I put new pads on the back but even with spacers. I can’t move the wheels; I even released the Ebrake. What am I doing wrong?


Original Post

The rear calipers may have to be turned back in IF they are the VW Golf ones with integral e-brake as part of the caliper. They are threaded, as that is how they self-adjust the e-brake cable tension.


OK, one man's story. This may not apply to your situation, but maybe...

I ordered my 2013 VS with four-wheel discs.

The fronts have Varga calipers and have been pretty much trouble free. The rears were EMPI's and have, well, NOT been trouble free.

We'll skip the really loud 'moaning' noise they made (not brake squeal) which was finally solved by swapping out the supplied cheap, stamped brackets for the more expensive cast brackets. We'll also skip any discussion of how incessant axle seal leaks (on both sides) suddenly disappeared when the cast brackets were installed. And we won't raise the question of why a brake manufacturer would make available TWO different brackets for the same brakeset, ship the cheap brackets with the brakes, and charge $90 a pop for the, uh, 'upgraded' cast brackets.

Mentioning any of that stuff might get me riled up enough to launch into a rant against EMPI products and marketing techniques. And I'm trying to stay objective here.

So, what was it again? Oh yeah, brake pads that seem too thick to fit.

Note that I say I 'finally' solved the moaning noise with new, cast brackets. The first thing I tried to quiet things down was different brake pads.

It turns out those brakes take the same size pads used on many cars, including a bunch of Fords (such as the 2005 Taurus, for example), so there are lots of after-market pads available that will technically fit. The size is usually referred to as 'D610' in the industry

I ordered a set of these Bendix ceramic pads from Amazon and they did drop right into the EMPI calipers. But, like you, I couldn't spread the calipers wide enough to squeeze the pads around the discs.

And, like, I tried.

A lot.

Not to be defeated, I ended up sanding down each pad about 1/8" until they finally fit. It's now about 25,000 miles later and they're still working OK. So, maybe the supplied EMPI pads are thinner than accepted industry standards?

That's another question I won't ask.


I, too, went the Sand-the-damn- pad-down route and after installing my 7th rear axle seal kit (a World Record?) drove the car tonight without the pads heating up...too much. I will attempt going to bed and sleeping AND breathing (I hate holding my breath when I go to bed) I'm still going to take it to a REAL air cooled mechanic next week and might even bump into Chuck Beck while I'm at Herrell's Bug Parts.


Mitch, you're funny. EMPI is a problem. They are SLOWLY getting better. I think we'll all be dead before they are the best though.

Did you guys know I had to do some machining on the Airkewld 4 piston fronts that I paid a LOT for($2200 or so for front and rear)? The grease seal(supplied by them) wouldn't fit in the hub, I had to open up the seating hole in the hub. I also had to machine down the outer snout so a stock grease cap would fit. I made them a slip fit, and secure the caps with a schmeer of silicone. That way I don't mar up the polished aluminum when taking the caps off. Miraculously, the rears only required sanding the e-brake circlip thinner so it actually fit in the slot in the cable. The rear brake assemblies themselves slid right on, no problems.

I don't think one single part on my car hasn't required massaging/modification of some sort. Except JayCee parts, they fit. But the company was just purchased by EMPI, so now who knows?

@dlearl476 posted:

So sad.  They used to be legendary. I'm running about 50% on having to "remake" EMPI products to get them to work. 

Yeah, their products were legendary (in the late 1950's and '60's) when Joe Vittone (who started EMPI) was at the helm. Unfortunately, that ended in 1971 or '72 when Mr. Vittone sold the company to avoid losing his VW (and Porsche?) dealership. The Lee Eliminators family of companies did nothing with EMPI, (I believe) ran into financial difficulties themselves a year or 2 later and EMPI resurfaced in the late '70's as a subsidiary/brand of Mr. Bug, who didn't actually design/build or manufacture anything but marketed a whole line of (mostly chromed) VW parts in great looking blister packages. Somewhere in the '80's Mr. Bug went down the tubes, the EMPI name resurfaced as it's own brand, trying to ride on the coattails of it's former reputation, selling junk hard parts and they've been the scourge of the hobby/industry now for some 40 or so years.

A question- if you keep having to re-work their stuff to be serviceable, why are you still giving them your hard earned money?

Last edited by ALB

As long as I've been in the hobby, guys like us have been grumbling about EMPI, often with good reason.

... but just to play the other side of Mitch's story-- an EMPI rear brake set-up for e-brakes (PN: 22-2911) retails for $270 +/-. For less than 300 bucks, you get two rotors, pads, calipers, brackets, e-brake cables, and all the fixins. The quality is less than they should be, for sure-- but they get bought and installed, none the less. Why? Because they are $300 all in.

CSP, AirKewld, and CoolRydes Customs all make kits that are reputed to work great right out of the box. CSP's go for about $1400, AirKewld's are about $870, and CoolRydes are about $1400. I'd bet EMPI could make a better kit for 3-5x the cost. Would people buy it? I've got $20 that says they sell 10x the brakes anybody else does, maybe 10x everybody else combined. They aren't perfect, but if you know what to buy, they are adequate. For most people (and even most builders) that's enough.

Here's the dark secret-- if you take EMPI out of the equation, the hobby dies immediately. They sell everything. Lots of it is bad, but a lot is adequate, and some is good. Their catalog is hundreds of pages deep. They have 100x the product bandwidth of anybody else. Even CB has a fair amount of EMPI product in their catalog.

As the hobby ages, all of the independent small manufacturers are being purchased by EMPI. First Bugpack, then DRD, now JayCee. 

When they bought BugPack, they dropped a lot of product, and absorbed the rest into their catalog. When they bought DRD, they took over his porting program, pretty much wholesale-- now an EMPI head is pretty much exactly the same as a DRD head was before the buy-out. EMPI is allowing Jack Sachette to run JayCee as a company within a company. I talked to the guy running it (they really are a small business). They're trying.

The truth is, we can't do it without them, even though their quality on a lot of parts is disappointing at best. We need to be careful what we hope for.

Last edited by Stan Galat


Stan and Al, youse guys obviously know the rest of the story, which mostly explains why EMPI, for better or worse, is what it is today.

I come at it as an unwashed consumer trying to make sense out of some particular parts that are substandard junk.

The odd thing is that the brakes themselves seem to work OK. They stop the car. Without fade or wobble. The rotors haven't warped and the wheel cylinders haven't leaked. The eBrake even holds pretty well. In a car this light, the brakes (especially the rear brakes) aren't stressed too hard, but they do seem to be doing what brakes should do. And, as Stan points out, at a bargain price.

But I have a hard time understanding this bracket, uh, 'situation'. Best I can guess is that the kit originally came with the cast brackets - which also seem to work just fine. But production costs for the brackets must have gone up a lot at some point, putting EMPI in a bind. Raise the product price until it's in a different market segment, or keep it the cheapest 'name' brand product and find a way to cut production costs.

(The 'good' brackets are currently $230 a pair - nearly the price of the whole rest of the kit).

In the end, EMPI chose to cheap out and basically ruined the product. The stamped brackets cause at least two serious problems that I know of. In the classic Asian strategy of weakening something until it's just strong enough by a thin margin, they went just a little too far, and screwed the pooch - leaving it for the consumer to discover.

The guys who originally started EMPI probably would have never sold the crappy brackets, but these are the kind of decisions that get made when bean counters are in charge. And in today's markets, many companies seem able to survive ONLY if the bean counters are in charge.

Caveat emptor. Caveat EMPI.


Last edited by Sacto Mitch

I must add that the steel rear caliper brackets on my Airkewld brakes are a thing of beauty: water-jet cut, welded, and powdercoated. They are very flat and smooth and don't allow axle leaks. The center hole that goes over the axle tube end is so precise that it cuts the gasket cleanly when bolting it together. I bolt it on, take it off, remove the cut shards of paper, then re-install. Perfection for a few minutes of time, and NO LEAKS!

A while back I had a speedster and did a Empi rear disc conversion , I spent hours trying and making different shims that go between the bracket and the caliper until I came up with the right combination...it took patience.

OKAY!!! I got the the rear bearing to stop leAking and I am going to have the rotors turned and that should help a bit. 
i am going to attempt to add a photo of the clearance on by faulty rotor. Well it was there a minute ago


Take the washer out that's between the caliper mount and caliper bracket and put it under the head of the bolt.

My calipers came with three washers to use for centering the caliper mount.

Add Reply

Post Content
Link copied to your clipboard.