0 avatar
          STRATOS

          Rust needs oxygen not just water.Unless you have air in your lines ,how could they rust from the inside out?I have never owned a car requiring that many brake fluid changes and i even had the original brake fluid on my motorcycle for 25 years without any issues.I only changed it because it was a bit darker.

          • 0 avatar
            MBella

            Water has Oxygen in it. It would be like asking how do things rust under water. Also, the glycol based brake fluid used on every modern car starts turning acidic as the moisture content increases. The will rust your lines from the inside out, and cause swelling in any rubber parts and eventual failure. I’ve replaced more brake hoses from them being swollen shut then from leaks. The system is also very much not sealed. The cap on your reservoir is a dust cap, to prevent dust and debris from getting in, and it does not prevent air from getting in. If it wasn’t for the air getting in, the whole system would fail to operate. Atmospheric pressure pushes your fluid from your reservoir into the master cylinder.

            I hate when stupid people post misinformation on the internet. When people read something like “wallet flushes”, it makes it more difficult to get them to do even their specified maintenance. To all you people who think brake fluid does not need to be changed, use a turkey baster to reove some of your still good 25 year old brake fluid into a foam cup, and let it sit.

  • avatar
    Detroit-Iron

    It has been a while since we heard from Sanjeev, how is he doing?

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    Is the Jetta a large and prestigious import in India? I would think it to be.

    • 0 avatar
      gsnfan

      Compared to all the A and B-segment cars driving around in India, it’s about the same size as a full-size car here, comparatively.

      The VW brand is quite upscale, probably at the level of BMW. Then again, Toyota and Honda are also upmarket there.

  • avatar
    bjchase55

    As others have said the system isn’t completely sealed. But even if it was sealed, just like oil the brake fluid breaks down over time. A general rule of thumb is to flush it every 2-3 years. If you do live in dryer climates I would suggest to at least check your brake fluid every 2-3 years. Checking for moisture content is better than nothing but can give false readings (the air has moisture in it). Checking for copper levels is the more accurate way.

    As someone who has been in the braking industry for over 15 years and had access to decades of information, one of the things that stuck out was this. Previously the Big 3 mentioned little to nothing about brake fluid change intervals. The Asian manufactures did. Guess who had the most complaints in regards to brakes? The Big 3, with far, far more related to bad brake fluid than the Asians.

  • avatar

    Possibly collapse of the inside of the brakes hose. Has this happen on a 94 Neon and on of all things, a Case W20C loader. The brake line collapses on the inside and it will let some fluid under high pressure pass. (Braking) and slowly return the fluid to a point when the brakes were not applied. After time they would not return fluid and viola you have one brake on slightly all the time… that happens to drag more and more as you use the brakes.

    Since they were in there flushing it is quite possible a hunk of hose has come off inside the hose and plugged things.

    Hope it helps, but check to make sure you get lots of fluid when you bleed the brakes, not just a little dribble.

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