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2012 VW Jetta Rear Brake Clicking Noise!

Hey guys, I’ve got a problem and need some help!

I recently bought a 2012 VW Jetta. My first German car, it has been both a really fun learning experience and (more often than not) a nightmare to work on. That said, I still am enjoying the car and intend to keep it for a while.

This past weekend, I took the factory wheels off to sand and paint them black, because I thought the car would look nice with black rims (and it was a lot cheaper than buying a whole new set!) Everything went well, I put them back on, and the car drives perfectly.

Except it doesn’t.

Now, I’ve got a noise coming from the rear passenger side wheel well. I’m not sure exactly what is causing the noise, and while I fancy myself a halfway decent Saturday Mechanic; I cannot diagnose or repair this problem myself. I have little to no experience working on drum brakes. All I know is this: the lug nuts are torqued, and the dealer has taken apart the brakes and informed me that nothing is broken or out of place. This cannot be the case - SOMETHING is making that clicking noise!

More information: it sounds JUST like the clicking noise you get when you forget to tighten your lug nuts and go for a drive, the rim moving around on the wheel studs and that noise it makes- this sounds exactly the same… The “click click click click” sound increases tempo as vehicle speed increases, and in volume when you very lightly apply the brakes and turn either direction. I don’t know what to do, as usual, the closer I get to the dealership’s service manager, the noise fades away.


Do you have hubcaps by any chance? Sometimes when you re-install them they can make a click-click sound when they are not properly seated. Try removing them and see if the noise goes away.

If the lug nuts are tapered you might have them on wrong. I imagine that would allow for some ‘‘play’’ between the wheel and lug nuts. Probably not the case here but thought I’d mention it just in case.

A 2012 Jetta has drum brakes on the rear? That’s surprising. Nothing wrong with that configuration, disc on front/drum on rear is what my Corolla is and works fine, but I thought the trend is toward disks on all four wheels these days.

This noise must be very annoying, especially when you can’t find out the cause. So what to do? hmmm … well, here’s what I’d do if it happened on my Corolla.

  • Remove both rear wheels, do a visual on the suspension components, twist/pull/push the hubs feeling for any play. No play?
  • Reinstall the wheels, making sure to torque the lugs in the recommended cross pattern, and don’t tighten the lugs all at once, do them half tight at first, then 3/4 tight, then to spec torque.
  • The rear is still on jack stands. Turn the wheels by hand, notice any noise?
  • Leave off the wheel covers, take a test drive. Noise still there?
  • Yes? Back off the star wheel to retract the drums slightly on that side. Did this fix it?
  • No? Try switching the rear wheels. Does the noise follow the wheels, or stay on the same side?
  • If it follows the wheel, look for a small rock or pebble lodged in the wheel somewhere.

Hey guys, thank you for your feedback. It has alloy wheels, no hubcaps.

So today, while I was out working (I’m a salesman, so I drive about 1,000 miles a week, and I know a guy nearby) I stopped by a mechanic in Blanchard, OK. Good guy, works mostly on Chevy and Ford, but he’s done some work on VW in the past. Anyway, for $20, he took the wheel off and removed the drum, showing me how everything works and goes together. While he was in there, he sprayed some brake cleaner on everything, and a river of black ran out underneath. Apparently he has seen this happen before, and says that the way VW designed the rear drums there isn’t a good way for the brake dust to get out. This causes it to build up over time, and can pack in areas that rub against the drum as it turns, generating the noise. Sounds weird, but the noise went completely away, and hasn’t returned. So I suppose the moral of the story, for me, is to never go back to the dealer for anything except MAJOR repairs that I cannot even attempt on my own!

Thanks again guys!

Thanks for posting the resolution. I would have never guessed brake dust accumulation would be the cause of wheel noise occurring when not even braking. Glad you got the problem solved. And for $20, what a good deal!