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20 Reasons Why Your Car is Shaking (And How to Fix It)

Shaking and vibrating might be great in a massage chair, but it’s a big problem in your car. The other issue is that there are so many different areas that could be causing your car’s shaking.

The issue might be your brake, engine, wheels, or suspension system. It could also be your fluid levels or belts. Different areas present a different type of vibration that happens in different conditions. Read my full guide to pinpoint the issue and fix it.

Don’t get discouraged. In this guide, I’ll tell you 20 reasons why your car might be shaking and I’ll explain how to fix each and every one of them.

Is it Safe to Drive a Shaking Car?

When I was a younger driver, my mentality was always, “ignore it until it goes away”. Tens of broken components and thousands of dollars later, I know this is a terrible mindset.

When it comes to a shaking car, this is a clear sign that something’s wrong. There are a lot of potential candidates that will make your car shake, but the story is the same with all of them — you need to repair your car as fast as humanly possible.

Continuing to drive a shaking car can rattle items loose and make the problem worse. On top of that, the damaged component can cause lasting (and much more expensive) damage to surrounding parts of your car.

This is one of the problems that I don’t suggest simply ignoring.

20 Reasons Why Your Car is Shaking

You’re about to see that finding the culprit of your shaking isn’t super straightforward. There are a number of places that the shaking can be originating from.

Follow along and find out why your car is shaking and how to fix it.

Tire Problems

If you look at how your car drives along, it makes sense that the tires might be the culprits of shaking as you drive.

Your tires need to be perfectly inflated, round, and balanced. People often assume that tires are just pieces of rubber, but there’s a lot more to it.

#1: Under or Overinflated

Your car is designed to operate on tires at a certain PSI. this pressure allows everything to work well together and provides the smoothest possible ride.

If your tires have too much or too little pressure in them, then the ride will be uneven. You won’t be driving on the complete tread, which is what you’re supposed to do.

Solution: Check the pressure of your tire with a tire pressure gauge. Either add or remove air in accordance with the posted psi in your door well.

#2: Flat Tire

After getting a puncture in your tire, the pressure will quickly drop. If the hole is in the right place, you can luckily repair the tire, but you’ll otherwise need to replace it.

In the case of a flat tire, you have a massively underinflated tire. You’ll feel your car vibrate and you should probably hear a rhythmic noise as you drive along.

Solution: Change the flat tire using my guide. Alternatively, you can use my other guide to repair the tire instead.

#3: Imbalanced

Whenever you install a new tire on your rim, it needs to be balanced. Any imbalance will cause a rhythmic rumble and make your car shake as you drive along.

This can also happen after hitting a curb or damaging your rims at all.

Solution: Take your tire to an auto shop and have them balance all four tires. I

#4: Surface Defects

If the tire isn’t perfectly rounded, your car will have uneven contact with the road as you drive along.

Things like bubbles, bulges, or flat spots in your tire will cause shaking to varying levels. Any of these imperfections can destroy how your car rides.

Even worse, going too long without replacing your tire will damage the other tires on your car.

Solution: Check the health of your tires. You’ll probably need to buy and install new tires if there are defects to the surface.

Engine Issue

As you probably know, your car’s engine is the workhorse of the whole system. It cranks and creates the power that’s used to move your vehicle.

An engine has dozens of little parts that fire and move around the whole time your car is on. If you hear unusual noises whenever your car is on, even when you’re in park or neutral, then it could be an engine issue.

Like your wheels, there are multiple pieces of the engine that can be causing this vibration.

#5: Broken Components

If your engine has enough internal damage, then you’ll probably feel something much more severe than a shake. Your engine will crash out, seize, and stop working.

Still, some minor damage to your engine’s components can destroy the motion of your engine running, creating a noticeable shake.

Solution: Take a close look at your engine and see if you spot the problem. You’ll need to repair or replace it, but I’d suggest getting a mechanic to look at it first.

#6: Loose Mounts

Your engine is mounted directly to your car with a number of bolts. These bolts are torqued to a certain force to ensure your engine is snugly mounted.

If these bolts loosen over time, there will be room for your engine to bounce around and rattle your vehicle.

There is a lot of vibration that comes from your engine when it’s running, so it’s not uncommon for these mounts to get vibrated loose over time.

Solution: Check your engine mounts and torque them down to the manufacturer’s suggested settings.

#7: Radiator Fan or Fan Clutch

There’s a little fan between the engine and the radiator. This fan pushes colder air through your engine, cooling everything down.

If this fan or fan clutch is defective, then you’ll notice shaking when the coolant level of your car reaches a certain point.

Solution: Repair the fan and/or fan clutch if you can, but otherwise you’ll have to replace it.

#8: Clogged Engine Air Filter

Whenever there’s a car issue, there seems to be a filter that can be blamed. In the case of a shaking car, you can look at your engine’s air filter.

If it’s clogged, then your engine won’t get enough airflow. This will cause an imbalanced air-fuel mixture which could cause misfiring or general vibrations as you drive.

The good news? This is a really easy problem to fix.

Solution: Replace the air filter after inspecting it for build-up and blockages.

#9: Spark Plugs Need a Replacement

When your plugs lose their spark, you’ll get some nasty vibrations. There are a few indicators that your rough ride could be thanks to faulty spark plugs:

  • If your car has a rough idle
  • You feel vibrations when you accelerate
  • It feels like you’re driving on a rumble strip at certain speeds (and it’s repeatable)
  • It’s been more than 80-100,000 miles since you changed your spark plugs

Spark plugs are pretty inexpensive to pick up and the replacement process is a breeze. I remember changing spark plugs on my dad’s truck when I was 8, so I have faith in you.

Solution: Replace your spark plugs.

Worn-out spark plug

#10: Dying Transmission

A dying transmission comes with a lot more than just a shake. You’ll hear loud grinding or squealing noises as you drive along.

You’ll probably also experience loss of vehicle power at random times while driving. In the case of a dying transmission, you don’t have a lot that you can do besides replace it.

Transmissions are really expensive, so you might have to consider scrapping your car and buying another used car.

Solution: Take your car to the shop and have them diagnose the transmission issue. They might be able to repair it, but it will probably be a replacement.

#11: Worn Suspension

Your car’s suspension is made up of bearings, rods, struts, shock absorbers, and ball joints. These parts all work together to absorb road impact while you’re driving along.

When these parts start to wear down, vibrations from the road won’t be dampened, so you’ll feel a much rougher ride as you go along.

With suspension work, I always suggest having professionals at a shop check it out. It’s easy to mess up a repair or replacement, and the result of a mistake here is way more expensive than you’d like.

Solution: Take your car to a shop to diagnose the suspension problem.

Brake Issues

Another part of your wheel assembly is your brakes. Since these play hand-in-hand with your tires as you drive along, it should be no surprise that they can cause vibrations when something goes wrong.

Here’s how the system works: When you press your brake pedal, fluid is sent through your brake lines to your wheels. For a disc brake, the process is straightforward. A semi-metallic pad is compressed against a metal rotor that is attached to your wheel.

Brake pads

This friction slows down your wheels, therefore slowing down your car. A brake caliper is used to articulate the pad and move it whenever you press the brake pedal.

You can pinpoint that the brake system is the issue if you only notice the shaking when you apply the brakes. Additionally, you’ll probably feel the vibration in the brake pedal.

There are many parts of your brake system that can be blamed for this issue.

#12: Uneven Brake Pads

First, let me talk about the pads. These are the friction pieces that do all the work.

They’re pushed firmly against a big piece of metal. If the pad isn’t perfectly flat and even, there will be high and low spots that are pressed.

This causes an uneven braking force which will cause your car to vibrate.

Solution: Replace your brake pads (easy process and inexpensive).

#13: Uneven Brake Rotor

The other part of the stopping process is the metal rotor. If there are uneven spots on the surface of the rotor, you’ll get the same uneven braking force I was just talking about.

You can get a warped rotor if you drive through a deep enough puddle when your rotors are hot. In addition, it’s something that can just happen over time.

You can quickly troubleshoot the rotor by removing your tire and taking off your brake pad. Check to see if the rotor is smooth and flat.

Solution: Either get the rotors resurfaced (depending on the condition of the rotors) or replace the rotor (still an easy process, but more expensive).

#14: Brake Pads are Too Low

Haven’t changed your brake pads in a while? They could be the reason your car’s shaking.

When there’s not enough friction material left, you won’t get a good surface to push against your rotors to stop. A lot of brake pads have a built-in “squealer”. It makes a loud squealing noise when your pads are too low.

If you hear this noise, just put on some new brake pads.

Solution: Replace your brake pads (easy process and inexpensive).

#15: Brake Calipers are Stuck

I’ve had this issue a number of times with an older car I had. The brake caliper would get stuck in the “on” position.

This meant that my brake pad was constantly pushing against my rotor while I was driving. The vibration was really annoying a noticeable, and I felt the drop in power since there was such a huge braking force being applied.

Car brake caliper

You can also tell it’s a stuck brake caliper if one of your brake pads is wearing way too fast or you smell burning rubber after coming to a complete stop.

Solution: Bleed the brakes and inspect the brake lines for any swelling. at doesn’t help, you’ll need to disassemble and rebuild your brake caliper system.

Try lubricating the brake pad housing and edges of the brake pads with some white lithium grease and removing any noticeable corrosion.

#16: Axle Issues

Your tires, brakes, and calipers are all tied into your car’s axles. Your vehicle most likely has two axles — one that ties the front wheels together, and one that ties the back wheels together.

If these axles are broken, dented, or otherwise damaged, you won’t get a perfect rotation as you drive along. The result? You guessed it, shaking or vibrations.

If the shaking gets worse as you go faster, it might be the axle. 

Solution: Fixing an axle is best when it’s done by a good auto shop. It can be a pretty pricy repair, depending on the level of damage.

#17: Worn Out Belts

In some unlucky situations, a worn-out belt can be the death of your car. These belts keep everything synchronized and moving together.

Belts use notches that wrap around different sprockets or components. If these notches are worn out, the components tied together will misstep and create a small vibration.

Since things are rotating so quickly under the hood, these small vibrations happen rapidly each minute, causing a larger shake.

Solution: Spot the worn-out belt and replace it as soon as possible.

#18: Loose Steering Components

Your steering system is made up of a lot of different parts. Their role is to translate you turning your steering wheel into your car’s motion in that direction.

If your car only vibrates when you turn the steering wheel, it could be your tie rods. If it only turns when you’re going straight, it could be the ball joints.

Solution: Find the problem component and either repair or replace it.

Tie-rods

Low on Fluid

The two big fluid levels to check are your power steering and transmission fluids. Honestly, this is probably the best reason why your car is shaking since the repair is so easy and cheap.

The fluids are used to lubricate parts in your car and to ensure they can perform their functions.

#19: Transmission Fluid

Low transmission fluid will cause your car to shake whenever you accelerate. Going too long without refilling this fluid can cause your transmission to fail and cost you tons of money. I’d suggest fixing this problem right now.

Solution: Top off your transmission fluid after checking its level.

#20: Power Steering Fluid

Low power steering fluid will make your car shake as you take a turn. With lower power steering fluid, you might also notice that it’s harder to turn your wheel.

Solution: Top off your power steering fluid after checking its level.

Conclusion

This list of 20 reasons why your car is shaking should do a good job of finding your problem. I also outlined ways to solve each issue, so you don’t have to worry about dealing with this problem anymore.

For more car troubleshooting guides and tips, check out the rest of my blog. Did any of these tips help you out? Let me know in the comments section. Also, be sure to get the perfect accessories and tools for your car.

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Ernest Martynyuk

An automotive enthusiast who's been tinkering with vehicles since I was 15-years old. Repairing automotive electronics has been my main job for over a decade now and have a passion for everything technical regarding cars.

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