Regardless of what year or model Volkswagen you own, a pulsing brake pedal is a sure sign that there’s an issue that needs to be addressed fairly quickly. Normally, a pulsing brake pedal doesn’t signify an immediate big problem, but it should be fixed as soon as possible before it turns into one and your safety is put to risk.
What’s Going On?
The pulsation on your Volkswagen’s brake pedal is either due to an issue with your brake system or your suspension.
Brake Rotors: Typically, a pulsation in the brake pedal is a symptom of “warped” rotors. Multiple things can cause rotors to become uneven, but the most frequent issue is heavy braking. Pad material is transferred from the pads to the rotor surface during heavy braking, but that transfer is uneven. Thus, the surface becomes uneven. This unevenness is commonly referred to as “warping,” but in fact the rotors are not warped…they’ve just got some excess pad material on them.
Pulsation in the brake pedal is felt due to the brake pads not being able to grab the surface of rotor evenly. If the rotor surface has as little as three one thousandths of an inch of uneveness, the brake pedal can pulse…especially when light braking is applied.
To fix a warped/uneven rotor, you need to have them “turned” or resurfaced. You also want to make sure that the unevenness on the rotor isn’t the result of some brake system problem.
Other Causes of Pulsing Brakes
Suspension Bushings: Worn bushings on your lower control arms can cause a pulsation in your brake pedal, similar to warped rotors. If you have your brake rotor and pads measured and both come out okay, it could be your worn bushings. It would also be beneficial to check inner and outer tie rod ends, and your ball joints, too, depending on your vehicles mileage.
Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS): If you’re braking on an icy or slippery surface, your VW’s ABS system will activate and pulse the brakes very rapidly. If you feel this sensation in the brake pedal and you’re not on a slippery surface, it could be that your ABS wheel speed sensors are malfunctioning. It could also be that the road is more slippery than you think it is.
If the sensors are to blame, there will usually be a check engine code (but not always).
Don’t Mess Around When It Comes To Your Brakes
When a vehicle has a brake problem yet still manages to stop well enough, there’s a tendency among many in the driving population to put off a brake check-up until the next oil change or regularly scheduled service. Don’t be one of these people. Your brakes are critical to your safety, and something as innocuous as an uneven rotor could be a symptom of a major problem.
What’s more, even if your brakes don’t have a major problem, it’s almost always cheaper to fix a brake problem now than later.
So, if you’re having any sort of brake problems at all, it’s time to either a) get out your tools and diagnose the problem yourself or b) get to your local shop for a brake check-up. Considering that most repair shops will check your brakes free of charge, there’s no reason to hesitate.