The Mk7 Volkswagen Golf GTI brakes are based around an evolution of over revolution concept, ensuring cost-effective and reliable performance for the sporty hatchback. By utilizing many components from the outgoing PQ35 Mk5/6 chassis, along with some new MQB-specific parts, the Mk7 GTI offers excellent braking performance with very little required maintenance. Because of the modular design, there are many upgrades and aftermarket braking options as well, including some ‘big brake’ options from the higher-end Audi RS and Porsche models.
Mk7 VW GTI Brake Specifications
There are two different braking systems available on the Mk7 GTI, no matter what the trim level. There is the “base” system, standard on most S and SE models, and the ‘Performance Pack,’ which was available as an add-on option or standard, depending on the exact year and model GTI. Both systems use regular steel discs with electronic ABS and stability management and traction control as standard.
Not all Mk7 Volkswagen Golf GTI models come equipped with a brake pad wear sensor, with 2015 models in particular not coming equipped with the sensor option. If delivered with the option, the pad wear sensor is typically installed on the left front inner brake pad.
The base GTI braking system utilizes 312mm ventilated front discs and 272mm solid (non-vented) rear discs, with single-piston sliding calipers at all four corners. These components are a direct carry-over from the Mk6 GTI, and both brake pads and discs are interchangeable between the late Mk6 GTI and base Mk7 GTI braking systems.
The Performance Pack braking system utilizes the majority of the Golf R brake parts, consisting of 340mm ventilated front discs and 310mm ventilated rear discs. However, there are some differences as the Mk7 GTI with Performance Pack utilizes a manual parking brake, and the Golf R uses an electronic parking brake. Because of this, the rear brake pads are not compatible between the R and GTI Performance Pack even though the discs can be used on either application.
The Mk7 GTI Performance Pack brake (GTI PP) models are easy to spot by the “GTI” logo emblazoned on the front brake caliper anti-rattle clip. Checking the rear discs for a vented disc is another clear giveaway. Similar to the base brake system, the discs on the Performance Pack braking system are pulled from older models and are the same as those used on the Mk5 R32, Mk6 Golf R, TTS, and Passat 3.6 4MOTION.
Mk7 VW GTI Rear Brake Differences: Performance Pack VS. Golf R
There are two possible rear brake pad options for the Mk7 GTI models depending on whether it has the Performance Pack or standard base brake package. The standard 272mm solid rear disc brake pads have small integrated anti-rattle springs on the tabs of each brake pad. The 310mm vented Performance Pack rear brake pads have a similar-looking pad shape and tabs, but you’ll notice they have a separate anti-rattle clip inserted into the caliper carrier before the pads are installed, and there is no integrated spring. Although the Mk7 GTI Performance Pack and the Golf R share identical front brake pads, front 340mm discs, and rear 310mm discs, they do not share the same rear brake pad. The friction surface is about the same, but the Golf R uses the electronic rear parking brake, and the pads have noticeably larger guide tabs with hooks.
All Mk7 GTI models use standard DOT 4 brake fluids shared with the clutch hydraulic system on manual transmission-equipped examples. Brake fluid capacity is approximately 1.2 L (1.3 qt) and should be changed three years after delivery and every two years after that point.
All factory GTI brakes use a single-piston caliper on slider pins, with two brake pads per disc. The brake pads are held by the caliper carrier and are specific to the caliper and size of the disc being used.
Brake life on the Mk7 GTI varies greatly depending on the driver and conditions the car sees regularly. The more stop and go and city driving, the more quickly the brakes will wear. Brakes should be checked every 10,000 miles, with a first replacement likely in the 20-40,000 mile range for many users. A GTI that sees a lot of time on the highway may easily see over 60,000-70,000 miles, but like any other wear item, it depends primarily on the driver.
Mk7 VW GTI Brake Service & Repair
There are a few common things to look for on the Mk7 GTI when it comes to brake wear. Assuming the brakes are still offering strong stopping power and don’t have any obvious signs of performance loss, the first thing to look at are the pads themselves. With any of the factory GTI wheels, it should be pretty easy to get an eye on the outside brake pads on all four corners of the car. The minimum thickness on the pad material itself, not including the backing plate, should be at least 2mm.
Keep in mind that inner brake pads will almost always wear more quickly than those easily visible on the outside due to seeing more heat because of less airflow. Because of this, replacing the brake pad set when the exterior pads are worn to approximately 5mm will help to ensure that you don’t wear down to the backing plate on the inside pads. Another rule of thumb is to replace your brake pads when the remaining pad material is slightly less thick than the backing plate itself.
Brake discs are more difficult to judge when it comes to wear, but there are a few easy indicators to help you know when they’ve reached the end of their useful service life. First, if there is a substantial lip on the outer edge of the disc, it is an indication that the disc should be replaced. Wear limits vary depending on the original disc thickness, but 3mm of total disc wear is a generally acceptable range. Heavy grooving on the surface of the disc can indicate uneven pad wear but doesn’t necessarily mean the brakes are in need of replacement.
New brake pads should always be fitted to either new or resurfaced brake discs. Because the wear limits of the discs are so close to as-delivered thickness, for example, 25mm new / 22mm worn on the 312mm GTI front discs, replacing the discs with new every time you replace the pads is generally good practice.
Squealing from your Mk7 GTI’s brakes, although annoying, is not necessarily an indication that they need to be replaced. Squeaking or squealing brakes on your GTI results from the brake pad vibrating at an audible frequency. This could be due to uneven wear, improper break-in, or external dirt, dust, and debris creating issues. As long as the pads have plenty of material, the discs are not obviously worn or damaged, and the car is still stopping as it should, squealing brakes may be annoying, but they are not a requirement for replacement. It’s also worth noting that more aggressive higher performance brake pads are more likely to be noisy.
There are a few options to stop your GTI’s brakes from squealing. The first is to attempt to re-bed the brake pads. Bedding is a process of breaking in the pad and discs surfaces to each other, usually by slowly bringing the brakes up to an even temperature with several slow and gradual stops, followed by several hard stops. This should aid in distributing an even layer of pad material onto the disc surface. There are many methods for bedding in brake pads, so check with your brake pad manufacturer for their recommendations for the best results.
Finally, removing the current brake pads and cleaning and re-lubing the carriers and sliders can help to free up the pads and avoid any sticking or vibration, and therefore noise.
A common complaint with any disc-brake equipped car like the Mk7 GTI is‘ warped rotors,’ which results in uneven stopping and a physical pulsing feeling you can feel in the car and sometimes in the brake pedal. Warped discs or rotors are usually the result of uneven brake pad deposits on the disc surface, which can be caused by any number of things. First, low quality, low-carbon discs will heat and cool unevenly as they’re used, causing ‘hot spots’ on the disc surface. The brake pad material will stick to the hot spots, causing a high spot on the surface and that feeling of a warped rotor.
Aside from using premium brake pads and rotors on your GTI, if you’ve been using the brakes a lot and they’re hot, don’t immediately stop and sit with your foot on the brakes if you can help it. This time spent stationery with hot brakes is the easiest way to cause uneven pad material transfer.
Next up is brake fluid. Brake fluid is hygroscopic, which means that it absorbs moisture from the atmosphere. Old brake fluid has a lower boiling point and more compressibility than fresh fluid. As the fluid ages, and especially if you use the brakes a lot and get the fluid hot, the pedal may get soft and spongy. Flushing the brake fluid out every 2 years, or less if you are exceptionally hard on the brakes in your car, will help to ensure the longest life from the hydraulic components and the best performance.
Although it is extremely uncommon, leaks in the braking system can occur. On a Mk7 GTI, this is almost certainly going to be due to physical damage or some kind of servicing error, but in the event that it does occur, the Mk7 GTI does have a low brake fluid warning light and indicator. Excessively worn pads can also cause this light to come on, but if you are experiencing a ‘soft’ brake pedal that goes to the floor or a pedal you need to pump to maintain pressure, you should immediately stop the car and inspect for problems.
Mk7 VW GTI OE Brake Alternatives
While Genuine Volkswagen brake parts are of high quality, they also tend to be more expensive than many quality OE alternatives. No one component is more or less important when it comes to quality and performance. The three major pieces of brake pads, brake discs, and brake fluid all play their part one way or the other. Thankfully there are several good brands available for replacement brake parts for the Mk7 GTI.
There are several excellent brake disc manufacturers to choose from for your GTI regardless of whether it is equipped with the base model brakes or Performance Pack option. Of the many brands available, Zimmerman, ATE, Pagid, and Meyle offer some of the best replacement discs on the market. We even use off the shelf Zimmerman brake discs on the rear of our GTI TCR race cars. You can bet that if it’s good enough to stand up to the use and abuse that we put them through on the track, they’re a great choice for replacing your factory GTI discs.
Brake pads are one area where things can be especially overwhelming when it comes to choosing replacement parts. There are so many brands and compounds; it’s easy to get overwhelmed with choices. Basically, you want to decide if you want a low-dust pad option or not and narrow your selection from there. If the dust from the factory brake pads doesn’t bother you, there are excellent semi-metallic OE-style alternatives from Pagid, Textar, TRW, and ATE.
For lower dust without compromising on performance, a ceramic brake pad might be the better choice. Ceramic pads tend to be very quality-dependent when it comes to achieving decent braking performance, as some low-quality variants may compromise stopping power to achieve lower dust. We’ve found that TRW, ATE, and EBC offer ceramic low-dust formulations, which can still stop your GTI like a GTI.
There are several quality choices when it comes to choosing DOT 4 brake fluid. Pentosin Super offers excellent quality for the money, while ATE Type 200 offers a higher boiling temperature and is, therefore, better suited to sportier driving. Both meet all requirements for the Mk7 GTI and offer long life and consistent performance.
Mk7 VW GTI Brake Upgrades
If you’re a driving enthusiast and enjoy putting your Mk7 GTI to work on backroads or on the occasional weekend autocross or track day, there are many performance options available, from mild to wild.
Performance brake discs generally don’t contribute to substantially better braking on their own. Slotted or cross-drilled sport discs, while certainly looking the part, offer a few potential upsides aside from more aggressive looks. We’ll look at slotted discs first and then discuss drilled options.
First and foremost, the slots offer a stronger initial bite on brake application. This physically wears the pads more quickly but allows for more confident braking regardless of the brake temperature or pad type. It also offers a means to quickly and effectively evacuate water from the disc surface in instances of heavy rain. Lastly, slots can help to keep the pad surfaces fresh and wearing in an even fashion.
High quality slotted brake discs are available for the Mk7 GTI from Stoptech and EBC Brakes. The Stoptech discs are directional as well.
Drilled rotors are what many think of first when it comes to performance brakes. Drilled brake disc rotors come as standard on many performance cars, and when done properly by a manufacturer, they can offer some performance benefits. First, like a slotted disc, they offer a mild increase in bite compared to a plain disc. They also aid with water evacuation, but unlike a slotted disc, they may result in less-even wear of the pads themselves.
Additionally, in extreme use, the holes can introduce cracking of the disc surface. Some light cracking of the surface can be expected with racing brake pads with any disc type, but the chance of a crack that can cause a major failure is higher with drilled discs, generally speaking. As a rule, if you use cross-drilled brake discs on track, be sure to inspect them regularly for signs of cracking. If you see a crack and either joins two holes or runs from a hole to the edge of the disc, it should be changed immediately.
Both slotted and drilled discs can result in more mechanical noise from the brakes on application. This is usually more of a ‘whirring’ noise and is just a result of the pad material being pressed over the holes or slots as the disc rotates.
If you want to significantly improve the performance of your Mk7 GTI’s brakes, upgrading to a better pad is by far the best money spent. The brake pad compound does more in determining the optimum operating temperature and overall temperature range capacity of the brake system and is the primary difference between “race” brakes and street car brakes. It’s worth noting that very few performance brake pads are low dust, but the trade-off is more than worth it if you’re looking for the best.
For street performance and an occasional autocross, there are several good pads out there for the Mk7 GTI that are cost-effective and work well for casual performance use. Hawk HPS, Stoptech Sport, and EBC Green pads are both lower dust, street performance pads, which are long-wearing and offer a reasonable improvement over factory pads. EBC Yellow are higher dust but offer substantially more stopping power for street and autocross use.
EBC Yellow can be used as a good entry-level track-day pad but are very sensitive to being pushed beyond their maximum temperature range. They will wear very quickly when this happens, so if you’re on your way to being a full-blown track rat, stepping into a more capable pad is highly recommended.
Mk7 VW GTI Track Ready Braking Parts
There are very few pads that can be safely used on the street while also being capable of solid performance on track. The Ferodo DS2500 is probably the best dual-purpose brake pad available for the Mk7 GTI. They have good stopping power when cold, they are not excessively dusty or noisy, and can hold up to repeated heavy track use when paired with a proper racing brake fluid. We use these on our own project Mk7 GTI and have been blown away by the performance and the longevity of these pads.
Dedicated racing pads from Hawk, such as the DTC series, Pagid, or boutique racing brake pad brands Race Technologies, G-Lock, or Carbotech, can offer higher overall performance but at a cost. The pads are more expensive, fitment can be limited, they are very dusty and noisy, and they will wear brake rotors excessively when used on the street, below their operating range. For this reason, we don’t recommend these for mixed-use vehicles or for use on the street.
A proper performance brake fluid is an inexpensive way to raise the overall temperature capacity and performance of your Mk7 GTI’s brakes. Even if you don’t track your GTI, a higher temp brake fluid can make a difference when it comes to driving performance. ATE Type 200 is a DOT-legal formulation of their old Super Blue Racing fluid and is a good bang for the buck if you plan on street use only.
More modern formulations offer a big increase in temperature capacity and performance. LIQUI MOLY has a superb racing brake fluid available in small 250ml bottles, which saves you from throwing away new but unused fluid. Motul RBF600 and RBF660 are the industry standard for most HDPE and club racing drivers and offer the highest performance for the price. Castrol SRF is the best of the best, literally the same brake fluid they use in professional racing series around the world, but it is quite expensive.
The final piece of the puzzle for upgrading the brakes of their Mk7 GTI is swapping the factory plain rubber brake lines for a set of braided stainless steel brake lines. The factory brake lines are stout and do a fine job but will expand slightly under heavy use. The reality is this is pretty minimal, but it does add to the spongy feeling of factory brakes, and the reinforced braided stainless steel lines offer a stronger and more firm pedal feel. High-quality lines, such as those from Stoptech, are DOT approved and safe for both on and off-track use.
Mk7 VW GTI Big Brake Kits
A ‘big brake’ kit is another popular modification on the Mk7 GTI and usually means that the kit is put together with an aftermarket multi-piston caliper rather than simply being bigger than the factory. A multi-piston caliper can offer improved cooling and more even pad pressure over the factory GTI brakes, and of course, they look great behind a nice set of wheels. Some kits also offer easier brake pad changes, making the swap from street to track pads a much easier process. Some modern BBK kits have gone to monoblock calipers in search of the stiffest design, which makes swapping a pad more or less the same process as the factory brakes.
The pads supplied with 99% of the ‘big brake’ kits on the market are more in the range of a street performance pad, so merely upgrading to one of these kits is not enough to get the best performance. As mentioned above, better brake pads are the key to the best braking performance for your Mk7 GTI. Stoptech and Brembo make some of the best complete aftermarket BBK kits, with a huge range of brake pads and service parts available. There are plenty of boutique brands as well, but it’s worth looking at the availability of spare brake pads, caliper rebuild kits, and replacement brake discs before making your decision.
The factory Performance Pack brakes on the Mk7 GTI are very tough to beat, so if your GTI is equipped with these, upgrading pads, discs, and fluids is more than enough for most owners. If your GTI is equipped with the base 312mm/272mm brakes, upgrading to a set of Performance Pack brakes is a nice OEM+ option. They are quiet, service-free, and with the brake pads and fluid are more than capable of even heavy on-track use.
The European-only GTI Clubsport features trick lightweight cross-drilled dual-cast 340mm discs, which are similar to those used on the TT RS and 991 Porsche GT3 models. By using aluminum for the bell and spokes, and the heavier and more durable cast iron for the friction surface, a dual-cast disc removes unsprung weight and offers the performance benefit of a floating disc without the cost. These can be used on any Performance Pack GTI or Golf R with the factory 340mm front brakes and weigh up to 20% less than an equivalent size standard cast disc.
Thanks to the modular design put into use on the Volkswagen and Audi lines in the mid-2000s, there are some higher-performance options able to be borrowed from other models for the Mk7 GTI and Golf R. The first kit is the Brembo 4-piston 370mm braking system from the 8J TT RS, which although popular is harder to source these days thanks to the age and relative rarity of the TT RS model.
The current most popular option, which is a lot more economical and easier to fit behind smaller wheels, is to use the 4-piston Brembo calipers from the Porsche Macan or Audi TTS and match them to the 345mm R32 front brake discs. Both the 8J TT RS and Macan / TTS kits use the popular “1001” pad plate used by many other performance models such as the Subaru STI, Lancer EVO, and multiple GM products, including the Corvette. It is worth noting that these kits play well with the brake master cylinder size on the Mk7 GTI, and pedal feel, travel, and effort remain in the correct range.
Be wary of the popular DIY big brake kits, such as those using Brembo 17z and 18z 6-piston calipers from the Porsche Cayenne, Audi Q7, and VW Touareg. While these are physically able to be bolted onto the spindles of the Mk7, they have a larger piston surface area and will result in mismatched bias, a longer pedal, and less real braking performance. They look awesome, but they’re not the best performing choice for the GTI.
Special Tools Needed For Mk7 VW GTI Brake Replacement
Replacing the brakes on your Mk7 GTI is one of the easiest jobs to DIY in the comfort of your own driveway, garage, or even in the street in front of your apartment. Spending a few hours doing this job yourself with one of our Zimmerman/Textar brake kits could easily save you as much as $600 compared to a normal dealership service. That said, there are a few tools you’ll need in order to complete the job safely.
- Floor jack
- Jack stands
- Caliper compressor tool or large adjustable pliers (front)
- Rotating caliper compressor tool (Mk7 GTI rear)
- Electronic service tool (Mk7 Golf R rear w/ electronic parking brake)
- ¼" drive, ⅜" drive, ½" drive ratchets
- ½” Breaker bar or long ratchet
- ½” Torque wrench
- 13mm socket or T45 Torx (front and rear brake caliper bolts)
- 14mm triple square socket (rear brake caliper carriers)
- 17mm thin-wall protected deep socket (wheel lugs)
- 21mm socket (front brake caliper carrier bolts)
- T30 Torx socket (brake disc set screw)
- Needle nose pliers or thin 15mm open-end wrench (front and rear caliper sliders)
- Brake assembly lube/paste
- Thread locker (blue)
Mk7 VW GTI Brake Torque Specs
- Rotor set screw: 3 ft-lb (4 N m)
- Brake caliper carrier to spindle - 148 ft-lb (200 N m) (Clean if reusing)
- Brake caliper to carrier sliders - 26 ft-lb (35 N m) (replace)
- Rotor set screw: 3 ft-lb (4 N m)
- Brake caliper carrier to spindle - 66 ft-lb (90 N m) + 90 (replace)
- Brake caliper to carrier sliders - 26 ft-lb (35 N m) (replace)
The Mk7 GTI is equipped with an excellent braking system from the factory. Whether you are looking to maintain your GTI’s standard brakes, source a lower dust option, or move to something that offers higher performance braking for the street or for the track, there are many great options available. Plus, with the right tools, it is an easy job to complete at home and save money.
If you have any questions, leave them in the comments section below.
FCP Euro's Event Director by day, writer and contributor by night, and wanna-be race car driver on the weekends. Nathan has been working in the VW and Audi performance aftermarket for nearly two decades, and dabbled with Porsche and BMW. He also used to write under the pen-name of Alex Rogan for magazines like Eurotuner, Performance VW, Total 911, and European Car. He has a Cornflower Blue Rabbit Edition GTI daily driver which is surprisingly still mostly stock, and a Mk5 GTI track car which is mostly not. ••• Instagram: @njbrown55