So I was driving and upon returning home I noticed the rear passenger wheel was smoking a fair bit and was very hot, this was accompanied by a nasty rubbery burning smell. I have a vw golf 1.9 tdi done 133k miles. This car has just given me too many problems recently, the pads and discs seem to wear almost every year in the last few years and I have no idea why and neither does any garage I take it to. I do only around 6-8k miles a year and do not brake excessively. What I really want to know is how I could about diagnosing the smoking wheel problem as I've had enough of spending money on this car and if at all possible I would rather attempt to fix it myself. What could the problem be and what types of checks would I need to do to find the problem? Btw the rear discs, pads, and calipers were replaced only earlier this year and that time the calipers had seized up.

  • Did you perhaps drive with the parking brake on?
    – marcelm
    Commented Oct 9, 2019 at 10:52
  • I did ask myself that at the time, and honestly I couldn't remember but I'm more sure that I did not have it on. Usually if I attempt to drive off with the parking brake on the car does a jerky thing so I would realise.
    – Muq
    Commented Oct 9, 2019 at 11:47

1 Answer 1


These things are unfortunately more common with VW than they should be. First, what year?

So the first most likely cause is that your caliper is not retracting when you drive the car. That could be a "seized caliper" but more often it is a cable that is not moving smoothly, leaving the parking brake slightly on. The second most likely problem is that the parking brake mechanism has enough corrosion so that it is sticking a little.

If it's a cable issue, they are cheap parts ($13 as I recall). If it's the mechanism, you can lube it a bit, and operate it a bit and see if that will free it up. VW also has a spring used on some calipers, which will help return your parking brake to the OFF position. In my experience, I have had to do both flexing/lubing and the springs, and it still does not always free up. Some of my many VWs are worse than others. The 99.5 jetta is the worst.

One additional preventative thing I do on many cars, is slightly grind the side of the pads. This makes them a little smoother and helps the pads retract, and not get hung on the glide surfaces.

The fact that you drive so little has me concerned that you may have parts seizing up, or at least getting sticky and not moving freely.

You might want to say what year the VW is, and what your climate is.

  • It's a 2007, TDI S. I'll be honest i only know as far as how to get the wheel off and after that I'm not too clued up, but I'm willing to learn. I'll look into how to check the cable
    – Muq
    Commented Oct 9, 2019 at 13:40
  • There are a couple of VW forums which can help. One is dedicated to TDIs.
    – mongo
    Commented Oct 9, 2019 at 15:58
  • I have not worked on a 2007, but using a vice grip type pliers, grab the bar which the cable goes through, and make sure that you can tighten the brake (like shorten the cable) and then loosen the cable and have the mechanism move. It's OK to use a little penetrating oil, but obviously not on the friction areas for the brake. If things are stiff, you will have to work them a bit. Make mental note of the direction which releases the brake, so you can poke in there and take off the tension should you find the wheel getting hot. If you think you have it working, exercise from the handbrake.
    – mongo
    Commented Oct 9, 2019 at 18:09

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