Why Does Your Car Shake When Driving

by Carmelo PickelJuly 7, 2022

If you are experiencing shaking or trembling in your vehicle while driving, or suddenly it begins doing so (for example, at high speeds), you should check these fixes. If you are like most people and spend quite a bit of time in your vehicle, it can be enough to drive you insane if something does not feel right. If the engine vibrates while idling, braking, or accelerating, your car may need fixing.

What Causes A Car To Shake When Driving? 

Most of the time, the cause of the problem stems from worn or damaged tires or brakes. Something under the hood such as a bad spark plug, a broken engine mount, warped brake discs, or a clogged air filter may be causing this problem. Therefore, the best solution is to resolve issues as soon as they arise.

Thankfully, we will be covering the top five most common causes of cars vibrating in this short guide to vibration. It will help you be prepared if they pop up so you can take the right remedial actions.

Five Common Reasons For Your Car Shaking

The following are the top five reasons and common issues why your car shakes.

Your Tires Are Worn

A typical motorist racks up between 12,000 and 15,000 miles during a typical year. To ensure that you do not experience uneven tire wear after using them every three to four years, you will have to replace them after normal wear if you're using a typical set of all-season tires. 

Most tires are designed to feature built-in wear bars between the main tread grooves, so you will avoid having to replace your tires too often. Once you reach a point where your tread wears out, you should consider replacing your tires.

Even if you drive less than the recommended miles, you still need to pay attention to the tires, as they can become old and dry. The damage is caused by dry rot, making them brittle, losing color, and forming cracks.

Dry rot can be caused by several factors such as:

  • Sitting for long periods without doing anything
  • Temperatures that are higher or lower than normal
  • Sunlight exposure that is too prolonged or excessive
  • Experiencing corrosion and abrasion due to corrosive materials

The case of heavy wear in tires that have dry rot can easily cause your car to shake while you are driving, so you want to get them replaced as soon as possible. If you continue to drive on the tires when you should not, you are placing yourself and those around you in danger.

The Brakes Need Servicing

When you experience a vibration when pressing the brake pedal, there is a good chance that one of your braking system components is malfunctioning. Among the main parts of the tires are the rotors, which are circular brake discs that spin with the wheels as they turn. 

A brake caliper attached to the brake rotors squeezes the brake pads against them, creating friction and slowing down the wheel's rotation when you apply pressure on the brake pedal. Rotors can be bent or warped over time, depending on the circumstances. Some vehicle vibrations may occur with tire rotation when the calipers squeeze against warped brake rotors and come into contact with the disc brakes.

The rotors of a vehicle usually last a long time, generally between 30,000 to 70,000 miles. The estimated cost of replacing a rotor ranges from approximately $400 to as much as $600, according to your car's make and model. Also, there is the option of simply repairing them, which costs about $200 and might be more cost-effective.

Whenever you have an issue with your brakes, you shouldn't ignore them. The problem with warped rotors is that they can reduce your braking performance and make controlling your car more difficult in emergencies.

You May Have Engine Issues

Your car can vibrate when idle or accelerating due to several components under the hood. 

First and foremost are faulty spark plugs. Spark plugs are responsible for starting the combustion process in each combustion chamber by igniting the air/fuel mixture. Dirty spark plugs will interfere with this functionality. There can be a shake with each cycle when the engine misfires occur.

The shaking caused by spark plugs is not always indicative of a faulty component because, before air or fuel reaches them, both pass through their respective filters. If you have a dirty air or fuel filter, the spark plugs won't receive enough of either to work properly. If this happens, there can be a misfire, which leads to a shaking.

A worn motor mount could also be the cause of the engine vibrations. If you didn't know, your car's engine is attached directly to its chassis using motor mounts (you guessed it) in the engine compartment. Fortunately, they usually last for a good five to seven years. Beyond that, they may weaken, resulting in you feeling a vibration.

It is good that spark plugs and air or fuel filters can be replaced at a very low cost. The cost of mounting a motor can range from as little as $200 to as much as $600.

Wheels Are Damaged Or Need Balancing

There is a possibility that you need to balance your wheels if you feel that your car shakes when you drive due to imbalanced tires. A balanced tire and wheel assembly are composed of tires and wheels that have been evenly distributed across the assembly. By doing so, the tires and wheels can rotate correctly at higher speeds. Unbalanced tires can cause your car to shake and result in damaged wheels, even if the difference is small.

Most tire shops won't charge you more than $15 to $45 for visual inspection and balancing the wheels. They spin the object's circumference at a high-speed rate and then measure the weight across the object's circumference. A technician will then attach wheel weights around the wheel to achieve perfect tire balance and wheel alignment. 

There is also the possibility that your car will vibrate due to damage to your wheels in addition to tire imbalance. Damage to the wheels can occur from running over an object or hitting a pothole. The good news is that unbalanced wheels may still be able to be restored to their original state unless the damage is very severe.

A Bent Axle May Be At Fault

When your car starts shaking after an accident or other mishap, like running over a large pothole or hitting a curb, it's possible that you bent an axle as a result of the accident. 

For those who don't know already, an axle is a component that delivers power directly from the transmission to the wheels. They are connected by a shaft, which rotates along with the wheels. Having a bent axle means that there will be a tendency for the shaking to become more pronounced as you accelerate.

Costs can range from as low as $170 to as high as $900 to repair or replace an axle. The extent of the damage and the possibility of repair will determine whether an attempt can be made. Additionally, the model and make of your car will influence the cost of rectifying the vibration issues.

A shake that lasts more than a week might require you to stop driving until the shake is resolved. You may ruin your suspension system if you do otherwise, which can become quite expensive. Unless the shake is severe, you should be able to drive at least for a short time.

Final Words

It is important to note that shaking or shuddering is a warning sign that your car is having a problem. Ignoring it will almost certainly worsen the problem, which usually translates into more expensive repair costs.

Do you know when you last replaced your spark plugs, tires, or air filters? Do you think it would be a good idea to balance your tires? Did you recently drive over a puddle or pothole that was large?

If you haven't shaken your phone in a while, then it's probably time to give it some attention, so we recommend giving it some attention.

Are you interested in learning more about cars and their maintenance? Head over to the KeepDriving website and check out our blog post about the causes and fix for Subaru AT oil temp light flashing.

Founder, Editor-in-Chief Carmelo Pickel is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Keep Driving, with almost 20 years of experience working in the industry. Before founding Keep Driving, Carmelo held leadership roles for over a decade on top automotive dealership corporations across North America, handling various leadership roles in Sales, Marketing, and Incentives.
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