As a mechanic, one of the most common questions I get from Volkswagen owners is, “Why is my VW brake pad warning light on?”.
In this article, I am going to explain what causes this light to come on your VW and how you can reset it. let’s get to it.
What is the Brake Pad Warning on a VW?
Understanding the meaning of the brake pad warning light on your VW is crucial before addressing its cause and resetting it.
Brake pads play a crucial role in stopping your car. When you apply the brakes, they press against the brake rotors, reducing the speed of your vehicle until it comes to a complete stop.
On Volkswagen models, the brake pads are fitted with a sensor that notifies the car’s computer when they need replacing due to wear and tear.
When this sensor reaches that point, it sends out a signal to turn on the brake pad warning light and alert you that your brakes need changing.
VW Brake Pad Warning Light Causes
Based on my experience, there are three primary situations that trigger the VW brake pad warning light to illuminate. These scenarios include:
1. Worn Brake Pads:
One of the most frequent reasons for the brake pad warning light to turn on is due to the brakes being worn down to a specific point, which is typically when only 20-30% of the original thickness is left.
If your VW brake pads are worn down to this point, the sensor will sense that the pad thickness is less than it should be and trigger the warning light.
2. Bad Brake Pad Sensor(s):
If you recently changed the brake pads on your vehicle (Or the thickness of your brake pads is within the normal range), then it’s possible that one or more of the brake pad sensors have failed.
If the brake pad sensor(s) on your VW malfunctions, the car’s computer will not be able to accurately assess the amount of wear on the brake pads.
This can result in the inability to detect the thickness of the brake pad.
This means that the warning light can come on even though you have not worn down your brake pads past the recommended range.
3. Low Brake Fluid:
In some cases, low brake fluid can cause the brake warning light to come on.
The fluid needs to be at the proper level in order for the system to function properly.
If it is low, then there will not be enough fluid to properly pressurize the brakes and power them up when needed.
How to the VW Brake Pad Warning Light
Now that I have explained what causes the VW brake pad warning light to come on, let’s look at how to fix the problem.
Replace the Brake Pads
The first thing you should do when the light comes on your dashboard is to physically check the brake pads for wear.
Typically the brake pads on your Volkswagen from 25,000 to 70,000 Miles (~ 40 000 to 112 000 KM).
It depends on how much you drive and how heavy your foot is when braking.
If the pads are worn down too far they will need to be replaced before they cause damage to other parts of the vehicle like calipers, rotors, or drums.
Check the Brake Pad Sensor
If the brake pads are relatively new and you get the warning light, then chances are good that the brake pad sensor is faulty.
If that is the case, then you will have to replace the sensors only, fortunately, they are easy to replace and not expensive.
Check the Brake Fluid Level
Finally, ensure that the brake fluid level is correct. If it is low, then you will have to add more brake fluid.
The Volkswagen brake fluid reservoir is marked with a brake fluid level indicator.
Make sure that fluid is between the minimum and maximum levels marked on the indicator.
If you have to add fluid, then do not overfill it; just add enough fluid so that it reaches the marks on the indicator.
VW Brake Pad Warning Light Reset
Now, let’s look at how to reset the message from your dashboard.
There are two ways to reset the message. The first is by using a scan tool and the second is by disconnecting and reconnecting the battery. Let’s look at how to reset the message using a scan tool.
If you have a scan tool (preferably OBD Eleven), then you can reset the brake pad warning light using it.
All you have to do is connect your scan tool to your car’s OBD port. Next, turn on the ignition but do not start the engine.
Then, select “Diagnostics” and then “Clear fault codes” or something similar.
Disconnect the Battery
If you do not possess a scan tool, resetting the brake pad warning light can be done by disconnecting both battery cables from the battery and leaving them off for at least 5 minutes.
Afterward, briefly touch the cables together for approximately a second to discharge the capacitor that stores the code.
Once done, reconnect the battery, start your car, and check if the warning light has disappeared.