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The Complete Guide To Mk7 Volkswagen GTI Brakes

The Mk7 Volkswagen Golf GTI’s braking system is based around an evolution of over revolution concept, ensuring cost-effective and reliable performance for the sporty hatchback. By utilizing many components from the outgoing PQ35 Mk5/6 chassis, along with some new MQB-specific parts, the Mk7 GTI offers excellent braking performance with very little required maintenance. Because of the modular design, there are many upgrades and aftermarket braking options as well, including some ‘big brake’ options from the higher end Audi RS and Porsche models.

Golf MK7 Brakes
Brake Overview

There are two different braking systems available on the Mk7 GTI, no matter what the trim level. There is the “base” system, standard on most models, and the ‘Performance Pack,’ which was available as an add-on option or standard, depending on the exact year and model GTI. Both systems use regular steel discs with electronic ABS and stability management and traction control as standard.

Not all Mk7 Volkswagen Golf GTI models come equipped with a brake pad wear sensor, with 2015 models in particular not coming equipped with the sensor option. If delivered with the option, the pad wear sensor is typically installed on the left front inner brake pad.

The base GTI braking system utilizes 312mm ventilated front discs and 272mm solid (non-vented) rear discs, with single-piston sliding calipers at all four corners. These components are a direct carry over from the Mk6 GTI, and both brake pads and discs are interchangeable between the late Mk6 GTI and base Mk7 GTI braking systems whether equipped with DSG Gearbox or manual.

MK7 GTI Rear Brakes
GTI Rear Brakes

The Performance Pack braking system utilizes the majority of the Golf R brake parts, consisting of 340mm ventilated front discs and 310mm ventilated rear discs. However, there are some differences as the Mk7 GTI with Performance Pack utilizes a manual parking brake, and the Golf R uses an electronic parking brake. Because of this, the rear brake pads are not compatible between the R and GTI Performance Pack even though the discs can be used on either application.

Golf GTI PP Brakes
Golf GTI PP Brakes

The Performance Pack models are easy to spot by the “GTI” logo emblazoned on the front brake caliper anti-rattle clip. Checking the rear discs for a vented disc is another clear giveaway. Similar to the base brake system, the discs on the Performance Pack braking system are pulled from older models and are the same as those used on the Mk5 R32, Mk6 Golf R, TTS, and Passat 3.6 4MOTION.

MK7 GTI Brakes
GTI Brake Comprasion

There are two possible rear brake pad options for the Mk7 GTI models depending on whether it has the Performance Pack or standard base brake package. The standard 272mm solid rear disc brake pads have small integrated anti-rattle springs on the tabs of each brake pad. The 310mm vented Performance Pack rear brake pads have a similar-looking pad shape and tabs, but you’ll notice they have a separate anti-rattle clip inserted into the caliper carrier before the pads are installed, and there is no integrated spring. Although the Mk7 GTI Performance Pack and the Golf R share identical front brake pads, front 340mm discs, and rear 310mm discs, they do not share the same rear brake pad. The friction surface is about the same, but the Golf R uses the electronic rear parking brake, and the pads have noticeably larger guide tabs with hooks.

All Mk7 GTI models use standard DOT 4 brake fluids shared with the clutch hydraulic system on manual transmission-equipped examples. Brake fluid capacity is approximately 1.2L and should be changed three years after delivery and every two years after that point.

All factory GTI brakes use a single-piston caliper on slider pins, with two brake pads per disc. The brake pads are held by the caliper carrier and are specific to the caliper and size of the disc being used.

Brake life on the Mk7 GTI varies greatly depending on the driver and conditions the car sees regularly. The more stop and go and city driving, the more quickly the brakes will wear. Brakes should be checked every 10,000KM, with a first replacement likely in the 40-80,000 KM range for many users. A GTI that sees a lot of time on the highway may easily see over 100,000 KM's, but like any other wear item, it depends primarily on the driver.

Worn Brake Pads
Worn Brake Pads

There are a few common things to look for on the Mk7 GTI when it comes to brake wear. Assuming the brakes are still offering strong stopping power and don’t have any obvious signs of performance loss, the first thing to look at are the pads themselves. With any of the factory GTI wheels, it should be pretty easy to get an eye on the outside brake pads on all four corners of the car. The minimum thickness on the pad material itself, not including the backing plate, should be at least 2mm.

Keep in mind that inner brake pads will almost always wear more quickly than those easily visible on the outside due to seeing more heat because of less airflow. Because of this, replacing the brake pad set when the exterior pads are worn to approximately 5mm will help to ensure that you don’t wear down to the backing plate on the inside pads. Another rule of thumb is to replace your brake pads when the remaining pad material is slightly less thick than the backing plate itself.

Worn Brake Discs
Worn Brake Discs

Brake discs are more difficult to judge when it comes to wear, but there are a few easy indicators to help you know when they’ve reached the end of their useful service life. First, if there is a substantial lip on the outer edge of the disc, it is an indication that the disc should be replaced. Wear limits vary depending on the original disc thickness, but 3mm of total disc wear is a generally acceptable range. Heavy grooving on the surface of the disc can indicate uneven pad wear but doesn’t necessarily mean the brakes are in need of replacement.

New brake pads should always be fitted to either new or resurfaced brake discs. Because the wear limits of the discs are so close to as-delivered thickness, for example, 25mm new / 22mm worn on the 312mm GTI front discs, replacing the discs with new every time you replace the pads is generally good practice.

Squealing from your Mk7 GTI’s brakes, although annoying, is not necessarily an indication that they need to be replaced. Squeaking or squealing brakes on your GTI results from the brake pad vibrating at an audible frequency. This could be due to uneven wear, improper break-in, or external dirt, dust, and debris creating issues. As long as the pads have plenty of material, the discs are not obviously worn or damaged, and the car is still stopping as it should, squealing brakes may be annoying, but they are not a requirement for replacement. It’s also worth noting that more aggressive higher performance brake pads are more likely to be noisy.

There are a few options to stop your GTI’s brakes from squealing. The first is to attempt to re-bed the brake pads. Bedding is a process of breaking in the pad and discs surfaces to each other, usually by slowly bringing the brakes up to an even temperature with several slow and gradual stops, followed by several hard stops. This should aid in distributing an even layer of pad material onto the disc surface. There are many methods for bedding in brake pads, so check with your brake pad manufacturer for their recommendations for the best results. Finally, removing the current brake pads and cleaning and re-lubing the carriers and sliders can help to free up the pads and avoid any sticking or vibration, and therefore noise.

A common complaint with any disc-brake equipped car like the Mk7 GTI is‘ warped rotors,’ which results in uneven stopping and a physical pulsing feeling you can feel in the car and sometimes in the brake pedal. Warped discs or rotors are usually the result of uneven brake pad deposits on the disc surface, which can be caused by any number of things. First, low quality, low-carbon discs will heat and cool unevenly as they’re used, causing ‘hot spots’ on the disc surface. The brake pad material will stick to the hot spots, causing a high spot on the surface and that feeling of a warped rotor.

Brake Disc Hot Spot
Brake Disc Warp / Hot Spot

Aside from using premium brake pads and rotors on your GTI, if you’ve been using the brakes a lot and they’re hot, don’t immediately stop and sit with your foot on the brakes if you can help it. This time spent stationery with hot brakes is the easiest way to cause uneven pad material transfer.

Next up is brake fluid. Brake fluid is hygroscopic, which means that it absorbs moisture from the atmosphere. Old brake fluid has a lower boiling point and more compressibility than fresh fluid. As the fluid ages, and especially if you use the brakes a lot and get the fluid hot, the pedal may get soft and spongy. Flushing the brake fluid out every 2 years, or less if you are exceptionally hard on the brakes in your car, will help to ensure the longest life from the hydraulic components and the best performance.

Although it is extremely uncommon, leaks in the braking system can occur. On a Mk7 GTI, this is almost certainly going to be due to physical damage or some kind of servicing error, but in the event that it does occur, the Mk7 GTI does have a low brake fluid warning light and indicator. Excessively worn pads can also cause this light to come on, but if you are experiencing a ‘soft’ brake pedal that goes to the floor or a pedal you need to pump to maintain pressure, you should immediately stop the car and inspect for problems.

Mk7 VW GTI OE Brake Alternatives

While Genuine Volkswagen brake parts are of high quality, they also tend to be more expensive than many quality OE alternatives. No one component is more or less important when it comes to quality and performance. The three major pieces of brake pads, brake discs, and brake fluid all play their part one way or the other. Thankfully there are several good brands available for replacement brake parts for the Mk7 GTI.

Brake Package
Brake Package

There are several excellent brake disc manufacturers to choose from for your GTI regardless of whether it is equipped with the base model brakes or Performance Pack option. Of the many brands available, Zimmerman, ATE, Pagid, and Meyle offer some of the best replacement discs on the market.

Mk7 VW Golf GTI Brake Fluid

A proper performance brake fluid is an inexpensive way to raise the overall temperature capacity and performance of your Mk7 GTI’s brakes. Even if you don’t track your GTI, a higher temp brake fluid can make a difference when it comes to driving performance.

The factory Performance Pack brakes on the Mk7 GTI are very tough to beat, so if your GTI is equipped with these, upgrading pads, discs, and fluids is more than enough for most owners. If your GTI is equipped with the base 312mm/272mm brakes, upgrading to a set of Performance Pack brakes is a nice OEM+ option. They are quiet, service-free, and with the brake pads and fluid are more than capable of even heavy on-track use. West End Service Centre can assist with this.


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