Few things are more unnerving for a driver than experiencing a sudden jolt when stepping on the brake pedal. The shaking of your car when braking is not only alarming but also potentially dangerous. Your car’s brake system is critical to your safety on the road, and understanding why your car is shaking is crucial.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the most common reasons behind car shaking when braking, such as worn brake rotors, damaged suspension components, and more. We’ll also provide actionable steps to help you diagnose and address the issue, so you can get back to driving with confidence.
Based on common patterns reported by mechanics and drivers, here are 13 reasons why your car could be shaking when you break (most common reasons first and the least common last)
DISCLAIMER: This is not an exhaustive or precise ranking, and the actual cause of car shaking can be a combination of factors, so it’s important to have a mechanic diagnose the issue to ensure proper repair.
Driving a car under warranty that 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.
Worn brake pads are one of the most common causes of car shaking while braking. Over time, the friction material on the brake pads will wear down, reducing the pad’s ability to grip the rotor smoothly. When you apply the brakes, the pads may vibrate or pulsate, causing the steering wheel or brake pedal to shake. This shaking is often more pronounced at higher speeds.
In addition to shaking, you may also hear a squealing or grinding noise when you brake. If the brake pads are excessively worn, they may also cause damage to the rotors, which can increase the cost of repairs. Regular brake pad replacement and maintenance is important to prevent this issue and ensure your car’s safety on the road.
Warped brake rotors are another common cause of car shaking while braking. Brake rotors are a critical component of your car’s braking system, and they work with the brake pads to slow down and stop your car. When the rotors become overheated, it can cause them to warp or become uneven, resulting in a shaking or pulsation feeling in the brake pedal and steering wheel. The shaking may be more noticeable at higher speeds or when you apply the brakes more forcefully.
In addition to the shaking, you may also hear a grinding noise or feel a roughness when you brake. Warped rotors can be caused by factors such as hard braking, excessive heat, or improper installation. It’s important to have your rotors inspected and replaced as needed to ensure your car’s braking system is working optimally and to prevent further damage to other brake components. If left unaddressed, warped rotors can cause your brakes to fail or cause further damage to the brake system, leading to costly repairs.
Uneven tire wear is another common cause of car shaking while braking. If your car’s tires are worn unevenly, it can cause the car to vibrate when you apply the brakes, especially at higher speeds. Uneven tire wear can be caused by a variety of factors, such as improper tire inflation, worn suspension components, or poor wheel alignment. When your tires are not wearing evenly, it can cause the car to pull to one side, which can also be felt in the steering wheel when you apply the brakes.
To diagnose uneven tire wear, you can inspect the tire treads for signs of uneven wear patterns, such as bald spots or uneven wear on one side of the tire. Regular tire rotation, wheel alignment, and proper tire inflation can help prevent uneven tire wear and ensure a smooth ride and safe braking performance.
Suspension problems can also cause a car to shake when you apply the brakes. The suspension system is responsible for supporting the weight of the vehicle and providing a smooth ride by absorbing bumps and vibrations on the road. If suspension components such as ball joints, tie rod ends, or shock absorbers are worn or damaged, it can cause the wheels to become misaligned and the car to vibrate or shake when you apply the brakes. The shaking may be more noticeable at higher speeds or when you apply the brakes more forcefully. In addition to the shaking, you may also hear clunking or rattling noises when you drive over bumps or make turns.
To diagnose suspension problems, a mechanic can inspect the suspension components and test the alignment of the wheels. Proper maintenance and repair of the suspension system is important for safe and comfortable driving and to prevent damage to other car components.
Wheel alignment issues are another possible cause of car shaking while braking. Wheel alignment refers to the angle and direction of your car’s wheels, which affects how the tires make contact with the road surface. If your car’s wheels are not properly aligned, it can cause the tires to wear unevenly and the car to vibrate or shake, especially when you apply the brakes. Other signs of poor wheel alignment include the car pulling to one side or the steering wheel being off-center when driving straight. Common causes of poor wheel alignment include hitting potholes or curbs, worn suspension components, or improper tire inflation.
To diagnose wheel alignment issues, have a mechanic measure the alignment angles and adjust them as needed. Proper wheel alignment can help prevent uneven tire wear, improve fuel efficiency, and ensure optimal handling and braking performance.
Brake caliper problems are another possible cause of car shaking while braking. The brake calipers are responsible for holding the brake pads against the rotors to slow down and stop the car. If a caliper becomes stuck or seized, it can cause uneven wear on the brake pads, which can result in shaking when you apply the brakes. A stuck or seized caliper can also cause the brake pedal to feel soft or spongy, or the car to pull to one side. This can be caused by factors such as corrosion, dirt, or air in the brake lines, or problems with the brake hoses or master cylinder.
To address any caliper problems, a mechanic can inspect the brake calipers and test the brake system for proper function. Proper brake maintenance and repair is critical to ensure safe driving and to prevent further damage to the brake system.
Low brake fluid levels can also cause a car to shake when you apply the brakes. Brake fluid is responsible for transmitting the force from the brake pedal to the brake calipers, which then apply the brake pads to the rotors. If the brake fluid level is low, it can reduce the hydraulic pressure in the brake system, causing the brake pedal to feel spongy or soft, and the car to shake or vibrate when you apply the brakes. Low brake fluid levels can be caused by factors such as leaks in the brake system, worn brake pads, or a problem with the master cylinder. Regular brake fluid level checks and brake system inspections are important to maintain the safety and performance of your car’s braking system.
If you suspect low brake fluid levels, it’s important to have your brake system inspected by a qualified mechanic to diagnose and address the issue promptly.
Issues with the anti-lock brake system (ABS) can also cause a car to shake when you apply the brakes. The ABS is a safety feature that prevents the wheels from locking up and skidding during hard braking or slippery conditions. If the ABS system is malfunctioning, it can cause the brake pedal to vibrate or pulse, or the car to shake when you apply the brakes. This can be caused by a variety of factors, such as a malfunctioning ABS sensor, a problem with the ABS module or pump, or issues with the brake lines or fluid.
To diagnose ABS system problems, a mechanic can use a specialized diagnostic tool to read the error codes from the ABS system and test the individual components. Proper maintenance and repair of the ABS system is critical for safe and reliable braking performance, particularly in challenging driving conditions.
Loose or worn wheel bearings are another less common cause of car shaking when braking. Wheel bearings are a critical component of your car’s suspension system, and they help the wheels rotate smoothly and reduce friction. If a wheel bearing becomes worn or loose, it can cause the wheel to wobble and the car to shake, particularly when you apply the brakes. Other signs of worn wheel bearings include a humming or grinding noise coming from the wheels or uneven tire wear.
To diagnose wheel bearing problems, a mechanic can inspect the wheel bearings and test for excessive play or noise. Proper maintenance and replacement of worn wheel bearings is important for safe and comfortable driving, as well as to prevent further damage to other car components.
Engine problems can also cause a car to shake, which may be felt when you apply the brakes. A misfiring engine or worn engine mounts can cause the car to vibrate or shake at idle, which may be more pronounced when you apply the brakes. Other signs of engine problems may include a loss of power, rough idle, or a check engine light on the dashboard. To diagnose engine problems, a mechanic can use diagnostic tools to read error codes and test the individual components.
Proper engine maintenance, such as regular oil changes and tune-ups, is important for preventing engine problems and ensuring optimal performance. Addressing engine problems promptly can prevent further damage to the engine and other car components and help maintain safe and reliable driving.
Drivetrain issues, such as a worn or damaged driveshaft or CV joint, can also cause a car to vibrate and shake when you apply the brakes. The driveshaft and CV joints are responsible for transferring power from the engine to the wheels, and if they become worn or damaged, they can cause the car to vibrate or shake, especially when you apply the brakes.
Other signs of drivetrain issues may include a clunking or rattling noise or difficulty shifting gears. To diagnose drivetrain issues, a mechanic can inspect the driveshaft, CV joints, and other drivetrain components and test for proper function.
Excessive brake dust can cause a car to shake when you apply the brakes, particularly at high speeds. Brake dust is a byproduct of brake pad wear, and if it accumulates on your wheels, it can cause them to become unbalanced, resulting in shaking or vibration when you apply the brakes.
Regular cleaning of your wheels and brake pads can help prevent excessive brake dust buildup and ensure smooth braking performance.
Glazed brake pads can cause a car to shake when you apply the brakes. Glazed brake pads occur when the pads become overheated, causing the friction material to harden and lose its ability to grip the rotors. This can cause the brakes to vibrate or pulsate, especially when you apply the brakes more forcefully.
In addition to the shaking, you may also hear a squealing or grinding noise when you brake. Glazed brake pads can be caused by factors such as hard braking or using the brakes excessively, and regular brake maintenance and replacement can help prevent this issue.
There are several common reasons why a car may shake when braking, including worn brake pads, warped brake rotors, and suspension problems. Additionally, less common reasons include loose or worn wheel bearings, engine problems, and drivetrain issues. With a better understanding of the above, please be sure to maintain your car’s brakes and other components to prevent issues from occurring and to ensure safe and reliable driving.
If your car is under warranty and cannot be fixed, you may have a lemon law claim that entitles 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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