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Any one having brake failure problems?? The driver side rear on my 2019 VS Speedster failed at 300 miles due to a "caliper problem". The passenger side rear failed at 600 miles due to a "caliper problem". Greg is repairing, but the failures are causing me a great deal of concern.

Thanks!

jprpdr

Westchester, CA 90045

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I don't know if this is worth worrying about. Things actually are changing at EMPI, as quality control IS a thing now.

They have purchased a few companies and now have exclusive distribution rights. If you've noticed, Mahle cylinders are only available through them. Also they purchased JayCee Industries, maker of some of the finest aftermarket parts ever made. EMPI distributes, but Jack Sachette still is on the shop floor. Quality is still stellar.

They are also distributing Greg's Vintage 190 wheels AFAIK.

I personally wouldn't use the EMPI cast-iron barbell disc brakes, but I want my car to work way more than most "Speedster cruiser" applications. For that, they're fine.

Well the disks are Empi, rotahub 5x120 P circle for my fuchs.  but the calipers are jetta MkIV and they bolt on but I believe the caliper bracket is a bit different and may need or have been machined.    

BTW they come with a cable rear emergency brake which is a necessity, I dislike hydraulic Park.

Since IM, did I say they are great builders, as are others on this list that we benefit from their sound advice, built my car so this is from memory. Finally the caliper bracket and the track maybe affected a little but a good mechanic can figure it out, and DannyP for sure



BTW there are some machine shops serving the hobby that could do the brackets mods if some are needed.

Last edited by IaM-Ray

I did not intend this posting to be critical of either VMC or Empi. I was just curious as to whether others had experienced the same problem. None of the responses to date indicate a similar problem. Greg and Empi are backing up their products 100% and are getting the problem fixed. I understand that anything that is mechanical can have parts that may fail. I was not completely without brakes due to the dual circuit system Greg installs. This has not been a good year for me, but at least this problem can be fixed.

jprpdr

Westchester, CA 90045

It's a good question to ask, and nobody (here at least) will think you were bashing Greg or his company.

However... I don't think your issues are isolated at all. Anybody who's been in this hobby for more than a couple of months has experienced something similar, or at least tangentially related.

The state of VW aftermarket parts has been sketchy for the entirety of the 21 years I've been in this hobby. For at least that long (and way, way longer now that I think about the JC Whitney catalogs of my youth), the aftermarket was building parts all over the world to a price point dictated by the apocryphal "cheap VW people" who bought the bulk of them. Even "performance" aftermarket quality was driven down by the same mentality, that parts needed to be less expensive than similar American V8/muscle car speed parts - because if they weren't, people would just buy a Camaro or Mustang instead of hopping up their Beetle.

The reality of who buys these cars and what they are willing to spend has changed pretty markedly over the years, but the low quality of a lot of parts was already baked in the cake. EMPI was purchased several years ago, and is at least trying to clean up their reputation, but they've sold many, many parts over the years that were just garbage and turning that ship around won't happen overnight. Everybody bashes them as a company ("Every Mistake Passes Inspection", etc.), but without EMPI the VW hobby dies (and by extension, large parts of the replica Speedster hobby) almost instantly dies.

The people buying stuff for these cars (and for old VWs) have some money now, and are in the hobby because they are looking for something different, not because they are a tightwad looking for a $70 exhaust. A decent 2L+ engine costs north of $10K now, and people are still buying them. Boutique parts manufacturers are popping up here and there (Avery's Air-cooled, Todd Francis, etc.), which tells me that the hobby isn't dying - but it is undergoing some painful changes. It's hard to know where to go when the price delta between EMPI stuff and stuff by boutique parts manufacturers is so high, and sometimes even the small boutique manufacturers have issues. I have a really expensive AirKewld front disc brake-set on my VW panel bus that has leaked from the master-cylinder reservoir from the day I bought it, and Pete is one of the better guys trying to bring up the level of the game in this hobby.

I think everybody is trying to catch up to the "new normal" where a new build is almost always north of $50K, and parts that were "good enough" on a $20K Kirk Duncan build are not adequate any more.

Sometimes there's just nowhere to turn for an adequate part.

As long ago as 2005, when Henry Reisner of IM was building my coach - he and I talked about the difficulty of trying to build a quality automobile with parts built to a bottom-feeder price point, and how sometimes there just wasn't another alternative other than either buying an EMPI part and completely reworking it (and hoping for the best), and making it himself at enormous cost. At the time, he told me that he'd buy EMPI brake-sets and immediately pull the seals, bearings, and races and just throw them out. They would then install quality domestic bearings, races, and seals. The problem was, that sometimes there just wasn't an alternative for the badly made part.

Most folks don't get this. They think of a $50K car as being "new" and able to perform to the standard that a $50K mass-production car should perform at. Given the sketchy state of parts, it's just not possible for that to happen every single time. This is the "sorting" you hear so much about.

That's definitely not bashing Greg, or anybody else forced to use what cannot be fabricated or purchased elsewhere - it's just a statement of fact and forewarned is forearmed.

Last edited by Stan Galat

Stan is right the parts quality/price equation is a challenge in this hobby.  
Wilwood are great brakes from what I know but OE parts ie. VW originals for me keep the value equation alive and well and they are on millions of cars.  The W brand also needs more maintenance I believe but on these cars not an issue.  Parking may not be an option on W without using a hydraulic unit which is not my favourite.

Last edited by IaM-Ray

Wilwood does not list parts or kits for any or the VW Beetle/Karmann Ghia models on their website, but I have heard of adapter kits from them on the occasional Speedster.  Their products are very high quality and I have not heard that they require any more maintenance than any OEM versions (my only anecdotal knowledge is from the Hot Rod side of the hobby).

They have technical people who would know and be able to help you.  Just call them at 805-388-1188 and tell them what you’re looking to do.

There are cable-actuated/hydraulic combo rear calipers available from Wilwood.

There are also standalone mechanical calipers. Both of these solutions require someone to fabricate a single or double caliper mount. Yes, you could have a parking brake setup separate from the service brake.

Even though it weighs a ton, the hydraulic/cable Golf(or Volvo?) rear caliper EVERYONE uses works and works well, most of the time.

This rear caliper is also used by Pete of Airkewld, who makes some of the lightest and highest quality brakes available. I have them on all 4 corners.

Be aware that you may have squeaky brakes if you use Wilwood calipers/pads. They are not domestic/production line type parts. I don't know if they require more maintenance(mine haven't) but OE/production car reliability cannot be expected.

Also, while lapping LRP at a 1900 pound curbweight(heavy instructor) my Spyder never had fade or overheating into turn 1-2(Big Bend) from 120mph.

If you end up using a Wilwood caliper, someone will most probably have to fabricate a caliper bracket, as Wilwood do not sell complete kits as Gordon states.

Last edited by DannyP
@Stan Galat posted:

It's a good question to ask, and nobody (here at least) will think you were bashing Greg or his company.

However... I don't think your issues are isolated at all. Anybody who's been in this hobby for more than a couple of months has experienced something similar, or at least tangentially related.

The state of VW aftermarket parts has been sketchy for the entirety of the 21 years I've been in this hobby. For at least that long (and way, way longer now that I think about the JC Whitney catalogs of my youth), the aftermarket was building parts all over the world to a price point dictated by the apocryphal "cheap VW people" who bought the bulk of them. Even "performance" aftermarket quality was driven down by the same mentality, that parts needed to be less expensive than similar American V8/muscle car speed parts - because if they weren't, people would just buy a Camaro or Mustang instead of hopping up their Beetle.

The reality of who buys these cars and what they are willing to spend has changed pretty markedly over the years, but the low quality of a lot of parts was already baked in the cake. EMPI was purchased several years ago, and is at least trying to clean up their reputation, but they've sold many, many parts over the years that were just garbage and turning that ship around won't happen overnight. Everybody bashes them as a company ("Every Mistake Passes Inspection", etc.), but without EMPI the VW hobby dies (and by extension, large parts of the replica Speedster hobby) almost instantly dies.

The people buying stuff for these cars (and for old VWs) have some money now, and are in the hobby because they are looking for something different, not because they are a tightwad looking for a $70 exhaust. A decent 2L+ engine costs north of $10K now, and people are still buying them. Boutique parts manufacturers are popping up here and there (Avery's Air-cooled, Todd Francis, etc.), which tells me that the hobby isn't dying - but it is undergoing some painful changes. It's hard to know where to go when the price delta between EMPI stuff and stuff by boutique parts manufacturers is so high, and sometimes even the small boutique manufacturers have issues. I have a really expensive AirKewld front disc brake-set on my VW panel bus that has leaked from the master-cylinder reservoir from the day I bought it, and Pete is one of the better guys trying to bring up the level of the game in this hobby.

I think everybody is trying to catch up to the "new normal" where a new build is almost always north of $50K, and parts that were "good enough" on a $20K Kirk Duncan build are not adequate any more.

Sometimes there's just nowhere to turn for an adequate part.

As long ago as 2005, when Henry Reisner of IM was building my coach - he and I talked about the difficulty of trying to build a quality automobile with parts built to a bottom-feeder price point, and how sometimes there just wasn't another alternative other than either buying an EMPI part and completely reworking it (and hoping for the best), and making it himself at enormous cost. At the time, he told me that he'd buy EMPI brake-sets and immediately pull the seals, bearings, and races and just throw them out. They would then install quality domestic bearings, races, and seals. The problem was, that sometimes there just wasn't an alternative for the badly made part.

Most folks don't get this. They think of a $50K car as being "new" and able to perform to the standard that a $50K mass-production car should perform at. Given the sketchy state of parts, it's just not possible for that to happen every single time. This is the "sorting" you hear so much about.

That's definitely not bashing Greg, or anybody else forced to use what cannot be fabricated or purchased elsewhere - it's just a statement of fact and forewarned is forearmed.

Great points. Some of us were lucky to buy the Kirk Duncan $20K builds way back then. Those don't exist anymore and wait times are very long. My car has front disc brakes and I believe it is the wide five AC Industries kit. I believe the calipers are the same ones used on VW Rabbits or Golfs. As Danny says they are adequate for the average Speedster owner to putt around.

Last edited by Impala

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I have never done turn 1-2 at LRP

I have never done the corkscrew at Laguna Seca.

It’s very likely I never will.

But I have had EMPI brakes on all four corners of my Speedster for eight years and 40,000 miles, and they are pretty much all the brakes I need for this car and the way I drive it.

They have not been trouble free, but they have never all-out failed. They actually stop pretty well, but there have been some annoyances that took a lot of time to diagnose and fix.

The first caveat is to use the right mounting brackets on the rears. EMPI makes two brackets for the same brakes - cheap ones made of stamped sheet metal and cast ones that cost a lot more. Guess which ones you want.

The cheap, stamped brackets that came on my VS were causing two separate problems, and it took a while to figure this out. The first was a horrendously loud ‘moaning’ sort of noise that was maddeningly intermittent. You could never make it happen when you were trying to suss out the source (front or back, left or right). It happened most often when the brakes were cold and you were coming to a gradual stop and got down to just a few mph, with your foot just lightly on the pedal. Think train horn loud. Wake the dead loud. Wife jumping out of the car loud.

The second problem was leaking rear axle seals. Which you would normally attribute to defective rear axle seals. Which you fix by replacing rear axle seals. Except that a year later you were having to do that again. And again.

Replacing the sheet metal brackets with the cast ones fixed both problems.

The cast brackets cost $90 each if bought separately. Yeah, $90 - for EMPI  brackets! It used to be you could order the whole rear brake kit with the cast brackets for not much more than with the sheet metal brackets, but I don’t know about now.

The third problem has been what sounds like brake squeal while driving along but NOT touching the brake pedal - usually, when just entering a turn at 40-50 mph. It sounds like the caliper is not fully retracting and just skimming the rotor as some lateral force is applied by the motion of the car entering the turn. Again, this was almost impossible to isolate to either front or back (or one side or the other) and it was very intermittent.

I was eventually able to almost eliminate it by greasing the backs of the pads and any moving parts at the ‘touch’ points where the pads contact the caliper. This turned out to be on the front brakes (which are different calipers than the rears). My car’s front calipers are stamped ‘Varga’ but many that look identical are not. My wheels do spin freely with the front up on stands - with just a little friction from the brakes. (It is normal, BTW, for wheels and hubs on any car to be warm from brake heat after driving. Warm, but not hot or glowing red! And all wheels should be about the same temp.)

So, eight years of sleuthing later, I’ve got EMPI brakes that work OK. Keep in mind that our very light cars place relatively low demands on a braking system - unless you drive like @DannyP. These are loads that even EMPI brakes should be up to.

With most of the weight in the rear, you can’t really apply much brake without locking up the fronts anyway. I end up doing most of my slowing into a corner with the gearbox. My brake pads last forever. And descending long, twisty grades on our local foothill roads, I’ve never noticed significant fade, either. I do engage in some spirited driving, when the navigator’s seat is unoccupied.

Unless you wear a helmet and four-point harness every time you saddle up, the EMPI’s can be made to work.

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I never said the EMPI brakes were inadequate. They are perfectly adequate, for MOST people. But they're simply too heavy in wide5 bolt pattern.

I'm just not that guy. And yeah, 5-6 points, a cage/multipoint rollbar and a helmet. Plus arm restraints.

Tom Blankinship had that same moaning problem on the rear of his Beck that Mitch had.

That light squeak and/or moaning can be solved on a swingaxle with proper caliper brackets(like Mitch says) and getting the right axle endplay of only a few thousandths. If the combo of caliper bracket, gasket, and bearing cap is too thick. The bearing cap can be sanded down to get this right. I read about several people doing this over on the Formula Vee side of things, which actually allow discs now.

@Sacto Mitch posted:

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With most of the weight in the rear, you can’t really apply much brake without locking up the fronts anyway. I end up doing most of my slowing into a corner with the gearbox. My brake pads last forever. And descending long, twisty grades on our local foothill roads, I’ve never noticed significant fade, either. I do engage in some spirited driving, when the navigator’s seat is unoccupied.



I disagree with this paragraph. Even though the static weight is mostly in the rear, weight DOES transfer under braking. If you're locking the fronts, the brake bias F-R, and alignment may not correct. Your tires may have inadequate traction and pressure too. And if your brakes last forever, you're probably not driving as "spirited" as you think you are.

Last edited by DannyP

@Sacto Mitch and you others who might never get the chance to turn a few laps at Lime Rock Park in the boonies of northwestern Connecticut - Here you go.  A guy in a Ford Lotus/Cortina (English Ford) thrashing about at Lime Rock while chasing down an Olds Cutlass NASCAR racer - on a road course.  3 times the weight and three times the HP (600+hp) got the Cutlass straight line bragging rights but the Cortina totally out-handled the bigger car.   Ya gotta love the determination of the Cortina driver.  And the sound of the little 1,800cc Lotus engine wailing like a banshee!  You can even see the driver compensating for the unweighting as he comes down off of the hill just before the front straight and hits that slight right turn that unweights the car......

Last edited by Gordon Nichols

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Admittedly, my spirited driving is limited to solo sessions - a small percentage of my stick time in this car.

And I'd guess better F/R proportioning would yield better braking, too, but I'd wager my car is set up like most of our cars are when first delivered and that most owners leave things that way. No matter how it's set, though, it's important to learn just where that limit of grip is. It's going to be less than on most modern cars, and there's no ABS to save you once you get there.

I'd also wager most owners use their cars about like I do - not expecting ultimate performance out of them. It's good to know how to improve things if that's what you want, but I think most of us aren't going there.

These cars can still be a lot of fun to drive, as is, and they can be gotten down a twisty bit of road quicker than they have any right doing - certainly a lot quicker than most Corolla or Crosstrek drivers will ever attempt.

For most of us, most of the time, EMPI brakes, properly set up, will do the job. If they're failing at that, they probably don't need to be replaced with more expensive gear, just looked after.

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@Gordon Nichols and @DannyP , yeah, I watched the same video, also about a week ago (I guess YouTube's suggested viewing bots know us better than we know ourselves).

Notice how much harder and how much earlier the Cutlass is braking than the Cortina. The less available power, the smoother you need to be.

If you're not racing, and on real roads, you can keep up quite a nice clip with almost no braking at all.

Here's a somewhat related article on motorcycle group riding techniques. See the section titled 'Pace'.

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Can we make this the official first two lines of every response to any thread on this board?

I'm flattered, but I'd rather we got this across (loudly and clearly):

@Stan Galat posted:

Most folks don't get this. They think of a $50K car as being "new" and able to perform to the standard that a $50K mass-production car should perform at. Given the sketchy state of parts, it's just not possible for that to happen every single time. This is the "sorting" you hear so much about.

Last edited by Stan Galat

Loud and clear to me Stan, simply because I was lucky enough to stumble into this forum more than a year ago, at the very first stages of an affliction I’ve come to learn is a madness.  I’m spending more money than I’ve ever spent on a car despite all of the unvarnished advice that has allowed me to understand this car will have some issues and demand more mechanical knowledge from me than I have to give.   I know it will behave quite differently than two Toyotas I’ve owned that required close to zero attention from me while covering close to 400,000 miles.  I know it is impractical, and I even know there is a chance I become one of those people who sell after a few years of ownership and 3,000 miles.  

But dayumm, I also know it’s gonna scratch an itch no other car can scratch. None.  For now I’ll continue to dream I’ll drive it like @MusbJim or @Ryan in NorCal as I await delivery.

Hell, I’ve already bought a pair of Converse All Stars and I’ve laid down a rug in my garage for crying out loud!  

Bring. It. On.

FE492676-5A95-485F-851F-F6C69328E7FA

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Last edited by Jon T
@Sacto Mitch posted:

.Notice how much harder and how much earlier the Cutlass is braking than the Cortina. The less available power, the smoother you need to be.

If you're not racing, and on real roads, you can keep up quite a nice clip with almost no braking at all.

Here's a somewhat related article on motorcycle group riding techniques. See the section titled 'Pace'.

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"Notice how much harder and how much earlier the Cutlass is braking than the Cortina". Yeah, because the Cutlass can't go around the corners as well. Your second sentence should read: The less available power, the more momentum you need to maintain. Smooth is fast as well, I agree.

That article applies, IF YOU'RE RIDING MOTORCYCLES. Cars are different. The physics are different. A bike weighs 1/3 or less even what one of our cars weighs in street trim, say 600-700 pounds vs 1700-2400(both with driver/passenger)?

The engine braking effect on a motorcycle is VASTLY different than a car. This I have experience with, and yes, riding in a group of bikes. Untwist that right hand, sometimes just slightly drag the rear brake(or not) and a tiny squeeze(or maybe not) from the right hand gives plenty of slow.

The point is, you'll use far more brakes in a car when going quickly versus a bike. Especially on the street.

@Jon T posted:

Loud and clear to me Stan, simply because I was lucky enough to stumble into this forum more than a year ago, at the very first stages of an affliction I’ve come to learn is a madness.  I’m spending more money than I’ve ever spent on a car despite all of the unvarnished advice that has allowed me to understand this car will have some issues and demand more mechanical knowledge from me than I have to give.   I know it will behave quite differently than two Toyotas I’ve owned that required close to zero attention from me while covering close to 400,000 miles.  I know it is impractical, and I even know there is a chance I become one of those people who sell after a few years of ownership and 3,000 miles.  

But dayumm, I also know it’s gonna scratch an itch no other car can scratch. None.  For now I’ll continue to dream I’ll drive it like @MusbJim or @Ryan in NorCal as I await delivery.

Hell, I’ve already bought a pair of Converse All Stars and I’ve laid down a rug in my garage for crying out loud!  

Bring. It. On.

FE492676-5A95-485F-851F-F6C69328E7FA

I predict that rug will have some oily spots pretty soon ;-)

@DannyP posted:

That article applies, IF YOU'RE RIDING MOTORCYCLES. Cars are different. The physics are different.

The engine braking effect on a motorcycle is VASTLY different than a car.

I practice “The Pace” all the time in my Spyder. Pick an appropriate gear, choose a speed, and try to maintain it. The Pace* isn’t about racing, it’s about pleasurable street riding/driving. (It’s right in the title: “Separating street from track, riding from racing .”) Maintaining +5 on a mountain road using only the steering wheel and the accelerator is a quite entertaining endeavor IMO.

True, compression braking is less effective in a car, but it’s still there, especially going up hill, which is where I do most of my pleasure driving.





*I was lucky enough to get Nick Ienatsch as my instructor when I took a riding school at LVMS. Very intelligent, very personable. Great instructor. I’m sure his book saved my life at least 3-4 times.

@dlearl476 posted:

I practice “The Pace” all the time in my Spyder. Pick an appropriate gear, choose a speed, and try to maintain it. The Pace* isn’t about racing, it’s about pleasurable street riding/driving. (It’s right in the title: “Separating street from track, riding from racing .”) Maintaining +5 on a mountain road using only the steering wheel and the accelerator is a quite entertaining endeavor IMO.

True, compression braking is WAY less effective in a car, especially going up hill, which is where I do most of my pleasure driving.

Fixed it for you.

Obviously I'm aware of what "The Pace" is about.

We're getting pretty far from the original point of this thread.

Last edited by DannyP
@msjulie posted:

Does Wilwood make calipers that could work? Jay Leno raves about them

There's a guy in Canada that makes brackets to allow Wilwood calipers to be used on EMPI rotors. (click on the blue, it's a link)

AirKewld and Kevin Zafgar make brake kits that use Wilwood calipers on the front, as well as on the rear (assuming you don't want a cable actuated parking brake, which you should), but they are long money.

If you want vented rotors you can get them anywhere you wish, as long as the only place you wish to get them is CSP. CSP is very, very (very) proud of their vented rotor packages, and I'm 99% sure they add track to the car.

Brakes for these things really are stupid.

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@dlearl476 posted:

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...The Pace* isn’t about racing, it’s about pleasurable street riding/driving...



@DannyP posted:

.

...Obviously I'm aware of what "The Pace" is about.

We're getting pretty far from the original point of this thread.



Well, maybe not.

The question is whether you have to scrap EMPI brakes just because they're EMPI brakes.

And I'm thinking as long as you're not setting hot laps at the 'Ring, EMPI brakes, properly checked out and set up, should be OK.

You could probably even have on Nomex underwear and get away with them.

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@Sacto Mitch posted:

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Well, maybe not.

The question is whether you have to scrap EMPI brakes just because they're EMPI brakes.

And I'm thinking as long as you're not setting hot laps at the 'Ring, EMPI brakes, properly checked out and set up, should be OK.

You could probably even have on Nomex underwear and get away with them.

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Which is EXACTLY what I said way up top in my first response.

FYI, I don't wear any underwear

@Stan Galat posted:

There's a guy in Canada that makes brackets to allow Wilwood calipers to be used on EMPI rotors. (click on the blue, it's a link)

AirKewld and Kevin Zafgar make brake kits that use Wilwood calipers on the front, as well as on the rear (assuming you don't want a cable actuated parking brake, which you should), but they are long money.

If you want vented rotors you can get them anywhere you wish, as long as the only place you wish to get them is CSP. CSP is very, very (very) proud of their vented rotor packages, and I'm 99% sure they add track to the car.

Brakes for these things really are stupid.

That is the guy and you are the man

Last edited by IaM-Ray

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