Are you having car trouble? Do you find yourself wondering, “why is my car shaking when I brake?” If so, you’re not alone. It’s a common problem that can be caused by a variety of factors – but doesn’t panic just yet, there are solutions!
In this article, we’ll dive into the top 5 most common causes of a car shaking when braking and provide solutions to help you get back on the road safely. So without further ado, let’s get started!
Why Does My Car Shake When I Brake?
The most common reason your car is shaking when you brake is out-of-balance or warped brake rotors. It could also be other brake problems, such as unevenly worn brake pads. The source of the issue is often sticking brake calipers, dry guide pins, or faulty brake master cylinders applying uneven pressure.
However, while these are the most common causes for this issue, they are not all. So here’s a more detailed list of the five most common causes for shaking when braking:
1. Warped Brake Rotors
One of the main culprits behind this problem is warped brake rotors. You may be wondering, what exactly are brake rotors, and why do they become warped?
Well, brake rotors are large metal discs attached to your wheel hub assembly or axle and are positioned between the brake pads. Every time you hit the brakes, the pads press against the rotors to slow down or stop the vehicle.
Over time and with regular use, the rotors will eventually wear down. However, if there’s a problem with the braking system, such as a brake pad grinding against the rotor and not releasing as it should, it can cause excessive heat and overheating. In turn, this warps your rotors, resulting in an uneven surface.
When this happens, the rotors will be out-of-round, and you may start to experience a feeling of a pulsating brake pedal, a shaking steering wheel, or even a grinding noise when braking. And when braking at higher speeds, your whole car may shake like a washing machine.
However, with many things causing these types of symptoms, it can be hard to determine if the rotors are warped and why they warped in the first place.
2. Unevenly Worn Brake Pads
Another common cause why your car might be shaking when you brake is unevenly worn brake pads. You see, over time, the friction material on your brake pads wears down, reducing their effectiveness, which is a normal thing.
However, when this happens to one pad more than the other, it can cause your car to shake when you brake. This uneven wear can be caused by various factors, such as a problem with the caliper, guide pins, or even a bad brake master cylinder applying uneven pressure.
With excessively or unevenly worn brake pads, you may hear a squealing or squeaking noise when braking, feel a pulsating brake pedal, or notice a decrease in braking performance.
3. Unbalanced Tires
If your car is heavily shaking when you brake, this is likely not the cause. But with that said, we see people now and then having this issue, which sometimes turns out to be unbalanced tires. And in most of these cases, the shaking sensation is more noticeable when braking.
Unbalanced tires refer to uneven distribution of the weight on a tire. This imbalance can lead to vibrations in the steering wheel, seat, or throughout the vehicle, especially at higher speeds.
But not only does it make for an uncomfortable ride. In addition, it can cause accelerated and uneven tire wear, poor handling performance, and even reduced fuel economy. While there are many reasons for unbalanced tires, it’s usually a matter of faulty installation or a lost wheel weight.
4. Alignment Issues
Yet another cause that isn’t directly related to the brakes. But suppose your vehicle shudders or vibrates when braking at higher speeds, such as over 50 or 60 miles per hour. You might have a problem with improper wheel alignment.
A change in wheel alignment can easily occur in situations like driving on a sidewalk edge, over a pothole, or just due to wear and tear.
When your wheels are not aligned correctly, one tire can pull in one direction while the others pull in different directions. This can result in a dragging wheel, which can be more pronounced when braking.
5. Worn Suspension Parts and Joints
Finally, worn suspension parts, such as shock absorbers, control arms, or joints, can cause various problems, including a car that shakes when braking.
That is because braking increases force and load on essential parts of the suspension, which is important for stability. So when any of these components become worn, broken, or damaged, you might find yourself with a shaking problem.
Now that we’ve covered the most common causes of car shaking when braking, let’s talk about diagnosing the problem and how to fix it. The solution will depend on the cause of the problem.
How to Diagnose Shaking When Braking
To fix the issue, you first need to identify the cause. But with a few different potential problems, it can be challenging trying to figure out exactly what’s going on when the car shakes when braking. In many cases, it may be necessary to get the help of a professional.
But before doing that, there are a few things you can do to try to determine the cause.
Inspect your brakes
When braking is a problem, the first thing to do is to simply inspect the brakes. We do recommend you remove the wheel to get a better look. But you can often get a good idea of the general condition of your brakes by looking through the rims.
Check that there’s enough brake pad life left on all brake pads around the car. If the pads are less than 1/4 inch thick, it’s time to replace them. Also, take note if there’s any sign of uneven wear, such as if the brake pads on one side of the car are more worn-out than the other side.
If so, and as mentioned, it could be an issue of a sticking brake caliper, dry guide pins, or faulty brake master cylinder.
While you should check all four wheels, pay extra attention to the front brakes and ensure to check the calipers and that there’s no damage to the rubber piston boot.
However, when it comes to determining if the rotors are bad and warped, it can be hard to do just by looking. Instead, you could jack up one wheel at a time and spin it while listening and observing if the wheel seems to brake and release at certain times. This could give you an indication of whether the rotor is out-of-round or not.
If the wheel spins smoothly, it’s likely okay, but if there’s a cyclic sound, such as squealing and/or growling noise, you likely have a bad wheel bearing.
If everything seems fine and you can’t find anything noticeable, you can move on to the next step.
Check your tires
Next up are unbalanced tires and alignment issues, both causing similar symptoms such as faster tread wear, reduced fuel economy, and vibrations or shaking that often gets worse at faster speeds.
So what you first want to do is to check your tires for uneven wear. While the shaking sensation is more likely to be caused by issues with your front wheels, we recommend checking both the front and rear wheels.
Check your Suspension
Inspect your vehicle’s suspension components for any wear or damage. Pay close attention to the shocks, struts, control arms, bushings, and tie rods, as these are some of the most common parts that tend to wear out more quickly than others.
Typically when it comes to suspension problems, you may also hear a clunking or rattling noise from the suspension, especially when going over bumps.
However, it can sometimes be super hard to tell. You may want to leave this for a professional mechanic that works with these kinds of repairs daily.
How to Fix Shaking when Braking
While there are hundreds and hundreds of car problems, fixing them is not always a walk in the park. So before we can determine if you need to take your vehicle to a professional, it is good to know what has to be done. So let’s take a closer look at how to fix shaking when braking.
Fix the Brake Problems
Any kind of brake problem always needs to be addressed promptly. So if it turns out your brakes are in bad condition, whether it’s the brake pads, rotors or calipers, the solution here is quite simple – you need to fix or replace the faulty part.
For instance, unevenly or excessively worn brake pads need to be replaced, and warped rotors need to get resurfaced or replaced with new ones. The same goes for sticking calipers or dry guide pins, however, sometimes they just need lubrication instead of a replacement.
Besides replacing the brake pads on both sides of your vehicle to avoid uneven braking, you may also want to replace or resurface the rotors simultaneously and vice versa. For example, you don’t want to install new brake pads with a worn, scored, or rusty brake rotor.
However, suppose the culprit turns out to be warped rotors or brake pads that are noticeably wearing unevenly; you need to address the underlying cause of it.
As always, take safety precautions, follow instructions carefully and read up on everything before attempting any repair work on your own. If ever in doubt about something, don’t hesitate to ask a professional for assistance.
Do a Wheel Alignment & Tire Balance
Before making any harsh decisions, it’s first worth checking your tire pressure and inflating your tires if necessary. You can see the optimum tire pressure on the inside of the driver’s door panel.
However, if there are clear signs of uneven tire wear, you need to have a wheel alignment or have your tires balanced to ensure the car drives straight and handles properly.
This is a complicated process where precision is required to not make it worse. So for this, you’ll need to visit a tire or auto repair shop that offers this kind of service.
Read more: How Long Does an Alignment Take?
Replace Worn or Broken Suspension Parts
If you think you have a problem with worn or damaged suspension parts, you will need to replace them with a new ones as soon as possible.
It’s best to check with a professional mechanic who can recommend the appropriate replacement parts based on the make and model of your vehicle.
How Much Does It Cost to Fix Shaking Brakes?
The cost of fixing the problem depends on what is causing the problem and can range from minimal to expensive. But whether the cause is a brake, wheel, or suspension problem, you don’t want to ignore it. Neglecting the problem will increase the stress and strain on other parts, and you’ll inevitably risk further expensive repairs.
To fix the problem, if you start with the least expensive option first and work your way up until you find what is causing the issue.
For example, replacing worn brake pads or changing warped rotors typically ranges from $100 to $300 per axle for parts and labor. So for both brake pads and rotors together, you can expect to pay around $250 to $500 per axle.
If that does not solve the problem, and it turns out to be the brake caliper instead, you can expect to spend about $200 to $300 or more. Usually, this depends on the car’s make and model, the parts’ quality, and where you decide to take your car.
On the other hand, a sticking brake caliper or dry gliding pin may only need some lubrication, which doesn’t have to cost much if you can do it yourself. However, if you need to replace the guide pins, you can expect to pay around $50 plus labor costs.
If neither of those options works, you should look into an unbalanced tire or wheel alignment issue. A typical tire balance costs around $20 to $50 per tire, whereas wheel alignments can cost up to $200 or more, depending on who you take it to get fixed.
Finally, if all else fails, you may have an issue with worn suspension parts, which can run upwards of $400 or more depending on the complexity of the repair needed.
Few Tips to Prevent the Problem
To prevent the problem from recurring in the future, it’s important to keep up with regular maintenance, such as regular brake inspections, tire rotations, and wheel alignments.
Here are a few general maintenance tips to follow:
Check tire pressure: Make sure to check the tire pressure every month to make sure they maintain the proper and optimal pressure.
Rotate your tires: Regularly rotating your tires will ensure even wear on the tread. This should be done every 5,000 to 7,500 miles or so. Double-check your vehicle’s owner’s manual for any specific information.
Have your brakes inspected: Regularly checking your brakes is not only good for preventing shaking when braking but, more importantly, for preventing brake problems overall. A good rule of thumb is to check your brakes whenever you do a tire rotation, probably every six months.
Do regular wheel alignments: Getting your wheels aligned at least every 2 or 3 years is important for ensuring proper suspension and steering control. And well-aligned wheels make your ride much more comfortable without vibrations or shakes when braking.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why Does My Car Shake When I Brake at Low Speed?
The most common reason a car shakes when braking at low speed is uneven contact between brake components. This is often caused by warped brake rotors or uneven or worn-out brake pads, but in rare cases, it could also be tire, alignment, or suspension issues. All can cause vibrations, shaking, and reduced braking power.
Is It Safe to Drive When If You Car Shakes When Braking?
No, driving is unsafe if your car shakes when braking, as it is typically a sign of a brake problem. Since the braking system is such a critical safety feature of any vehicle, it could be dangerous. It should therefore be fixed as soon as possible to ensure road safety and minimize further damage.
Why Does the Front End of My Car Shake When I Brake?
The most common reason your car’s front end is shaking when you brake is out-of-round brake rotors or unevenly worn brake pads. However, it could be several explanations, such as unbalanced tires, misaligned wheels, or even worn-out suspension parts. But no matter the cause, it’s important to address it promptly.
In conclusion, when asking yourself, “why does my car shake when I brake?” the first thing to do is pay attention to the brakes, and especially for warped brake discs. However, you’ll also want to check the general condition of your brakes, uneven tire wear, and also for worn or damaged suspension parts.
By understanding the most common causes and how to diagnose and fix the problem, you can keep your car running smoothly and safely.
Remember to always take the necessary safety precautions and seek professional help if you’re unsure whether you can fix it. And don’t forget regular maintenance; it will save you money and increase your car’s longevity.