In the last couple of months, my brakes have been making a slight grinding noise after starting out every morning, or if the engine is cold. At first I thought it was the rear brakes, but it turned out by the Midas brake specialists, that the rear brakes (drum, standard for Jetta III - would have been disc if it was a GLX with ABS) were only dirty and needed some adjusting. That was the easy part. At certain times, when applying the brakes, my brakes would have a short squeal. That is not a good sign- time to take it in to the repair shop.
The front brakes - these are the ones that make my front wheels dirty due to the brake dust - were the ones that needed replacing. The brake pads were within a millimeter of grinding the rotor. So we caught our problem just in time. The rotors weren't in the best shape either, so I had those replaced. This all cost $381 with parts and labor (rear brake adjustment was free - by special arrangement). The good thing is these brakes are guaranteed by Midas for as long as I keep my car (and the Midas receipt).
The mechanic commented to me that he thought my TDI was bought in Canada, since the original brakes were from Canada. The 1997 model year was available only for Canada, and he was surprised to see this one. The more usual TDI's here are from 1998 and 1999.
The next thing to check is the airbags, as it's getting near the 4-year point after original purchase. And a tire rotation would be worthwhile.