Blog Car Care Advice 8 Reasons Your Car Shakes While Driving (+ How to Diagnose)
Car Care Advice

8 Reasons Your Car Shakes While Driving (+ How to Diagnose)

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Let’s be honest. 
No matter how loud you play your music, you can’t ignore a car shaking while driving.

Damaged components like wheels, brakes, engine parts, etc., can make your car shake at high speeds. This can be quite dangerous and requires urgent resolution.

Keep reading to understand why your car shakes while driving, and get some tips on diagnosing and addressing these problems. 

This Article Contains:

8 Urgent Reasons Your Car Is Shaking While Driving

Here are the most common causes of a vibrating car:

1. Wheel Issues

Car shaking while driving is almost always linked to wheel troubles. The cause can be the wheels and rims, a faulty wheel alignment, or a worn wheel bearing
Let’s cover each in detail:

A. Damaged Tires or Rims

Maybe you’ve had a minor accident, scraped a curb, or are overdue for a new tire set.

Issues such as uneven tire wear, formation of cracks or bubbles on tires, low tire pressure, or an imbalanced tire can affect tire integrity. If ignored, a tire issue can lead to a bumpy ride and affect drivability.

B. Improper Wheel Alignment

If you have misaligned wheels, they’ll fight each other to find the correct wheel angles while driving — causing strong wheel vibration and car shaking. 

Moreover, components like a wheel ball joint and bushings wear over time and start giving “play” in your wheels when you move the steering wheel. If you notice diminished steering performance or experience a shaky steering wheel (steering wheel vibration), you should get the unbalanced wheel fixed urgently.

C. Worn Wheel Bearing

Wheel bearings allow the wheels to rotate freely while connected to the axle. 

When a wheel bearing is worn or damaged, the respective wheel can start moving in and out. This causes resistance between the wheel and the axle, resulting in wheel vibration when the car is at high speed.

2. Brake Problems

The only thing worse than brakes that don’t work are brakes that work when they shouldn’t!

If you hit the brake pedal and your car vibrates, the likely culprit is faulty or warped brake rotors (brake disc), brake caliper, or worn brake pads. A defective brake caliper or rotor will also cause the brakes to remain engaged while driving (even if the brake pedal isn’t engaged), leading to a strong car vibration. 

3. Engine Problems

Here are the two possible reasons your engine is causing a car vibration:

A. Worn Motor Mount

Motor mounts (engine mounts) rest between the engine and the engine bay to prevent engine vibration from traveling through the car’s body. If a motor mount deteriorates, you’ll feel vibrations from the engine whenever it’s running. The more power the engine exerts, the more excessive vibration you’ll feel.

B. Worn Spark Plugs

If your spark plugs have outlived their use, they’ll tamper with your engine’s piston firing order.

This new firing order can cause misfires, creating a shake in the engine with each firing cycle. A quick spark plug replacement should do the trick. If not, it could be air and fuel filters.

A clogged air or fuel filter can starve the spark plugs of both ingredients needed for combustion. Less air or fuel causes misfires and engine shaking, too. When that happens, your Check Engine Light will come on. 

4. Bent Axle and Driveshaft

A recent fender bender could have bent your axle. A bent axle can lead to shaking between 40-50 mph, with the vibration increasing along with speed.

On the other hand, bent driveshafts cause shaking at lower speeds, which fluctuates based on acceleration and braking.

If your axle and driveshaft pass inspection, the cause might be a worn CV joint. A CV joint is encased in a rubber boot, also known as a CV boot, that covers each end of the axle. When these wear down, they allow excessive vibration to enter the car’s body. 

5. Damaged Steering Column

A fully functioning steering column (the connection between a steering wheel and steering mechanism) is essential for your car’s drivability. However, some components within may wear out over time, creating a play in the bushings and the ball joint. This can lead to steering wheel vibration (shaky steering wheel). 

So, if you notice a sudden steering wheel shake, take the hint!
Get the steering column checked ASAP.

6. Power Steering Issues

You’ll know power steering issues are at fault if you only notice car vibrations during turns. If that happens, you should check for power steering fluid leaks. 

7. Faulty Suspension Component 

Your suspension could be the cause of car vibrations if: 

If you suspect that a suspension component in your car requires some TLC, get a diagnostic check to be sure.

8. Low Transmission Fluid 

Transmission fluid lubricates moving metal parts and bearings in the gearbox. It also helps create hydraulic pressure where needed. 

Low transmission fluid levels can cause some grinding, which translates into shaking in the car when you try to accelerate. If you notice a transmission fluid leak, ensure that your next stop is the mechanic for a transmission repair.

Now that you know the causes of car shaking, we’ll go over how to diagnose them.

How to Diagnose a Shaking Car (5 Crucial Inspections)

Diagnosing a car shaking problem requires technical expertise and can be complex, so it’s best to let an experienced mechanic handle it. 

Here’s what they’ll usually do:

1. Inspect and Balance the Tires

The mechanic will check the tires and rims for visible damage, including an imbalanced tire or uneven tire wear. If there’s an issue like bubbles or bends in the rims, they may suggest getting a new tire.

Note: Low tire pressure can also contribute to uneven tire wear and resulting car vibrations.

If there’s no tire wear, they’ll use a tire balancing machine to fix an unbalanced tire. Sometimes, a simple tire rotation may also resolve the issue.

2. Inspect the Brake Rotors

The mechanic will inspect the brake rotors for rust and check for a warped brake rotor. A warped rotor should always be replaced

If you have a shaking steering wheel, it indicates problems with the front brake rotors. On the other hand, any shaking elsewhere in the vehicle means the rear brake rotors are at fault. They may also do a test drive to see if the shaking occurs while hitting the brake pedal. If the shaking is more aggressive, it’ll require further inspection.

However, if there’s no shaking during braking, the mechanic may suggest an engine diagnosis and repair.

3. Engine Inspection 

The first indicator for an engine problem is an illuminated Check Engine Light. If it’s on, three components need assessment: spark plugs, motor mounts, and transmission fluid.

Here’s what the mechanic will do for each:

If all other inspections are inconclusive, then a suspension inspection is warranted.

4. Steering and Suspension Inspection 

The mechanic will inspect the tie rod end, bushings, and other connecting suspension components for damage. They’ll do this on both the front and rear suspension.

They’ll also check for any power steering fluid leak and worn steering column parts, like shafts and ball joints, that may be contributing to excessive car vibrations.

5. Driveshaft and Axle Inspection

The final possibility for car vibrations is a faulty driveshaft or bent axle. 

Damage or bends in the driveshaft could lead to intense vibrations throughout the car’s body. A mechanic will test drive the vehicle to see if the shaking occurs at constant speeds and visually inspect the driveshaft and axles for issues.

Damaged driveshafts usually require replacement instead of repairs. 

Have more questions?
Check out these FAQs.

4 FAQs about Cars Shaking While Driving

Here are the answers to some common queries you may have about vehicle shakes:

1. Is it Safe to Drive a Shaking Car?

Short answer — no.

While all cars shake mildly when driving, aggressive shaking is a sign that something’s wrong with your car. It could be unsafe to drive if specific components (like the brake rotor or engine) become faulty, which is why getting regular car maintenance service is recommended. 

So, get your car assessed ASAP if you notice your vehicle shaking, as it can lead to severe damage or expensive engine repair. 

2. Why Does My Car Shake at Higher Speeds?

If your car shakes at high speeds, your wheel bearings are likely worn, or you might have damaged tires and rims. Stay safe and get your wheels inspected — especially if you’ve recently hit a curb or had a mild fender bender.

3. Why Does My Car Vibrate at Idle but Smooth Out at Speed?

If your car shakes when stationary but smooths out as you gain speed, your motor mounts are likely bad. 

Motor mounts absorb engine vibration but transfer this shaking to the car’s body when worn. This is quite noticeable at idle or low speed. However, your engine is better supported when driving at high speed, reducing the vibrations felt.

4. How Much Does it Cost to Fix Car Shaking Problems?

The average cost of inspecting car vibration issues can range from $80 to $150, depending on the make and model of your vehicle and the labor charges in your area. 

Here are cost estimates for fixing issues that can cause car shaking:

Smooth Out Your Ride with AutoNation Mobile Service

As a car owner, experiencing car shakes while driving at a high or low speed is uncomfortable and problematic —  indicating something in your vehicle isn’t right. This shaking can result from misaligned wheels, faulty suspension components, a warped brake rotor, or an engine problem. 

But solving these issues doesn’t have to be hard.
Get help from a trusted mechanic at AutoNation Mobile Service.

We’re a mobile auto repair and maintenance service offering upfront pricing, easy online booking, and a 12-month, 12,000-mile repair warranty. 

Contact us for an accurate estimate of your auto repair costs, and we’ll bring the shop to you.