Car Shaking While Driving? Top 7 Reasons Why

Car Shaking While Driving? Top 7 Reasons Why

Last Updated on April 4, 2024

Is your car shaking or shuddering when you start driving? Or does it suddenly start shaking at high speeds? You may feel vibration through the seat, the steering wheel or even in the brake pedal. This is all an indication that there’s something wrong with your vehicle. Let’s take a look at some of the most common causes of car shakes and how to fix them.

What causes a car to shake when driving?

If your car is shaking and shuddering there are plenty of reasons why. The most common causes typically stem from warped brake rotors, out-of-balance tires, or unevenly worn tires. Something under the hood may also be causing these issues, such as bad spark plugs, or dirty transmission fluid. Less common, but other possible causes for shaking or shuddering are worn motor mounts, bad ball joints, or even a bent wheel.

You don’t want your shaking issues to get worse, but thankfully we will cover the seven most common reasons they happen so you know what to look for. Let’s get into this!

Why Is My Car Shaking? Here Are 7 Most Common Reasons

Your Tires Are Worn or Aged

The average driver spends 12,000 to 15,000 miles a year on the road. A set of all season tires will last about 3-5 years before needing replaced. If the age or mileage of your tires is anywhere near that, then it’s a good idea to check for any unusual wear or damage. If you notice the tire tread is flush with the wear bars, then it’s time for a new set of tires. Tires that are bald, badly worn or worn unevenly are a likely source of vibrations. The condition of your tires can have a big effect on ride quality.

Drive less than 12,000 miles and your tires are 5 years or older?

Then your vibrations might be caused by aged tires. Lightly used tires tend to experience effects of aging instead of wear. An aged tire still has a fair amount of tread, however the structural of the tire is weaker. Tires need to be driven for the chemicals in the rubber to remain effective.

If you have worn tires, or those that are showing signs of dry rot then this could be the cause of your car shaking when driving. It is highly recommended to replace them immediately. Otherwise, you may put yourself or other people in danger by continuing to drive on them.

The Brakes Need Servicing

If you notice vibration when braking, it’s likely an issue with your brake rotors. Brake rotors are important because they spin with and stop the wheels when the brake pads clamp down on them. They withstand lots of heat during normal use, and can become uneven over time. Unevenness is often referred to as warping. When brake rotors become warped, it will cause a shaking or vibration when the brakes are applied. You may even notice the steering wheel shake when the front rotors are warped.

The good news about rotors is that they last a while, usually between 30,000 to 70,000 thousand miles. Costs to replace a set of brake rotors vary depending on make and model of vehicle, but expect to pay between $300 to $600 dollars.

Warped rotors can not only cause your car to shake, but are also a safety concern. They reduce your car’s ability to stop quickly and control it during emergencies. Brake issues should not be ignored.

Tires Need Balancing

Imbalanced tires are a recipe for disaster. They lead to shaking and excessive wear, which in turn causes problems with the suspension. If you notice your car shaking when driving at different speeds your wheels may need balancing. Pay close attention to the part of the vehicle that shakes. If it’s in the steering wheel, it’s likely your front tires. However, if it’s in the seats, the imbalance is in the back wheels.

The most common cause for out-of balance tires is uneven wear or the loss of a wheel weight. For example, hitting a pothole may of caused one of the wheel weights to fall off. Or maybe your tires have developed flat spots from being parked for extended periods.

Fortunately, wheel balancing is a common maintenance procedure typically performed at every 5,000 to 6,000 miles. Depending on the size of tire, expect to pay between $14 to $85 dollars to balance each tire.

You May Have Engine Issues

The engine of your car is a complex and dynamic machine. There are many components that can cause it to shake while idling or accelerating. The most common components in an engine to go bad and cause a shake are the spark plugs, fuel filter or engine mounts.

Bad Spark Plugs

Bad spark plugs are perhaps the most common of all engine parts to fail and cause a car to shake. They are in charge of igniting the air/fuel mixture inside each combustion chamber of the engine. If any one is bad, it can interfere with them firing correctly and cause a shake when you start your car. Bad spark plugs can also lead to a lost of power and increased fuel consumption.

Spark plugs typically last up to 100,000 miles, but if they need replacing expect to pay between $196 and $251 for replacement.

Clogged Fuel Filter

The little-known but important job of keeping your car running smoothly starts with the fuel filter. Fuel filters are there to protect your engine. They trap all kinds of debris from entering the fuel pump and engine. When the fuel filter is clogged, it can cause low fuel pressure that results in random misfires and a rough idle.

Fuel filters on average last about 60,000 miles before needing replaced. Expect to pay between $75 and $200 for a fuel filter replacement service.

Worn or Broken Engine Mounts

Motor mounts are one of the most important components in an engine because they help to stabilize, align, and hold your engine in place. The first obvious sign of bad motor mounts is engine vibration. If your car is shaking in place when parked, it’s probably a sign of bad motor mounts.

Motor mounts are typically made of rubber. They absorb and dampen the vibrations generated by the engine. These small parts do a lot of heavy lifting in your vehicle.

Motor mounts typically last the lifetime of the vehicle. However, depending on mileage they have been known to go bad within 5 to 10 years. Expect to pay between $475 and $525 for a motor mount replacement service.

You Have a Bent Wheel

If you notice vibration in the steering wheel at moderate & high speeds, or a thumping sound that gets faster when you accelerate–you might have a bent wheel. Driving into a pothole or bumping the curb can easily bend your cars wheels. It really doesn’t’ take much to bend a wheel, especially if any one of your tires is low on air.

Shakiness in the front, such as in the steering wheel, is a sign that your front wheel is bent. However, vibration in your seat or farther behind indicates that your rear wheel has been damaged.

If you have a wheel that is slightly bent, then it can almost certainly be repaired. However, more extensive damage is a different situation altogether. When a wheel is severely bent out of shape, they are probably beyond repair and its time for a replacement.

Wheel experts would be able to tell you if the damage your wheel can be repaired or if replacement is necessary. If your wheel can be repaired, expect to pay between $75 to $150 for wheel repair.

Your Suspension Needs Servicing

Shaking in the steering wheel at high speeds can be an early indication that something is amiss with your suspension system. When the suspension components of your car can become worn, you’ll start noticing some pretty severe vibrations once it’s above 45 miles per hour. Worn shocks and struts, ball joints, wheel bearings or bushings are the likely culprits of these vibrations. When these components begin to fail, they transmit every road imperfection to the steering wheel.

So if you find yourself asking how long do suspension components last? The good news is you can get 50,000-80,000 before they need repair. Suspension systems have been designed to last thousands of miles, but all it takes is one bump in the road for something go wrong and ruin those happy numbers!

If you’ve been noticing your car shaking while driving at higher speeds, it might be best to take the vehicle into a shop as soon possible and get those issues fixed before they become even worse.

Your Transmission Fluid Needs Servicing

Notice a light rattle when the car is parked but idling? Or feel the car shaking when driving around at 30 to 45 miles per hour? If yes to any one of these then your transmission fluid likely needs servicing. As your car’s transmission fluid becomes older, it starts picking up more grit and grime which eventually breaks down and the fluid. This break down in the fluid causes the transmission to create unnecessary vibrations.

Having your vehicle’s transmission fluid flushed will remove dirt and contaminants that have built up over time in the transmission. Changing your transmission fluid is a cheap and easy way to keep the car running smoothly. Neglecting the fluid can lead to a costly transmission repair bill.

On average transmission fluid last about 60,000 to 100,000 miles before needing replaced. Expect to pay between $150 and $250 for a transmission fluid change.

Final Thoughts

If you are experiencing your car shaking while driving it’s important to get the problem diagnosed and fixed as soon as possible. It could be an easy fix, or it might be something more serious. The only way to know for sure is to take it in for a diagnostic checkup. Don’t wait until the problem gets worse–get it checked out today and save yourself some money down the road.

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