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why does my car shake when I brake

Why Does My Car Shake When I Brake?


When you’re behind the wheel, trusting your brakes to work smoothly is a necessity. If you press on the brake and your car begins to shake, it can be alarming. Although this is a problem that is common amongst many vehicles, it is addressable.

In this article, we’ll uncover the most common reasons why your car may be shaking while braking. We’ll also provide you with some steps you should take depending on the problem.

8 Reasons Why Your Car Shakes When You Brake

If your car vibrates or the steering wheel shakes when you brake, there are eight common reasons why this could be happening:

  • Damaged or broken steering components
  • A bad front-end alignment
  • Loose lug nuts
  • An unbalanced wheel
  • A damaged or severely worn tire
  • Warped disc brakes
  • Corrosion
  • Sticky brake calipers

Car under warranty shakes when you brake? You may be entitled to a lemon law settlement. Contact Cali Lemon Lawyers for a FREE case evaluation.

Now, let’s dive into each of these reasons.

1. Damaged or Broken Steering Components

Damaged or Broken Steering Components

When your car is shaking when you brake or unsteady at high speeds or highway speeds, there could be damage to the steering components. This can be a result of damage to the steering knuckle, or certain steering components being broken altogether.

The steering components keep your wheels from wobbling. When there’s damage or a broken element, the car will start shaking when the brake is pressed. The solution is to have a professional replace the broken or damaged steering elements.

2. Front-End Alignment Issues

Front-End Alignment Issues

Front-end alignment, also known as two-wheel alignment, is the alignment type that only adjusts the front two wheels. This allows them to run parallel to the center of a car. Issues with front-end alignment are often a reason a car shakes when braking.

Aligning your vehicle with a mechanic is critical. They’ll tune the car’s suspension system to ensure the wheels are straight. As your vehicle runs, it becomes less aligned, which can cause the steering wheel to shake, normal wear on your tires, etc.

This particular problem gets worse when you hit the brakes. Since the front brakes do the majority of the work to get the vehicle to stop, paired with a front-end alignment issue, the shaking can be significant. It can feel like the entire car is vibrating, and it can take longer to come to a stop.

3. Loose Lug Nuts

Loose Lug Nuts

Loose lug nuts are another reason your car shakes when you break. Lug nuts, also called wheel nuts, are fasteners to keep the tire securely on your vehicle. When a lug nut or multiple lug nuts are loose, the wheel will begin to wobble.

The wheel wobbling directly affects the car’s braking system, but it causes vibrations that can worsen when you press the brake. As the wobbling continues, the lug nuts can get looser and the shaking stronger. The shaking puts the lug nuts at risk of falling off, which can be dangerous since your wheel will become looser too.

If your car shakes, you’ll want to speak with a mechanic, especially after your vehicle is serviced. Taking it to a mechanic or the dealership can help rule out any lug nuts that might need tightening as the cause of your car shaking.

4. Unbalanced Wheel

Unbalanced Wheel

At fast speeds, particularly highway speeds, your wheels are rotating quickly. The quicker the tires spin, the more likely an imbalance can occur.

Cars use wheel weights to keep balanced as you drive. Over time, the wheel weights can wear and tear and even fall off. The best thing you can do is bring your car in for service and request the wheels be re-balanced.

5. Damaged or Severely Worn Tire(s)

Damaged or Severely Worn Tire(s)

Damaged or severely worn tires can cause a shaking sensation. When the wheels no longer have as much traction as they once did, they can slide around. This can cause the car to shake when you brake.

Even in newer tires without much wear and tear, any damage to one or more tires can cause your vehicle to shake when you press on the brake.

The only solution to excessively worn tires is to replace your tires. Depending on the damage to your tires, you might be able to replace them, but having a professional put new, high-quality tires on your vehicle can prevent shaking when you brake if this is why it’s shaking.

6. Warped Disc Brakes

Inside your brakes are heavy metal discs, known as disc brakes. They sit inside your wheel and attach to the hub. As you press on the brake pedal, the caliper tightens around the discs. When the caliper tightens, it presses the pads to them and slows their rotation.

Your brakes will become hot the more you use them. Sometimes, with extreme heat, the disc brake rotors can warp. When the disc brakes warp, they’re no longer balanced and round, which can lead to a damaged rotor. You’ll feel your vehicle shake when you press on the brake pedal with warped disc brakes instead of a smooth brake.

Not all cars have disc brakes. If your vehicle is older and has drum brakes, these can have imperfections that get worse over time. Imperfect drum brakes could be a cause shaking while you break.

7. Corrosion

Corrosion can happen to almost any part of your car. It often happens to the braking system, wheels, steering system, or suspension. When corrosion occurs to any components of your car, it can cause an imbalance and vibrations. Your vehicle can shake as the braking system corrodes and you press the brake pedal.

Corrosion of the brake rotors is typical because they’ve rusted. When they have rust on them, and you press on the brake, the brake pads can grind, which causes your steering wheel to shake.

The best way to prevent the rotors from rusting is by driving your car regularly. Even short distances can prevent oxidation of your brake system and stop any shaking when you brake.

8. Sticky Brake Calipers

Brake calipers are part of the brake system. They’re responsible for squeezing the brake pads against the brake rotor to help slow or stop your car. The brake calipers slide on greased pins, allowing for smooth braking.

The brake calipers can get sticky for three reasons. They get sticky due to a brake line obstruction, slider pin seizing, or caliper piston seizing. The greased pins that the calipers slide on can get dirty, or the grease can wear away over time.

The calipers don’t slide smoothly when the grease wears off or gets dirty. The grease will get dirty over time due to normal wear and tear. Eventually, instead of a smooth release when you take your foot off the brake pedal, the calipers will slide slower, causing the car to shake.

Bottom Line: What To Do If Your Car Shakes When You Break

If your car shakes when braking, the above eight reasons are likely reasons why. Take your car to the the dealership for repair and ask them to address each. If your car is under warranty and unable to be fixed you may have a lemon, entitling you to a reimbursement, replacement or cash compensation

Contact us today to see how we can help you file a lemon law claim.

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