When you’re driving you should feel a smooth movement of your car gliding down the road. Yet, over time you may begin to notice that smooth feeling has been replaced by a shaking feeling either while moving, braking, or idling. No matter how much your car is shaking, it’s best to determine the cause and have it addressed as soon as possible to avoid more trouble down the road. There are three basic areas of your car that may be the cause of the shaking. Most often it’s related to the tires or wheels including brakes and axles, steering components, or from the engine area. Here’s how to tell what’s causing your car to shake when you drive and how to resolve it so that you can get back to the smooth ride you’re used to:
Brakes – If the shaking occurs most often when you’re braking, it’s likely that the brake components are responsible for the shaking. Brake rotors that have worn down or lost their round shape will hinder brake pads and calipers from a proper grip or cause skipping. Brake calipers stuck in the on position can cause brake rotors to warp as a result of excessive heat. If this occurs, you may also smell a burning odor.
While In Motion
Unbalanced or Damaged Wheels – Around 45 MPH, you may feel a vibration through the steering wheel. As you increase in speed, the vibration will intensify. In order to rotate properly, the wheels of a vehicle need to be balanced. When a technician balances the wheels, he uses a lead weight and when placed in the appropriate areas, they make the wheel spin correctly. Unfortunately, potholes and other road conditions can cause a wheel to fall out of balance or bend, which will result in your car shaking when you drive.
Poor Tire Condition – Similar to being unbalanced, tires that are in unsatisfactory condition will also cause the vehicle to shake or shimmy. Check your tires for:
- Low Pressure
- Loose Tires – make sure lug nuts have been properly torqued
- Uneven tire wear
- Separated tread
- Out of round or unbalanced
Damaged Axle – Bent axles, often caused by minor accidents or hitting a curb or two, will cause vibration and shaking. The more speed that your vehicle picks up, the worse it gets. If the rubber boots that protect the CV Joints are damaged by holes or riddled with dirt, dust, and other road debris, these damages can produce a shaking sensation as well.
Steering Components – Many components are utilized from the steering wheel to the wheels to get the car to turn from side to side. Each of those parts must be in the proper condition in order to make smooth turns. You may notice, for example, that your steering wheel has more “play.” Play, in this case, means you must turn the wheel more in either direction for a response more than when you first purchased the vehicle, or it seems to wander or follow ruts in the road. These issues usually happen gradually over time, so you may not notice these minor symptoms until the vehicle begins to shake. If the issue occurs only when steering, this could indicate a Power Steering issue. Check for leaks from the hoses. You can perform your own little test by attempting to duplicate the issue while the vehicle is in a stopped position. If you can feel the same shake, just from turning the steering wheel, your steering components are likely responsible for the shaking.
At An Idle
Engine Area – In order for the engine to run smoothly, there must be plenty of air, fuel, and spark. If the vehicle shudders at acceleration or starts up just fine but later shakes at an idle, it could indicate a few things such as:
- Spark plugs need to be replaced
- Clogged or dirty air filter
- Dirty fuel injector
- Clogged fuel filter
The engine is held up within the vehicle by motor mounts attached to the frame of the vehicle’s body. Motor mounts are made of mostly metal with some rubber to help absorb the vibrations produced by the engine. Loose or broken motor mounts will cause the engine to shake, as well as worn rubber. One indication that the motor mounts are responsible for your car shaking when you drive, is that the shaking may have started off slow but has progressively gotten worse.
When your car starts to shimmy or shake, don’t wait to have it inspected. If poor tire condition or brakes are the cause of your car shakes, your safety may be at risk. Take your vehicle to a trusted technician right away for a proper inspection.