Why Does My Car Shake When I Brake?

May 26th, 2023 by

If you’ve been a car owner for a reasonable length of time, you’re likely familiar with the ins and outs of your vehicle and can easily recognize when something isn’t working correctly. Even so, one of the most confusing issues you may encounter in the course of your driving is your car shaking whenever you apply the brakes. There are several reasons why this may happen, and it doesn’t always mean that your brakes need replacing.

At Performance Honda Store’s service department, we’re committed to helping drivers in the Fairfield, Ohio, area understand common automotive issues they may encounter and how to troubleshoot them. In this complete guide, we share some reasons your car might shake when braking and how to mitigate this problem. Take a look at these common causes below to help you understand them better.

Warped or Damaged Rotor

If your car has disc brakes, one of the most common culprits for shaking when the brakes are applied might be an uneven or damaged rotor. The repeated application of brake pads onto the rotors leads to the wearing out of rotor material over time. The excessive heat and friction generated during braking may also cause one or more rotors to become warped or out of balance. This can cause the dreadful shaking you might experience when you apply the brakes.

Fortunately, having your vehicle’s braking system inspected by a qualified technician at Performance Honda can help determine whether your rotors are the issue so that the appropriate solution is applied.

Worn-Out Brake Pads

a close up of a car's brake rotor

Image by Benjamin Brunner is licensed with Unsplash License

Brake pads inevitably wear out over time with frequent use and must be replaced often. Depending on how much your brake pads have deteriorated, you might experience vibrations or shaking accompanied by a screeching sound whenever you apply the brakes. In this case, you must immediately replace your vehicle’s brake pads to remedy the issue.

It’s worth noting that worn-out brake pads can damage your car’s rotor, which is a potentially more expensive repair. For this reason, replacing your vehicle’s brake pads before they wear down to one-quarter of their size is critical. Most manufacturers typically provide a recommended mileage in their owners manual, after which you should replace your brake pads. However, if you’re unsure how often to change your brake pads, a good rule of thumb is to replace them every 50,000 miles.

Stuck Brake Calipers

Brake calipers are fundamental parts of a car’s braking mechanism that, when engaged, push the brake pads against the rotor, thereby bringing the vehicle to a halt. The proper functioning of brake calipers typically relies on the brake fluid, which delivers the hydraulic pressure required for the calipers to press against the brake pads. However, when brake calipers are stuck, the inconsistent pressure applied on the rotors can lead to vibrations, particularly in the steering wheel, during braking.

Dry Guide Pins

Another common reason for car shakes and vibrations during braking is dry guide pins. The purpose of guide pins in a vehicle’s braking system is to guide the brake pads to the rotor when the brakes are applied. However, guide pins must be clean and sufficiently lubricated to function correctly. When the guide pins are dry or corroded, they can cause the brake pads to push against the rotor at a misaligned angle, thus impeding proper braking and potentially causing vibrations and screeching noises.

Alignment Issues

Car shakes and vibrations during braking can also be symptomatic of vehicle alignment problems. To determine whether this is the case, try driving your vehicle at a speed of 50 to 55 miles per hour when no other motorists are on the road. Once your car accelerates, lift your hands off the steering wheel for a few seconds and observe whether it veers slightly off its original course.

If your vehicle has no issues with alignment, it should continue traveling in a straight line even with your hands off the steering wheel. However, if your car veers to the left or right, chances are it has an alignment issue that requires immediate attention.

Unbalanced Tires

Having balanced tires is critical when it comes to driving, as it ensures the car’s weight is evenly distributed and thus allows for smooth and safe driving. In contrast, poorly balanced wheels can cause the steering and suspension to be out of whack. This can lead to vibrations and steering difficulties, which are more apparent during braking. It’s worth noting that imbalanced tires affect the drive quality and reduce the vehicle’s fuel economy. For this reason, an auto mechanic should inspect your car’s tire alignment and wheel rotation regularly — at least every 5,000 to 7,000 miles.

Crooked Wheel Rims

As with misaligned tires, having bent wheel rims can significantly impede your vehicle’s steering, causing it to veer off course when driving. The risk of crooked rims is significantly noticeable when driving on pothole-filled roads. You might notice vibrations coming from your vehicle when driving with bent rims at high speeds, and these tremors may worsen every time you increase your speed or when you suddenly apply the brakes. If you notice this happening, it’s imperative to have your rims fixed before they cause further damage that might cost even more to repair.

Issues With Suspension

If you’re observing that your car shakes during braking and when driving normally, chances are your suspension is faulty. Driving on rocky or uneven roads will, over time, deteriorate your car’s axle and impede the proper functioning of its suspension. Suspension issues are a common culprit for vibrations when brakes are applied, albeit one of the easiest to fix with professional help.

Driving a vehicle that vibrates or shakes whenever you apply the brakes makes for an unpleasant ride and can be a serious road safety hazard if not resolved early. Fortunately, our certified technicians at Performance Honda in Fairfield, Ohio, are highly experienced and skilled in troubleshooting the common braking problems discussed here. If you need a brake replacement or other repairs to your braking system, contact us today to schedule a service.

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