10 Reasons Your Car Shakes When Accelerating (& What to Do)

When you press down the gas pedal you want your vehicle to go. What you don’t want is to feel your car shaking all over the place as it accelerates down the road.

But what does it mean when that’s happening, and just as importantly, how do you fix it? We’ve highlighted the ten most likely reasons your car shakes when accelerating, and we’ve come up with a comprehensive troubleshooting guide to walk you through everything you need to know to pinpoint the exact problem for yourself.

So, if your car shakes when accelerating, keep reading and we’ll walk you through everything you need to know to put that shaking behind you and get your vehicle back in great condition.

Let’s get started.

10 Reasons Your Car Shakes When Accelerating

Before you can fix a car that shakes when accelerating, you need to figure out what causes a car to shake when accelerating in the first place. There are quite a few potential causes, but once you know what to look for you can start to rule them out one at a time.

1. Damaged CV Joints

The CV joint is one of the last components that connect to the hub that spins your vehicle’s tires. They typically spin in a completely even manner, but when they break down, they can start to wobble. When you’re accelerating, you’re putting extra stress on the CV joints, so it’s possible for them to start wobbling.

CV joints typically last between 70,000 and 125,000 miles, so if your vehicle is in that range, there’s a good chance the CV joints are causing the wobble when you accelerate.

2. Damaged Motor Mounts

Motor mounts hold the engine in place, making them a pretty important part of your vehicle. But when they start to wear down, they get a little extra play. This extra play is most noticeable when you accelerate since the change in pressure from the engine causes it to “jump.”

3. Unbalanced Tires

While every tire pretty much looks identical to us, there are slight differences that lead to a slightly uneven weight distribution between them. While this doesn’t matter too much when the vehicle is just sitting there, when the tire spins between 500 and 1,000 RPMs, this imbalance can create a wobble.

Typically, it’s a small wobble, but if the imbalance is way off, which can happen if someone balances the tires incorrectly, you might notice a significant shake at higher speeds.

4. Warped Brake Rotors

When you have the brakes set up right they just barely miss the rotor when you’re not pressing the brakes. This gives you the fastest possible response time when you do hit the brakes and can keep you out of an accident.

However, if the rotors warp and come out of round, they won’t hit one area but when the rotor spins as you drive the pads can rub up against another area. Not only will this wear down your brakes quickly and cause tons of problems, but you might also notice a shaking feeling as you’re driving as the pads hit the rotors over and over again.

Warped rotors are also one of the most common causes of a wobble in the steering wheel when you hit the brakes.

5. Loose Lug Nuts

The good news is that if this is the reason your vehicle shakes while accelerating, it’s usually pretty easy to fix. The bad news is that it’s extremely dangerous. If you have loose lug nuts and your vehicle shakes while accelerating, what you’re feeling is the tire wobbling back and forth between the gap between the lug nut and the hub.

And while you might think it’s fine because the wheel is still on your vehicle, the more it bounces around, the farther the lug nut will back off. It’s only a matter of time until it falls off completely while you’re driving.

6. Loose Wheel Bearings

Wheel bearings are a small but critical component inside your vehicle’s wheel hubs. They allow the hub to spin smoothly with as little friction as possible, which is a pretty big deal when you’re driving down the road.

But if there’s a problem with the wheel bearings you might notice a bit of a wobble while driving. This can come down to a loose nut holding the wheel bearings in place, old wheel bearing grease, or simply damaged wheel bearings.

No matter what the problem is, it’s best to either repack or replace the wheel bearings to remedy the problem.

7. Damaged Brake Caliper

This isn’t the most likely reason for your vehicle to shake while accelerating but depending on how the brake caliper damage affects the rest of the braking system, it can happen.

The most common problem with a brake caliper is that it seizes up, and when that happens, it doesn’t completely release the brake pads from the rotor when it should. This can lead to inconsistent handling in addition to other problems, and it might become more noticeable when accelerating.

8. Damaged Driveshaft

The driveshaft is the long tube-like component that delivers power to the wheels from the transmission. If everything is working as it should, it spins extremely fast, but there’s no movement outside of the spinning.

But if you have a damaged driveshaft, it will wobble a bit, and higher RPMs will make that wobble more noticeable. Since your vehicle experiences the highest RPMs while accelerating, this is when you’re most likely to feel your vehicle shaking.

9. Damaged Axle

This isn’t the most likely reason for a shake in your vehicle while you’re driving, but that’s only because damage to a vehicle axle is pretty rare. But if your vehicle has a damaged axle feeling the entire vehicle shake while accelerating is a pretty standard response.

The amount of the wobble and how noticeable it is at different speeds all come down to how damaged the axle is.

Also read: How Many Axles Does a Car Have?

10. Faulty Spark Plugs

Sometimes a spark plug isn’t quite performing as it should. When this happens, it can miss a few sparks, causing a misfire. While you should be able to notice something at any engine RPM, it will become more noticeable the faster you drive.

Higher RPMs mean more misfires, and more misfires create a rougher engine performance. The rougher the engine runs, the more your vehicle will shake, which makes the effects more noticeable when you’re accelerating.

Car Shakes When Accelerating Troubleshooting Guide

With so many different potential causes of a car shake when accelerating, it can be a little overwhelming trying to narrow it down to one specific cause. But now that you know about some of the most common potential causes, it’s time to start looking at the clues to try and figure out exactly what’s going on.

Start by listening to your engine when you’re not accelerating. You’re listening for a sound that’s out of the ordinary. From there, put the car in park and accelerate (without moving) to about 4,000 to 5,000 RPM.

If you still notice a shake when the vehicle is not moving, you can rule out the CV joints, tires, brake components, driveshaft, wheel bearings, and axle. Meanwhile, if you don’t notice a shake when accelerating when you have the vehicle in park, you know it is one of those components.

The reason for this is you’re not moving any of those components when you have the vehicle in park, so you can rule them out completely if the shake isn’t present then.

Related: How to Tell if Rotor is Bad (12 Symptoms & Replacement Cost)

If you can still feel the shake, open the engine bay and look and listen to what’s happening. If it sounds like the problem is coming from inside the engine, there’s a good chance the problem is the spark plugs. Meanwhile, if you see the engine “jump” up when accelerating, the problem is the engine mounts.

If you only notice the shake when the vehicle is moving, you must do your best to find which part of your vehicle is causing the shake. We recommend starting with a visual inspection. Check out each CV joint, the lug nuts, the axle, the driveshaft, and the brakes.

When inspecting these components, you’re looking for any kind of abnormal wear or excessive play. You’ve likely found the problem if you notice anything out of the ordinary. Next, see if you can’t hear or feel where the problem is coming from when driving.

If you can pinpoint the problem to the front or rear of your vehicle or even to a specific wheel, then you can narrow down your search. If you can’t find the source of the problem at this point it’s best to take your vehicle to a certified mechanic so they can help you diagnose the problem with your vehicle.

Final Thoughts

Now that you know a little more about why your car shakes when accelerating, all that’s left for you is to head out and start troubleshooting it. Take your time, inspect each component carefully, and follow our troubleshooting guide.

If you do, you should be able to get your vehicle back to accelerating as it should without any pesky shaking in no time!

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Rickard Cefalk

Rickard is the owner of Caraspect.com and a dedicated and avid do-it-yourselfer who has always enjoyed working on his own vehicles since childhood. He now devotes his time to sharing his expert knowledge of car maintenance and other car-related information through his website.

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