by Joshua Thomas
While it is not unusual for cars to shake when driving, this does not mean it is okay to live with it as it is usually a sign that there is an issue with the vehicle that needs attention.
Sometimes the shakes will result from the terrain that you are driving through but in some instances, they are as a result of underlying vehicle issues.
Understanding the possible causes of your car shaking when driving is the first step in dealing with this problem. And in this post, we explain some of the most common causes and also highlight the possible fixes.
Different vehicle problems can lead to vehicles shaking when driving. These causes can also vary from one vehicle model to the other. However, the following are the most common ones.
Tires play a crucial role in keeping your vehicle stable when driving. Hence, when they are out of balance, one of the common symptoms you are likely to experience is shaking when driving.
As the tires rotate, any imbalance leads to small vibrations that can then translate to serious shaking when driving at high speeds since the vibrations intensify. In some instances, the situation can worsen to a point where even the steering wheel vibrates aggressively.
A problem with unbalanced tires is not always easy to spot, but you should be able to feel the vibrations when driving at speeds of around 55 miles per hour.
Issues with the CV joints, whether it is accidental damage or natural wear and tear, can also lead to vehicle shaking when driving.
There are two CV joints, which are the inner and outer joints and they are typically located on the ends of the axle points. Damage to the inner joint is what mostly causes shaking when driving.
When under load, the shaking gets worse and if left unchecked, the vehicle will become dangerous to drive, and hence the need to fix the CV joint immediately.
Loose lug nuts are a simple problem that any motorist can quickly fix, but what you might not know is that they can be catastrophic.
As the lug nuts loosen, the wheels can start to wobble over time, and when driving, this will often make the car feel like it is shaking.
If you do not tighten the lug nuts or replace them in case the tread is worn out, the wheel can even fall off when driving. Hence, it is vital to always use a torque wrench to ensure every lug nut is tight enough before driving.
Broken motor mounts are another reason a car will shake when accelerating. Motor mounts are meant to stick the engine to the vehicle's frame and to reduce shaking.
Hence, when the mounts are broken or damaged, you are likely to experience the constant engine vibrations, and this is more so when accelerating at high speeds.
These mounts are made with a rubber material, which is what allows them to absorb the vibrations, and so when they are damaged you are likely to feel more shaking motion when driving. Also, damaged mounts can lead to engine misalignment.
For the rear-wheel-drive vehicles, the power from the engine to the rear axle and wheels will be transferred through the propeller shaft or driveshaft.
What this means is that if the driveshaft is damaged or slightly bent as a result of an accident or wear and tear, the vehicle will not only fail to get enough power to the rear wheels but can also shake as you are driving.
Because the driveshaft cannot normally be repaired, the only way to deal with this problem will be to have it replaced by a mechanic.
A bent axle can occur when you accidentally drive into a curb or rock or even just have a minor accident that affects the axle.
In some instances, there might not be obvious damages to the axle, but you should not assume everything is okay as there can be a small bent that will still cause problems like shaking.
With a bent axle, you will start getting some vibrations when driving, and they will seem to get worse as you increase the speed. And like the driveshaft, the only way to deal with a bent axle will be to have it replaced.
Torn or damaged vacuum hose might not be among the car problems that you have to deal with now and then, but it is still quite a common issue. And one of its main consequences will be the car shaking when driving at high speeds.
A torn vacuum hose will allow air to leak which then interferes with the functioning of different sensors leading to other problems like backfiring, misfiring and loss of power. With these issues, the engine will not run smoothly and will also be prone to vibrating as you drive.
A stuck brake caliper can also lead to vibrations and hence car shaking when driving as it will prevent the wheels from rotating smoothly.
As you get to the 40 miles per hour speed with stuck brake caliper, the steering wheel starts to vibrate, and as you continue to accelerate the vibrations get worse.
And to make sure that you have an issue with stuck brake caliper, you will also notice a burning-like odor when you stop the vehicle.
An inspection of the brake caliper should also allow you to identify a problem, and in many instances, simple lubrication and clean-up will be enough to solve it.
Having your vehicle inspected and maintained regularly is the best way to deal with car shaking when driving because when everything is working well, you will hardly ever experience any vibrations or shakes. But, here are more specific solutions to the car shaking issue.
Out of balance tires are the number one cause of shaking when driving. Hence, if you are experiencing this issue, having your car tires balanced should be one of the first solutions you think of.
Aligning tires or getting them back to balance is quick and easy and your auto repair shop should be able to help out. Also, you can fix unbalanced tires on your own at home if you have some time to spare and all you will need is a flat, lug wrench, screwdriver, and a jack.
The process is quite straightforward as it is all about removing the wheel weights, cleaning them and then using them to balance out the wheels at the marked spots. If you still find it confusing, you can get countless online video tutorials that can be very helpful.
When the rotors are out of round, vehicles tend to vibrate a lot when driving, and so fixing the rotors should solve this annoying problem.
Because dirt buildup on the rotors can also cause the steering wheel to vibrate when driving, cleaning the rotors is sometimes enough to fix the problem.
If you find that it is your steering wheel that shakes a lot when driving, you need to replace the front rotors, but if the shake affects different parts of the vehicle you need to change both front and back rotors.
Because stuck brake calipers are one of the most common causes of car shaking when driving, fixing them is often enough to solve the problem.
The best fix for stuck brake calipers is to clean and re-lubricate them to ensure they are working smoothly. However, in some instances, they might be beyond repair, and the only solution will be to replace them.
This fix is one that is better left to a professional mechanic if you are not sure what to do as CV joint replacement can be a little complicated.
But, before you go ahead and replace the inner and outer joints, you first need to inspect them thoroughly to ensure they are damaged or worn out.
Even if you find that only one joint is damaged or is not working properly and hence causing the shaking, it will be a wise idea to replace both from the onset. Replacing one will only be a temporary fix, and because they will have different wear levels they may not function well enough.
A serious vehicle vibration or shaking when driving is not only annoying but should also be a source of concern as it indicates there is an underlying problem that you need to fix.
From unbalanced tires to broken motor mounts and damaged rotors, there are almost countless things that can cause your vehicle to vibrate when driving. But, regardless of the cause, the most important thing is to diagnose the problem and fix it quickly.
Your mechanic will always be in a better position to diagnose any issue that may cause vibrations when driving and hence the need to have your car inspected and maintained regularly. Also as a vehicle owner, you still need to take good care of your vehicle because sometimes something as simple as worn tire tread can cause car shaking.
About Joshua Thomas
Joshua Thomas just simply loves cars and willing to work on them whenever there's chance... sometimes for free.
He started CarCareTotal back in 2017 from the advices of total strangers who witnessed his amazing skills in car repairs here and there.
His goal with this creation is to help car owners better learn how to maintain and repair their cars; as such, the site would cover alot of areas: troubleshooting, product recommendations, tips & tricks.
Joshua received Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering at San Diego State University.