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Can't get my Squareback brakes right - need help please!
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Adski
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 13, 2018 4:06 pm    Post subject: Can't get my Squareback brakes right - need help please! Reply with quote

Hi team Samba,
I noticed there weren't many brake related queries on here - so I thought i'd better help out by adding one. Wink

I've got a squareback with front discs and rear drums.

I was getting a squealing noise from the front left wheel when turning and then when i would turn the other way it would go away. So, i bought the parts to replace my discs and bearings. So, in doing so, I noticed that there was no longer any seal on the left caliper piston. I enquired about getting a rebuild kit - but for a few rubber parts, it was way more expensive than just buying new calipers. So i ended up getting 2 new calipers and of course new pads, pins, retention springs, etc.
So, i've installed all that and everything appears to be installed nicely - from what I could tell. i bled the brakes and found the brake pedal to be quite low.
So I adjusted the rear brakes and this didn't seem to improve anything. I tried bleeding some more and some more... no change.
The master cylinder was pretty old and dodgy looking, so I thought - well, since I've replaced all this other stuff - I would replace the MC. Wasn't too hard, took me a while though.
Then with great anticipation, i bled the MC at the cylinder and then bled all the wheels.... and guess what?! No change! Still low and not firm.
After some reading around on the samba, I read that I should adjust the rear brakes until they are tight against the drums to see if everything firms up. I did that and the brakes were solid! Nice.
I then took my time to adjust them properly so there was probably more than 'just a bit' of drag in the rear wheels. They were a little bit hard to turn by hand, but I didn't adjust them so tight that they got stuck anywhere. When I went back to the brake after adjusting them to what I thought was perfect - the brake went back most of the way to the floor.
I checked the adjustments at the rear again incase they had centered and moved, but they still seemed fine and had a good amount of drag.
Now I'm stumped! All of the above has taken quite a few days of work (maybe 4 or 5) and after all that, my brakes are worse than when I started.
It seems that the problem is with my rear adjustment since the brakes become firm when adjusted tight. I wouldn't have thought I could adjust them any tighter or they would prevent the wheel being spun by hand.
I will note though that the wheel when spun by hand, drags more in certain places than others.
Has anybody experienced the above or have any suggestions on what could be wrong?

My rear brakes were done not too long ago by my mechanic - which included new drums, shoes, springs, cylinders, etc.

Thanks team!
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KTPhil Premium Member
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 13, 2018 4:48 pm    Post subject: Re: Can't get my Squareback brakes right - need help please! Reply with quote

Where did you buy the calipers? Maybe they were the wrong ones?
I believe Jim Adney can rebuild yours.
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Adski
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 13, 2018 4:54 pm    Post subject: Re: Can't get my Squareback brakes right - need help please! Reply with quote

Quote:
Where did you buy the calipers? Maybe they were the wrong ones?
I believe Jim Adney can rebuild yours.


I got them from local VW supplier. Theres nothing to indicate they are the wrong calipers; they fit well, pads fit in them correct, the pads sit nicely along side the discs.

Given that when the rear brakes are adjusted hard up against the drum the pedal is high and firm - I would have thought the problem was at the rear?
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ataraxia
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 13, 2018 5:47 pm    Post subject: Re: Can't get my Squareback brakes right - need help please! Reply with quote

Start with the simple stuff first!

Check the brake rod travel (from brake pedal to master cylinder) and adjust as needed. I had to adjust both the floor plate and the rod when I changed master cylinders. If that's off by a few mm the brakes don't work for shit.
Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.


Check for brake fluid leaks along the main line to the rear brakes - pull up the carpet - inspect it very carefully because a pin hole leak can cause all kinds of issues and not leak a lot of fluid while doing so.

How old are the soft lines? If they're more than 4 or 5 years old (or you have no idea how old they are) I suggest you change them. It's cheap insurance against brake failure.

If you start at one thing and you've reset it back to spec, note what you've done and move on to the next thing. You'll figure it out a lot quicker this way. Don't assume your mechanic did it all perfectly - people make mistakes/miss things in their work. Check all of it to make sure it's correct.
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Adski
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 13, 2018 9:21 pm    Post subject: Re: Can't get my Squareback brakes right - need help please! Reply with quote

Quote:
Check for brake fluid leaks along the main line to the rear brakes - pull up the carpet - inspect it very carefully because a pin hole leak can cause all kinds of issues and not leak a lot of fluid while doing so.


Thanks for the tips... I dont have any carpet in the car at the moment - cannot see any fluid leaking.
What I would mention though is whenever i attempted to gravity bleed the rear cylinders, the fluid flowed through ok and quickly, but became super foamy! The bleeder valves were quite loose in the threads on both L and R rears), so I put the foam down to air coming in the bleeders as the gravity bled.
I didn't have the foam problem when I had a 2nd person pumping the brakes inside and opening/closing the bleeders. I would close the bleeders just before the fluid visibly stopped moving outwards. Fronts did not appear foamy.

I also checked the play of the brake pedal to the MC. It seemed very small and I didnt think needed adjusting, but will measure accurately next time i'm out at the car. Thanks!
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 14, 2018 6:49 am    Post subject: Re: Can't get my Squareback brakes right - need help please! Reply with quote

Did you bench bleed the master cylinder prior to install?

I'd replace the bleeders on the rear if they're loose.

I've had better luck with a power bleeder than with gravity bleeding - probably because I don't have the patience to wait for gravity to do its thing. You may have some local options but I use a Motive bleeder and it works very well.
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 14, 2018 10:01 am    Post subject: Re: Can't get my Squareback brakes right - need help please! Reply with quote

Out of round drums, messed up e-brake parts, or worn/bent shoes can make it hard to get a good adjustment on the rears, and then you can have bleeding problems. I'd pull the drums and make sure it's all clean, lubed where needed, and round.
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 15, 2018 11:07 am    Post subject: Re: Can't get my Squareback brakes right - need help please! Reply with quote

Hold on. Do these calipers have two bleeder valves on them... top and bottom?

If so, you should be using the TOP bleeder.

Lots of replacement calipers are not side specific, hence the two bleeders. It's tripped up lots of people.
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 15, 2018 10:48 pm    Post subject: Re: Can't get my Squareback brakes right - need help please! Reply with quote

The rear bleeders are actually in brand new rear wheel cylinders. I was rapt when i saw the foam coming out initially... i thought i was finally getting somewhere... but there was so much coming out that i realised it couldnt have been from the lines.

The drums and shoes are actually brand new... but as I type this, i'm thinking... when i was adjusting the star adjusters, I was adjusting based on how hard it was to turn the wheels. As mentioned earlier, when turning the wheels it was easy at some parts of the rotation and more difficult at other parts. Thinking back, I would have been adjusting for the more difficult part. Because I was concerned about the wheels not turning.
However, if there are easier sections of the rotation, this might mean that the pedal has to go lower for these sections? So maybe I should try adjusting for the easy to turn parts of the rotation... if that makes sense?
if the drum or the shoes are out of round as KTPhil mentioned above - out of round shoes or drums could cause issues in adjusting. Worth a shot.

To answer other questions above - nope, I didn't bench bleed the master cylinder. I did bleed it once it was installed. I did get a hiss of air initially out of it with someone pushing on the pedal and holding down while i open and closed the nuts. I'm thinking this isn't much different from bench bleeding anyway. I read threads for hours here about whether to bench bleed or not and from what I read most people dont actually bother and have no problems.

Yep - it's the gold calipers with the top and bottom bleeders. I started off bleeding both, but then I read a thread here that mentioned only bleeding the top, which made sense, as the air would rise to the top.
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 16, 2018 11:23 am    Post subject: Re: Can't get my Squareback brakes right - need help please! Reply with quote

Easy test: Engage the parking brake. If that brings the pedal up and it's firm the issue is rear adjustment.
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 17, 2018 5:30 pm    Post subject: Re: Can't get my Squareback brakes right - need help please! Reply with quote

Just out looking at the car now. Found this spring with one hook on it. Should there be two? What is it and what should it be connected to?


Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 17, 2018 5:31 pm    Post subject: Re: Can't get my Squareback brakes right - need help please! Reply with quote

Also when I put on the hand brake the travel only gets slightly firmer. But when I put the shoes hard up against the drums it's solid. Weird.
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 17, 2018 6:37 pm    Post subject: Re: Can't get my Squareback brakes right - need help please! Reply with quote

That is the brake pedal return spring. It helps the brake pedal reset after you push it. One end hooks on the same arm as the brake pedal pushrod, the other end rests on the cluster or the pan (can't recall). They are still made and not hard to find. Keep bleeding your brakes re-check your drum adjustment. I went through this myself and eventually worked through it. It can take a lot of effort to get all of the air out of your system when you change the master and don't bench bleed. Keep at it and you will get it sorted out!
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 18, 2018 8:56 am    Post subject: Re: Can't get my Squareback brakes right - need help please! Reply with quote

FastyOrange wrote:
That is the brake pedal return spring. It helps the brake pedal reset after you push it. One end hooks on the same arm as the brake pedal pushrod, the other end rests on the cluster or the pan (can't recall). They are still made and not hard to find. Keep bleeding your brakes re-check your drum adjustment. I went through this myself and eventually worked through it. It can take a lot of effort to get all of the air out of your system when you change the master and don't bench bleed. Keep at it and you will get it sorted out!


Yup. Keep in mind that since you did a disc brake conversion, you need to bleed the right front first, then the left front. Then the right rear followed by the left rear. I normally lock the rear brakes using the adjusters, then do my bleeding. Afterward, I'll back the adjusters off 3 clicks. You also want to adjust the parking brake cables, so that when you lift the hand brake handle, you're only lifting it up about 3 to 4 clicks for locked rear brakes (parking mode).
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 18, 2018 9:30 am    Post subject: Re: Can't get my Squareback brakes right - need help please! Reply with quote

The lock plate holding the rod to its pivot doesn't look engaged, too.
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 18, 2018 4:08 pm    Post subject: Re: Can't get my Squareback brakes right - need help please! Reply with quote

Thanks for the advice team.
I spent about 10 hours working on the car yesterday... most of that was trying to get the pedal cluster back together. I undid it so that I could get the pushrod out to check the length of it, but later realised I didnt even have to undo it to get it out. Then I tried to adjust the brake stop so that I had 5-7mm of travel and managed to let the clutch pedal fall forward, which disconnected the clutch cable. Argh! So, I had to undo the cable from the rear, jack it up, etc. It was probably the most painful job (getting the pedal cluster back in and set correctly) that I've ever done in 6 years! If I had a helper to hold the pedals in place it would have been easier, but instead I was using 2 hands and my forehead to hold everything in place! Embarassed

Anyway, once I had confirmed the push rod length and successfully adjusted the pedal play, there was once again no difference in the pedal. It still goes about halfway down before I can feel any pressure on the pedal.

Next I jacked up the rear of the car and removed the wheels and tried adjusting the star adjusters that way. It was much easier that getting under the car. I also checked all the internals of the drums. Everything appeared ok and setup correctly. I noticed that the majority of the wear on the practically new brake shoes was at the top and the bottom of the shoes. 2 oclock to 4oclock practically had no evidence of drum contact (on any of the pads).

When I adjusted them, I adjusted them on the tighter side. With slightly more drag than I usually would just to see if that helped. As i wasn't under the car, I took my time and pressed the brake pedal frequently to re-centre the pads. In my opinion the pads couldn't be set any better than they are. They could be slightly more loose- if anything.

I did another round of bleeding after this.

I took the car for a spin afterwards - the car stops marginally better... but the pedal was still low and it's still slow to stop. It's drive-able, but I wouldn't consider it safe - especially in an emergency.

I did notice that the right rear drum was warm to touch, but the left rear drum was really hot - couldn't touch it for more than a second without burning my finger. Obviously too tight on that side. Rolling Eyes

The hoses are due for replacing - so I'll get onto that next, because I dont really know where else to look - other than bleeding the brakes over and over again, I think I've ruled out most other things.....
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 18, 2018 5:07 pm    Post subject: Re: Can't get my Squareback brakes right - need help please! Reply with quote

Adski wrote:
The hoses are due for replacing - so I'll get onto that next...


No point in doing anything else until the hoses are replaced... the likely root cause there.
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 18, 2018 8:11 pm    Post subject: Re: Can't get my Squareback brakes right - need help please! Reply with quote

KTPhil wrote:
Adski wrote:
The hoses are due for replacing - so I'll get onto that next...


No point in doing anything else until the hoses are replaced... the likely root cause there.


Just ordered some hoses. That will be a next weekend job.

Anything else I should be looking at while I'm there?

Seems a shame after all that bleeding to just open it up again!
Fingers crossed the new hoses improve things!
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 20, 2018 3:55 pm    Post subject: Re: Can't get my Squareback brakes right - need help please! Reply with quote

when I adjusted my t3 brakes I tighten one shoe solid , backed off 3 or 4 clicks then tighten the other shoe same way, so as not having one shoe locking the drum. i'm also thinking the wheel cylinder pushrods have an angle that matches the top of the brake lining metal and if turned wrong may cause excessive travel. just thinking maybe I should go look at one. rex
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 25, 2018 5:34 pm    Post subject: Re: Can't get my Squareback brakes right - need help please! Reply with quote

Just wanted to give you an update... as I hate seeing threads without an outcome.

Spend another day yesterday working on the brakes. I purchased some replacement hoses. Unfortunately the rears were completely wrong - I'm thinking because It's a late pan on an early body. So, I did check the hoses at the rear and they appeared fine - i could see right through them and they looked relatively new.

I did also replace the front hoses... they looked a bit older. i cut the old ones to see what they were like inside... they looked ok, didn't appear swollen or collapsed.

I spent a bit of time bleeding the brakes afterwards. There was so much air, I thought there was a leak somewhere... thankfully with persistence the air stopped. I took it for a test drive and success! The brake was firm! Probably a little lower than I would expect... possibly due to slightly too much play in the pedal distance from the master cylinder... however I'm happy with it for the time being... will tinker with the pedal play before I install my carpet.

So, it looks like the problem was either was with the front hoses or the whole system just appreciated being drained of fluid completely, refilled and then bled until no air remained. I might do one more lap of bleeding, just to be sure there's no air left.
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