Brake repairs -- hydraulic side

Capt. Mike

It's an '81 -- 27 years old. When was the last time you replaced the feed hoses and reservoir gromets? Or the Master cylinder, for that matter?

Master cylinders are are 2-way to the reservoir as they have to accomodate expansion & contraction. Each stroke does a fill and bleed cycle as the piston passes the ports. If the cylinder is bad or not sealing the ports, they can leak between f. & r. systems (you had dual brake system in '81) so you are perpetually refreshing the problem. Master cylinders are often damaged BY the bleeding because people don't put a stop board under the pedal and move the cylinder beyond it's operating range where it may reach a roughened cylinder bore section or damage the cup lips by running past ports it wasn't designed to cover.

Most prefer to bleed the brakes and then do clutch last but it is not a requirement. Description of change of cylinders in 5/24/04 post above.


New member
Spongy brakes with no visible leak

This week I'm going to replace the master, grommets under the resevoir & 4 flex brake lines to see what happens. Will post results to share. Thanks for your insights.


New member
Spongy brakes with no visible leak fixed

I changed out the master cylinder on my 81 and that appears to have been what caused my spongy brakes, even though I never could find any sign of a leak anywhere. The work was quite easy, follow the Capt. directions above. I also cleaned out my scummy reservoir.

Since VW dealer wanted $660.oo to do the job I guess I had a profitable day. It took two full go rounds to bleed and I'm expecting to bleed 'em again in 200 miles or so. Thanks for the tips and advice!

Bus Depot has taken over 2 weeks to deliver my replacement brake lines. If and when they arrive I'll probably do a change out of them too as it has been 27 years!! Go Westy was super fast on the master cyl. delivery.


New member
Brake fluid leaking from around water tank drain?

Hello everyone, I am new to a westy, just got my 83 1/2. noticed what looks like brake fluid on my garge floor, just in front of rear drive side wheel. Kinda looks like it sprayed? It/s on the frame, and also looks to me like it even might be leaking from around the water tank drain valve, there is alot of fluid and spray around there. Any ideas? somebody please help!!!!!!!!!!!!




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front rotors

I was bleeding my brakes and noticed that the top "bleeding nipple" on the right front rotor was damaged. Looks like it got squished (fatter and shorter then usual). I can't get a hose on there and was wondering if I could switch the top bleeding nipple for the lower drain nipple. Is there anything I have to do seeing that I will loose a lot of fluid out of the rotor or can I just switch the two and bleed the brake like usual and the rotor will fill up again?


New member
Brake fluid leak

Hello. I have an 85 Westy with a brake fluid leak in the drivers seat thats leaking under the clutch pedal. It appears to be leaking from the reservoir tank; the seals look like they are leaking. Funny thing is I replaced the master cylinder almost 2000 miles ago, and have had not leaks or problems with the brakes since-until it got really cold outside. Question is, the only part of the brake system I have not replaced is the booster, which seems to be working fin (Pedal drops about an inch after starting, and good feel on pedal). Could the cold do this? Can I get new seals to fit on the reservoir, or should I buy a whole new master cylinder? Thanks for any input. Brian, from Steamboat CO.


New member
What is this part?

We bought an 87 Westphalia last year (Jetta diesel engine), and the first thing we did was take it into a recommended shop for a safety/reliability inspection (and a few repairs).

This year, after washing the van one day, and checking the spare tire, I noticed a damp patch in the driveway that did not dry. When I went to move van, the brake pedal went right to the floor.

So I checked the brake fluid level (behind the speedometer) and it was empty. I went under the van, and found where it's leaking from - it's coming from a rusty metal tube that is attached to a part that is so rusty it's almost unrecognizable. I've taken a couple of photos of the part that the tube is attached to - I think both will need to be removed.

It's under the right front corner of the vehicle (passenger side). It has several metal tubes coming out of it. If I had to guess, I would say it's the master brake cylinder...

I don't have a lot of experience with mechanical things, and I need to remedy that, driving an old vehicle like this (the starter is acting up as well - it requires a tap with a hammer), so any advice would be gratefully received.



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Capt. Mike

John_Pauline: Just replace the bleeder valve. They get easily damaged from over-tightening and are very inexpensive. If you've got one screwed up, you probably have more.

J.Galt: You could also be leaking from the clutch master cylinder; they feed from the same reservoir. A common error in replacing the master cylinder or reservoir is not to replace the big grommets that seal the reservoir into the master cylinder.

PuppetmanInBC: Pressure regulator. Bentley 47.8-47.9
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New member
Ok, I got an 85 westy and I just had a mechanic fix some brake lines for me (the front brake lines that attach to the calipers, both sides). Before I had a hole on my right brake line and before I noticed the hole, I noticed that the pedal seemed to have excessive play. Before I got the brake lines fixed, with a hole on one of them, the pedal would go all the way to the floor but I would pump the pedal once or twice and then it would return to normal pressure and I could not get the pedal to go to the floor (as it should not). AFTER getting new brake lines, and a flush and fill (and supposedly, bleeding) with new brake fluid I noticed, driving home from the mechanic, that the pedal would go all the way to the floor and even after pumping the pedal, it would still go all the way to the floor. When I got home I checked the brake fluid reservoir and noticed it was filled up higher than the max mark. I siphoned some off to get the brake fluid to be exactly at the max mark and took it for a drive. Now, with the fluid at max, the pedal still goes to the floor the first time I push it and if I pump it it seems to develop a little pressure but I can still push the pedal to the floor. Basically, it seems like my brakes worked better before I got it fixed, even with a hole in the line...

I should maybe mention that the pedal only goes to the floor when the engine is running, with the engine off (no power brakes) the pedal will not depress more than an inch or two on the first press, nor after pumping it...

My brake discs are near the minimum but still over 11mm and my pads are still 6mm thick on both sides, so I assume putting in new pads will not fix the problem.

So what gives? Since the brake fluid was way over max maybe they forgot to bleed it? I am tempted to try bleeding it myself to check that. In the haynes trouble shooting section they say "air in the system." Or is it the master cylinder as capt mike seemed to suggest in his replies to other posts in this forum? Maybe I wore the seals out when the brake fluid was leaking and the pedal went to the floor. I assume the mechanic would have told me if the master cylinder was bad, but then I assume they would have noticed that the pedal goes to the floor after a test drive before giving it back to me. The fact that it worked better before they flushed and filled the brake fluid makes me think they might have just forgotten to bleed it.

any thoughts are appreciated...


New member
take it back to him and have him rebleed it.he must not have driven it and that shows he has no pride in his work,just show me the money.any placed i ever worked you test drove any brake work.


New member
Ok, so I was wrong in my post below. My brake pedal was not going all the way to the floor. I thought it was but it was stopping about an inch short of the floor, still, too much free play. So I took it back to the shop and they re-bled it but they guy said there were no air bubbles when he did the rebleeding. He then manually adjusted the rear drum breaks (that are supposed to be self adjusting but almost never work). Now I have a lot less play (excessive travel) in the brake pedal. I think it was that "star" adjuster on the rear brakes. That seems to have made the difference. Just posting this in case anyone else has a similar problem, excessive travel of the brake pedal, it might be air in the system, might be the master cylinder, (those two are listed in the haynes manual) but it might also be that you have to adjust the star adjuster in the rear brakes (not listed in the troubleshooting section of the haynes). I know this forum prefers bently but the haynes is much less technical and more suited to amateurs...


Brake repairs hydraulic side

I agree with the "slow" movement of fluid probably being better. I am really hooked on the port into the side of the cylinder being at the bottom of the arrangement. In theory, bubbles would be at the top with pressure/bleed port at the bottom...just doesnt make sense. I suppose I could pull the axle assembly out of the car, stand it on end and fill the bottom most cylinder with a syringe, fill the hard line and assemble them with a capped off hard line, flilp the axle on the other end, fill cylinder with syringe, fill hard line and assemble with capped off hard line, put the axle back in the car, connect hard lines to flex line and bleed from there. Maybe one could fill the cylinders with fluid on the bench, put a plug in the banjo bolt hole and re-fit the brake cylinders to the backing plate with the plug in place...then remove plug and attach the brass 90 degree with hard line and bleed from there....

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