My sister’s MOT is due in a couple of weeks and asked if I could replace the front brake pads on her Volkswagon Polo 1.2 since it was the only advisory on the last MOT. I thought it would be a great opportunity to kick start my automotive category on this website by replacing the brake pads and writing a ‘how to’ guide.

Incase your wondering, no I’m not a qualified mechanic and luckily here in the UK atleast, you don’t need to be one in order to replace a pair of brake pads. What I’m saying is that if you have a Volkswagon Polo in need of some new brake pads and your generally a hands on person then with the right tools you should be able to do it too with little to no problems!

What tools do I need to change the brake pads on a Volkswagon Polo mk5 1.2 (2009-2017)

The tools needed are fairly basic and there’s a good chance that you will already have most of them at home if you’re a DIY person. If not, then there’s a good chance that the cost of tools needed are less than what you would expect to pay a mechanic’s labour to replace the brake pads for you, making it a no brainer to purchase and do the job yourself! Although to be fair, even if the tools needed were initially more expensive, you’d only end up saving money in the long run as you continue to work on your car.

Let’s have a look at the tools needed to change the brake pads on a Volkswagon Polo mk5 1.2 below;

  • A car jack to lift the car
  • Axle stands to safely keep the car in the air once lifted
  • A 17mm socket/wrench to remove the wheel nuts (if on standard wheels/nuts)
  • A 1/2″ ratchet accompanied by an Allen key socket set to remove the brake caliper slider pins
  • A g-clamp to push the brake piston back into the caliper
  • Oh and although not strictly tools, don’t forget your brake pads and silicone lubricating brake grease!

It’s likely that you will have a car jack and wheel nut wrench already equipped in the boot area of your Volkswagon Polo but be sure to check before making room in your diary to replace the brake pads. There have been many times that I’ve worked on cars with the car jack and wrench missing!

If you’re missing any of the above tools needed to replace your front brake pads then below are images of the needed items. Each image contains a link, which when clicked on will direct you to the product on the Amazon website. As an Amazon affiliate partner, I receive a commission for any purchase made when being directed from a link on this website.

A car jack to lift the car.

Axle stands to safely keep your car elevated.

A wrench to remove the wheels.

A socket set including a 1/2″ ratchet and hex sockets to remove your slider pins.

A g-clamp to push your brake piston back in.

Step by step instructions on how to change the front brake pads on a Volkswagon Polo mk5 1.2 (2009-2017)

Ok so you’ve got your new brake pads, silicone lubricant brake grease and all of the tools needed to change your brake pads so all that’s left now is to start working on them! Below is my full guide on how to change the front brake pads on a Volkswagon Polo mk5 1.2.

Step 1. Prepare your car

Safety always comes first so before getting started, it’s a good idea to make sure your car is safe to work on. Make sure your VW Polo is on a level ground, with the handbrake pulled up tight and put your car into 1st gear just to give that extra little bit of security.

I would also recommend lifting your bonnet and removing your brake fluid cap before getting started and leaving your bonnet open as a reminder to put the brake fluid cap back on. When replacing your brake pads, you will need to push the piston back into the caliper and as you do this the brake fluid will rise (we will get into this more below). With the cap removed, there will be no pressure build up and no risk of damaging anything along your brake lines.

Step 2. Support your VW Polo with your car jack

Everyone has their own way of working on cars that works for them and mine is to start off by lifting the car just enough to support its weight without lifting the wheel from the ground. This way, I can safely loosen the nuts without putting too much pressure on the wheel since it will be the jack taking the weight of the car.

Step 3. Loosen the wheel nuts

Now that the weight of the car is being supported by the car jack, it’s time to loosen the nuts with your 17mm socket wrench, although the size of the wheel nuts can differ if the wheels on your Volkswagon Polo are no longer original. At this stage, just loosen the wheel nuts a little.

Step 4. Remove the wheel

Now that your wheel nuts are a little loosened, it’s time to jack your car up higher until the wheel is off the ground before removing the wheel nuts completely and taking off the wheel. Now you will be left with nothing but the brake caliper and disc sitting in front of you.

Step 5. Remove the brake caliper

In order to remove the brake caliper, you first need to remove the 2 slider pins holding it in place. You can loosen and remove these with a hex (Allen key) socket attached to a 1/2″ ratchet but you will need to remove the rubber dust caps to gain access. This is easily done with a thin flathead screwdriver.

If you feel like you are forever loosening the slider pins then this is because they will partially stay inside the brake carrier when fully loosened. Just gently pry them out with a flathead screw driver.

With the slider pins out, it’s time to remove the front brake caliper which may be trickier than it seems but only because they can feel stuck with the old brake pads holding them against your brake discs. Some people recommend pushing the piston back in slightly by wedging a screwdriver between the brake disc and brake pad, forcing the piston to go back inside the caliper but this risks damaging your brake disc. Instead I inserted a screwdriver between the brake carrier and brake caliper and pryed it off that way. Alternatively, with enough jiggling it should eventually come free!

Oh and be sure to not just let the brake caliper hang from the brake hose! I usually use a bungee cord to keep it elevated but on the Volkswagon Polo I was able to just rest the caliper back onto the brake carrier with no problems.

Step 6. Remove your old brake pads

Each brake pad is only held in place by a bracket. A good tug should free them but if not then a screwdriver should pry them free. The rear brake pads bracket is inserted into the brake piston with the front brake pad being wedged into the brake caliper. This was the first time I had seen this set up actually!

Be careful not to mix the pads up! The brake pads are identical in shape but the clips differ depending on which side of the brake disc they go!

Step 6. Push the piston back into the brake caliper

As the old brake pads on your Volkswagon Polo wear down and become thinner, the piston needs to keep contact with the brake pads and therfore comes out as far as the brake pads thin down. This means that in order to fit your new, thick brake pads, you need to push the piston back in to allow room for them. There are a number of ways to do this but my weapon of choice is to just use a simple g-clamp!

Step 7. Insert your new brake pads

Before inserting your new brake pads be sure to grease up the back of them including the clips, being careful not to get any on the pad itself. And remember when inserting your new brake pads that the the clips differ depending on which side of the disc they go. The new brake pads purchased actually came colour coded with the silver clips going into the piston, behind the brake disc and the outer brake pad going into the caliper being black. These colours matched the colour coding on the old pads so I wonder if they are all supplied this way regardless of the manufacturer!

Step 8. Put everything back together and repeat the process on the other side!

Now the hard bit is out of the way it’s time to put everything back together in reverse order, although there are a couple of key points to mention here!

Firstly, before inserting your slider pins back into the back of the brake caliper make sure to re-grease them with the silicone lubricating brake grease which will allow them to move freely and deter them from seizing in the future.

The threads for the slider pins on the brake caliper and brake carrier can be hard to match up so just take a proper look with a torch before making any adjustments. I used a flathead screwdriver to adjust the brake caliper where needed. Oh and the bottom of the Volkswagon Polo brake caliper has to hook onto the inside of the brake carrier in order for the threads to match up. There’s 5 minutes of my time I won’t get back!

Step 9. Safety first!

I saved this bit for the end just so that it could have its own heading and get your attention! It doesn’t matter whether it’s on a Volkswagon Polo or any other car for that matter but after you finish changing the brake pads on each wheel, make sure you pump the brake pedal until it gets hard. This is really important!

Do you remember when we pushed the piston back in to allow room for the new brake pads? Well that piston won’t be making contact with your new brake pads until you pump that brake pedal! Failure in doing this means that you aren’t going to be able to stop the next time you drive your car!

Once you are finished replacing the front brake pads on your Volkswagon Polo and the brake pedal has been pumped, take your car on a slow and careful test drive just to make sure that the brakes are fully operational!

My thoughts on changing the front brake pads on a Volkswagon Polo mk5 1.2 (2009-2017)

Out of all of the brake pads I’ve changed, the VW Polo’s ones certainly has one of the easier brake pads to replace with any hands on person and the right tools being able to do it.

I believe the brake pads cost around the £20 mark and took me just over an hour to change with all of the tools at the ready. Considering how many mechanics are charging over £100 (my sister was quoted £120) I’d say that’s quite the saving, even if it had taken me 2 or even 3 hours to complete!