I’m driving down the road the other day and I get a nice red light on my dash that states BRAKE WEAR! Of course this is in big bright red letters and is quite annoying. My first thought is that the brake pads just got worn down and that they need to be replaced. In hindsight this seems a little odd, since I replace them every 30k, but I decide to order up a set of Hawk Brake Pads and replace them. The brake wear sensor is only on the front driver’s side of my car so I only ordered a set for the front.
This is how you do it:
The first thing you need to do is jack up the car and remove the wheels. For safety, don’t forget to use jack stands. In the pictures, you can see that I did not use them, but whenever working on a car and lifting it off the ground you should use them. The Volkswagen that I own, a 2010 Jetta Wolfsburg with Proto style wheels, have these little plastic caps that you need to remove in order to get to the lug nuts. I use the small screwdriver device that comes with the spare tire changing kit. I just tilt it to the side to catch the plastic piece and pull. They usually come right out. Then remove the lug nuts and the wheel to gain access to the brakes.
This is a look at the BRAKE WEAR sensor that I broke the last time I did the brakes! DOH! I forgot about that since the fix I did held up for quite awhile! When I performed the fix last time I pushed the connector together and glued it so that it would remain together. That had worked! Unfortunately, after inspecting this element, it appears that the sensor was actually the problem.
You will want to remove the two 21mm bolts that are holding the caliper to the bracket, once removed you will be able to pull the caliper from the rotor. Sometimes this is a little hard to do, in my case it was. I used a flathead screwdriver to separate the caliper from the rotor as shown in the picture. Be careful using this method, you don’t want to break anything but a little leverage helps a lot, and if you keep the screwdriver on the “meat” of the rotor, you should be fine.
Remove the old brake pads; on the front of my VW the piston side pads had clips that were holding them into the piston, so you may wrestle with this a bit. Be patient and persistent and you will get them out. I didn’t have to use any tools to remove them but they were a little difficult, just push hard! Inspect the pads for any abnormal wear. If you find anything that looks off, troubleshoot that issue and try to resolve before moving forward.
You can see from the pictures that my rotors are not in the best of shape and I will be replacing them soon. I needed this car to be on the road so I kept moving forward with the pad replacement. I roughed up the rotors a little bit with the shown drill attachment but that is just a stop gap measure.
On the VW, the calipers have a metal clip that “guides” the calipers. It is helpful to remove this when performing the replacement of your brake pads; it allows easier movement of the calipers. I typically use a set of needle nose pliers to pull the clip away from the caliper, once the clip is out of the small notch it comes right off.
Now, using a giant clamp, push the piston back into the bore of the caliper. Use the small screw side of the clamp and guide it into the hole of the piston. This will lessen the chance of any damage occurring to the caliper. Use some anti-seize, or other acceptable lubricant, on the pad guides in the caliper, this will prevent any sticking of the pads while the brakes are in motion.
Put the new pads in, you will want to do the piston side pad first. To do this, carefully guide the BRAKE WEAR sensor on the pads through the caliper first. Then line up the brake pads with the guides on the caliper.
Once everything is lined up properly you will need to push the clips of the pads into the piston. If you can do this with your hands, that is the way to go, but I was unable to. I ended up taking a towel and covering the brake pad so that I would not get any contaminants on it or even worse damage it. Then I used the clamp to push the pads clips into the piston. This seemed to work very well and there was no visible damage to the pad. Once that pad is in, the second one goes in without a problem.
Slide the caliper over the rotor and bolt the caliper back up to the bracket. I recommend using anti-seize on the bolts for the bracket as well so that you can get them out easily in the future. Don’t forget to put that metal clip back on when you are finished. I don’t think it would really hurt anything but I like everything to go back on that way it was when I started.
Unfortunately this did not resolve the BRAKE WEAR light problem and it appears that the sensor is malfunctioning as stated earlier in this post. The sensor will need to be replaced and the sensor has already been ordered. I have also mentioned in this post that the rotors are bad, those parts are sitting in my garage as of this writing. I am hoping to get them in during the coming weekend.