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Brake and clutch hydraulics - a lesson learned
11-02-2016, 10:31 PM
Post: #1
Brake and clutch hydraulics - a lesson learned
Hi all,

I recently had a bit of a mission with my brakes and clutch and I thought I would share my experience in case it is useful to anyone else.

So it all started when my brake pedal started to make a groaning noise and feel a bit spongey. It took me far too long to realise (duh) that the fluid was low. By the time I looked the reservoir was almost empty. So I re-filled it, bled the brakes and hoped for the best.

Two days later, as my wife drove down our road on our way out of town on a camping trip, she pressed the brakes and her foot went straight to the floor. NEARLY had an accident - scary. So I took it to a brake place and they diagnosed a shot master cylinder (caused by the lack of fluid, no doubt). They could not replace it that day, so the decision was to drive it as is, or not go camping. Camping won. They showed me that as long as I pressed the pedal hard, and not softly, the bus would stop. I was a little nervous given that we were going to be camping on top of a mountain near Tulbagh (with a VERY steep decline), but the bus did really well and the brakes held out.

When we got back, I had the master cylinder replaced. There was also a nasty clunking sound from the back left brake, so I had a look and found that the pad of one shoe had come off and was floating around in there. I also found this:


Leaking wheel cylinder. Nasty.

I bought a new kit for both sides and took on the challenge of replacing brakes f- something I've never done before. First for the removal and clean up all the mess...


Next just to stick the new bits in there. "Refitting is the reverse of removal". It was not too difficult and was pretty chuffed that I got it done in 2 hrs. All shiny and new:


So the next day I headed out to Hermanus for the weekend. Had a lovely time, but when I jumped in the bus to come home on clutch. Eish. Rookie error #1. If you lose brake fluid, find out where the leak is.

I happened to have brake fluid with me (not trusting my brake replacement completely) so I topped up the reservoir, but still no clutch. With a little bit of a fluke, I managed to dispel the air from the clutch master cylinder by unscrewing it and got pressure back, but the master cylinder pissed fluid onto my foot the whole way home.

Off to the parts place again for a new clutch master and slave cylinder. Again, having never done this before I found some very useful help here:

I was told that replacing the clutch master cylinder is really tricky, but I actually found it pretty simple.


The slave was a different story. By the way, for those (like me) who don't know, it is located above and to the left side of the gearbox. It is easiest to access it from the front left corner of the engine bay. On inspection, it was clear that the slave was where my original leak was.


Getting it off was not a problem. Getting it back in is a bitch. I would strongly suggest making one of these (13mm) to make tightening the back bolt a whole lot easier.


Finally got it back in and bled, but no pressure. After much repeated bleeding, sweating and researching, I read about reverse bleeding the system to get air out of the clutch master cylinder by using the back left brake bleed screw. Genius. But that didn't work either. Eish. Another 20 or so repeat bleeds in the right direction and I finally got pressure back. What a mission.

1989 2.0i Syncro Camper (Gogo)
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11-03-2016, 04:33 PM
Post: #2
RE: Brake and clutch hydraulics - a lesson learned
Following your post I am now wondering if and where my clutch slave cylinder is for my 2L golf conversion as I have not spotted it yet Huh
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