Installing and Removing handbrake cables in a VW Golf MK5

Article Date: 29/08/18

One of the things highlighted in my previous MOT's was that the handbrake cable had very little reserve travel left on them. Basically meaning the cables were stretched to their limits and eventually would fail. I could also tell the handbrake cables needed doing anyway because as a recent shopping trip I started rolling backwards even with the handbrake cable applied pretty much all the way

Now this article isn't a word for word "How to replace your handbrake cables on a VW Golf MK5", but it will have enough information to make your task easier. The reason that it's not a full guide is because I encountered problems along the way which I had to sort out because I didn't have this information at hand and I had to get the car ready for MOT, but multiple issues appeared which slowed me down dramatically and I don't have access to a garage with lifts.

Tools needed to replace Handbrake Cables on a VW Golf MK5

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Part numbers I used to replace the handbrake cables in my MK5 Golf. I recommend you check them for your own car before purchasing to make sure the cables are the same size, as manufacturers like to change variations without telling people

Prices below were what I paid at the time of writing this article when purchasing them directly from Volkswagen


Removing and replacing the handbrake cables on a Golf MK5

This isn't a full guide, because I wasn't taking a lot of pictures when I first did this. If your car has an armrest you will need to look at the instructions for removing the armrest, the procedure is slightly different


Installing the handbrake cables on a Golf MK5 (inc. fitting new guide tubes)

If you managed to remove your handbrake cables without having issues with guide tubes, just go straight to Step 7.
Steps 1-6 are just in relation to installation of new guide tubes

  1. Remove the rear seat (pull hard at the front corners, there's metal U hooks holding them), then pull upwards as they're held in velcro you will hear ripping noises. The back of the seats are held on a rear facing U clip, you have to push the seat backwards whilst lfting up to "unhook" them ..... (WARNING, they're a pain in the arse to install again). After you have done this remove the seat by manoeuvering it over the ISO fix connectors and seat belts
  2. After the rear seat is removed, you will need to remove the trim at the base of the door, to allow access to the carpet, these are just on popper clips so give them a hard tug. You will need to unclip the plastic coming down from the back of the seats first as it slots inside it

Install new grommets as required underneath car

Insert the new handbrake cable into the car, with new guides it should be a straight install


Adjusting the handbrake cables in a Golf MK5

  1. With the handbrake cables now fitted to the car, turn the compensator (make sure it's kept level), until the handbrake stops are 4-5mm away from the caliper (The wheels should be spinning freely at this point)
  2. Now pull up on the handbrake 4-clicks, you should feel tension
  3. The wheels should now be locked on by the handbrake, if they're not fully locked, or seem a bit weak, simply increase the compensator a few more turns and then try again.

  1. The ideal handbrake should be fully locked at 4-clicks. Any more than this adds undue stress to the cables.


Possible problems you may encounter doing handbrake cables in a Golf MK5

I can't pull my handbrake cables out they're stuck

Ok, if it's like my cable guides, part of the old handbrake (a hard piece of plastic) will have broken off or be wedged inside the tube. The best way to remove it will be grip the guide with a pair of pliers (gently just enough to hold it), then use another pair of pliers and grip the hard plastic, twisting it back and forth to work it loose from the tube. This should then allow you to remove it

Alternatively another option, is to use a hack saw or bolt cutters on the handbrake cable chopping off the end near the compensator. Then using a drill and drilling out the hard plastic so it makes a hole big enough to install your new handbrake, this will then allow you to install the handbrakes, without messing around lifting carpets and make it a 30 min job

Handbrake cables have been fitted, but they're still slack

I can generally think of only two things causing this. First thing is that you have purchased the wrong cables for the car. For reference the standard cables in the 1K MK5 Golf Chassis (part number - ) are 1445mm in Length, a few mm either way isn't too much of an issue (i.e +/- 10mm), but a big variation would be too short to fit to the car.

As a guess, I'd say the shortest cables you could fit to the car would be around 1420mm in Length, as the routing in the car shortens them. Now, the SECOND reason (and the reason I put more emphasis on this), are the guide tubes have been cut on the car. When I worked on mine, I thought the guide tubes simply routed the cable into the handbrake and because they had a piece of plastic wedged inside them (which turned out to be part of my old handbrake). I couldn't simply pull it out so thought to fit my new handbrake I needed to cut it. Just to clarify, they DON'T just route the handbrake cables. They also add tension and length to the handbrake cables. So under any circumstances DO NOT CUT THE GUIDE TUBES!

If you have cut the guide tubes, just order some new ones (they're about £8 each from the Dealer / TPS), or on sites like eBay you can purchase them online. Some people have bodged them with washers to make up the length. I personally wouldn't, but hey, if you're desperate and it's short notice only thing I can suggest as a quick "temporary" fix. Or put in a piece of copper tubing to make up the length you need. Seriously though, don't be a cheap ass. Buy new tubes

The handbrake cables are fitted, one wheel locks and the other doesn't

I encountered this problem. Firstly, pull the handbrake lever (or get someone to do it for you), look under the car and on the caliper. Make sure the actuator arm of the caliper is moving, and the handbrake cable isn't snagged or caught.

If the cable and arm itself are moving, remove the caliper and manually pump the lever to make sure the piston comes out, it if doesn't the piston (or mechanism) has failed and you will need to replace the caliper

I fitted new brakes to my car and fully wound back the piston, but I had this problem. The cable was perfect and I suspected the piston hadn't fully came out or the caliper mechanism had gone. I manually pumped the mechanism a few more times and the piston eventually came out and locked the wheel