Why Does My Car Shake When It Brakes

When your car shakes while braking, it can be quite concerning. You may notice that as you apply the brakes, your car starts to jiggle and shake as if it’s driving over a bumpy road. However, even though the road surface is smooth, your car seems to be giving you an unexpected full-body massage. It’s reasonable to question why this occurs.

There are multiple reasons why a car may shake when braking.

  • It is possible that one of your tires is severely “out of round.”
  • It is possible for a wheel to become unbalanced if it loses its counterweight.
  • It is possible that your car’s front-end alignment is significantly off.
  • It is possible that your car’s steering may be impacted by a loose control arm or a damaged knuckle.
  • It’s possible that your axle shaft is damaged and causing issues.

Hey, you might have a problem with loose lug nuts on your wheel. This can cause the wheel to wobble, especially when you’re slowing down.

Most Common Cause of Car Shakes While Braking

There are multiple potential causes for the shakes-when-it-brakes syndrome. However, according to Eric Charles, a certified mechanic we spoke to, the most likely cause of car shake when braking is a problem with the braking system. Other issues such as an unbalanced wheel or bad alignment usually cause vibration consistently, not just when braking. Therefore, if your car shakes only when braking, it is recommended to check the brakes first, as that is often where the problem lies.

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How Brakes Work

Even the most clueless drivers can grasp that brakes work by stopping the wheels from turning. If you slow down the wheels, the car slows down.

When you look at cars, you’ll notice that almost all of them have two types of brakes. The main kind is disc brakes, but there are still a few cars that use drum brakes, usually on the back wheels.

The function of a disc brake is to slow down the wheel by applying pressure between the brake pad and the metal disc (rotor). The rotor is connected to the wheel and can freely rotate until the driver uses the brake pedal. This action activates the hydraulic fluid in the braking system, causing the brake pad to come into contact with the rotor, thus slowing down the wheel. The more pressure applied on the brake pedal, the tighter the brake pad clamps onto the rotor.

When using drum brakes, a hollow metal drum is connected to the wheel. When hydraulic pressure is applied through the brake pedal and braking system, it causes “shoes” inside the drum to create friction on the inside edge, thus slowing down the wheel. Applying more pressure to the brake pedal results in the shoes applying more pressure to the drum, thus slowing down the wheel faster.

Why a Car Shakes When Braking

When you have disc brakes in your vehicle, the most common reason for shaking is a rotor that is warped or damaged in some way. This can happen as a normal result of wear and tear. The repeated contact of the brake pad against the rotor wears away the rotor material in that specific area. Eventually, the heat generated by the friction of the pad on the rotor can cause the rotor to become warped.

In order to fix this issue, the rotor can be resurfaced or “turned” to restore its proper alignment and reduce the likelihood of warping. However, it’s important to be cautious during this process, as removing too much rotor material can make it more susceptible to warping in the future.

According to mechanic Charles, one common cause of brake rotor issues is lack of use. When vehicles are left undriven for extended periods, the area of the rotor under the brake pad can corrode or accumulate brake pad material. This can result in a similar effect to having a warped brake rotor when the vehicle is back on the road. To fix this, a rotor with surface corrosion can be turned to restore its flatness. However, if too much material is machined away, it will likely warp again and become unusable. In such cases, the brake rotor should be replaced.

When using vehicles with drum brakes, it is possible for the drums to become out of round, resulting in pedal pulsation and vibration when the brakes are applied. In order to determine if this is the case, a mechanic can measure the drums and inspect them for any signs of damage or scoring. If the drums are not within the required specifications, there is the option to machine them in order to restore their roundness, as long as the thickness of the drum remains within the manufacturer’s guidelines. However, if this is not possible, the alternative would be to replace the drum.

A skilled technician should be able to figure out why your car is shaking while driving. And if it only happens when you press the brakes, it could be because the rotor is damaged or the drum is not round.

Although the shaking can be bothersome, it does not necessarily mean you have to start looking for a new car or worry about the financial burden. Brake issues like the ones we are discussing can usually be fixed promptly and at a reasonable cost. There is no need to go to such extreme measures as applying for a second mortgage in this situation.

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