Why Your Car Shakes When Braking and How to Fix It

A car is a great thing to have, seeing that it makes life easier for you. However, there are situations where your car can be a source of concern. Say, for instance, when your car shakes while braking. Few things can be as annoying as a situation where you need to pull up at a stop sign, for example, and your car starts shaking.

Beyond the embarrassment that driving a shaking car attracts, there are the risks associated with driving a car that shakes when you brake. There is also the possibility of serious car damage if the underlying issues are not diagnosed and sorted out.

One thing is clear, though. There is something wrong when you notice that your car shakes when you brake. This article will explain why this happens and provide information on how to solve the problem. It will also provide answers to some questions you might have about the situation. Have a great read!

car shakes when stopped

What Causes Car Shaking When Braking?

Here’s where we look at the reasons why your car shakes when braking and accelerating. But first, let’s look at how your car’s brake system works.

How Your Car’s Brakes Work

Although there are two main types of brakes fitted on most current vehicles, disc brakes are the more common type of brake used in cars today. Here’s a quick view of how they work.

With disc brake systems, a metal disc (also known as a rotor) is coupled to the wheel of your car. Each rotor is fitted with a caliper that clinches the rotor and ensures that the rotor and wheel rotate freely. When you push the brake pedal, the pressure causes the hydraulic fluid to slow the wheel by causing contact between the brake pad and the rotor. The more pressure you put on the brake pedal, the more tightly the brake pad clinches the rotor.

Drum brake systems feature a hollow metal drum attached to the wheel and some shoes situated within the drum. With this system, when you push the brake pedal, the hydraulic pressure causes the shoes to apply friction within the drum, which causes the wheel to stop relative to the pressure applied. So why does your car shake when braking?

Read Also: Noise When Braking at Low Speed

Why Your Car Shakes When You Brake

Regardless of the type, brake systems are comprised of several components that all work together. Whenever any of these components are failing or worn out, the brake system is affected. When you notice that your car is shaking when you brake, the first step is to determine the root of the problem. The best way to go about that is to understand some of the things that could go wrong. For example, why your car shakes when braking slowly. That said, here are some of the reasons why your car shakes when you brake:

Issues with the Braking Rotors

This occurs in vehicles with disc brake systems that require rotors. Damaged or warped rotors are often the cause of this driving experience. The thing is, the only way your car gets slowed down is by the action of the brake pad on the rotors. After a period of consistent pressure from the brake pedal, the rotors begin to wear out.  In other situations, the heat brought by the friction of the contact between these components can cause the rotor to get warped over time.

Another cause of rotor issues is a lack of use. That is why cars that have been out of use for a while tend to shake when the brakes are applied. This is because the rotor area under the brake pad corrodes very easily and will function like a warped or worn rotor. So when your car has a warped rotor, the car will shake when you apply the brakes because the metal is no longer straight. Imbalanced brake rotors can also cause your car to shake when you use the brakes.

Stuck Brake Calipers

The brake calipers press the brake pad against the rotor when you press the pedal, which pumps brake fluid through the brake lines the brake fluid then generates the hydraulic pressure that forces the caliper to press the brake pads. Stuck brake calipers will fail to press the brake pads against the rotors and cause the car to vibrate when you brake. This is because you will be applying uneven pressure when you apply pressure on a caliper that is not clinching the rotor. You might also notice a bad smell if the problem is with the calipers.

Worn Brake Pads or Drum Brakes

Brake pads have a life span regardless of how careful you are. One way or the other, after a while, it will wear out-the average brake pad is designed to last a few thousand miles.

When the brake pad wears out, you will experience some shaking when you apply the brakes. This shaking is caused by the metal tab on the brake pad. You also experience a shaking sensation when you hit the brakes if the car wheel’s drums are unevenly worn. 

Wheel Alignment Issues

Your car’s alignment could also be responsible for your car shaking when you hit the brakes, especially when you have to apply the brakes at high speeds. It is a common reason for car shakes when braking at high speeds, not rotors. You can confirm this by driving your car at high speed without steering the car(for a few seconds and only when it is safe to do so). If the car continues moving in a straight line, then wheel alignment issues are not the reason for the vibration. However, any change in direction indicates that the car has alignment issues that might be the reason for the car shaking when you brake.

Tire Problems 

Tire problems are another primary reason for your car shaking when you hit the brakes. Take worn tires and deflated or poorly pumped tires, for example. In any of these situations, you might notice your car shaking when braking at high speeds.

Trapped Air

If air gets trapped in a brake line, it creates uneven pressure that will spread across the brake calipers and pads. This could also cause your car to shake when you apply the brakes.

Now You Know

You might be wondering what next now that you know what causes car shaking when braking. You might have even asked the question, “how do I stop my car shaking when I brake,” both offline and online. Hold your horses. The answer to that question is a few paragraphs away.

car shaking when braking at high speeds

How Do I Stop My Car Shaking When I Brake 

So what do you do in a situation where your car shakes when braking and stops? First off, you must know that there are different ways to fix the problem.

 You might want to get a seasoned technician to help you with it. This is where you take your car to a trusted auto mechanic shop so that an accurate diagnosis could be run on your car. That way, you will ascertain what the problem is, whether it is the rotor or the brake pads or shoes, among other things.

The other option would be the DIY approach. However, you must note that the DIY approach is not for the uninitiated. You should have some experience and the right tools before trying to resolve the issue yourself. It would be best if you also were sure about which component requires repair or replacement. That said, here is how you go about it:

Remove the wheel after taking off the bolts that secure it. After taking off the wheel, you can then take repair/replace the following components:

Brake Rotors

After taking off the wheel, you come face to face with the brake rotor. Start by removing the caliper. To do this, you will need to compress the brake caliper piston. Try to get between brakes and carefully pull with a screwdriver or pry bar. You then remove the upper and lower bolts after taking the caliper out of the way. If your car has an ABS sensor, you might want to remove it so that it does not get in the way. Also, ensure that the rotor is not hanging on the brake line because it could damage it.

The next step would be to remove the bolts that secure the caliper bracket using an impact bar or a breaker bar because they might be extra stuck because of the lock tight applied to them. You might want to use some penetrating oil and make sure to clean the old lock tight and apply a new one before putting the bolts back.

After taking off the rotor, you might want to machine it or replace it depending on the extent of damage to it.

Guide Pins and Brake Pads

You could change the guide pins if they need to be changed. Note that there are rubber boots that hold the guide pins in place. Take off the guide pins, and if they don’t need to be changed, you can clean them. Before returning them, make sure that you use the specified grease on them.

To replace the brake pads, you start cleaning up the piston cups if the brake pads come with adhesive backing. Your brake pads might come with metal clips above and below. If they do, ensure that you replace them too. Be sure the tabs are on the piston side of the caliper.

After repairing or replacing the necessary components, you then follow the same process you took to get off the wheel.

You might have to implement minor repairs or complete replacements of some of the braking system components. This means that resolving the issue could cost anything between $50 to a few thousand dollars. It all depends on the extent of work that needs to be done and the labor costs involved(diagnosis, inspection, and repair/replacements).

Now you know what to do if your car shakes when stopped. You can get more information by watching this video.


Q: Is It Bad If My Car Shakes When I Brake?

Yes, it is. Your car shakes when you brake because certain things are wrong with part of the numerous systems that work in tandem for your car to function optimally. Some of the issues associated with your vehicle shaking are bad brake rotors, poorly lubricated guide pins, worn-out brake pads, and wheel alignment issues. Any of these issues could quickly degenerate if they are not handled as soon as you detect them.

Q: Can Wheel Alignment Cause Vibration When Braking?

Yes, it most definitely can. When your car’s wheels are poorly aligned, they do not move in synchronization and cause your vehicle to vibrate when you step on the brakes. The vibration is often accompanied by squealing sounds when the poorly aligned wheels rub against the brake pads. Ensure that you check your wheel alignment whenever you notice that your car vibrates when you brake.

Q: Why Does My Steering Wheel Shake When I Brake At High Speeds?

There are several reasons for your car shaking when you brake at high speeds, or your car shaking when braking downhill. Here they are:

 Damaged Brake Pads: Damaged braked pads will not clinch the rotors firmly enough, and this can cause your car to shake when you brake at high speeds.

Dry Guide Pins: Poorly lubricated guide pins can cause the brake pads to press the rotor at the wrong angle and lead to vibrations.

Warped Rotors: When your car’s rotors are not in good working condition, their movement can cause the vehicle to vibrate when you brake at high speeds.

Q: Is It Safe To Drive When Your Car Is Shaking? Top of Form

 No, it is not. Besides the fact that a shaking car can be quite frustrating and uncomfortable for you and others in the vehicle, it is an abnormality that should be fixed ASAP. Regardless of the speeds at which it occurs, it would be best if you did not continue to drive when your car shakes when braking and accelerating. It is not a safe situation to be in.

 A shaking car might not result in a dangerous situation the moment it starts shaking. But you will be putting yourself at the risk of a potential crash or possible damage to parts of the car if you do not take care of the issue as soon as you can.

Q: Why Is My Car Pulsating?

Your car is pulsating for several reasons. The primary reason for your vehicle pulsating is wheel alignment and tire issues. Things like poorly fastened lug nuts, damaged wheels, poorly balanced tires, and tires with separated tire treads can make your car pulsate. Another reason is when your car’s suspension or steering system components are loose. Your car pulsates when these components are out of place.

 Broken or loose engine/transmission mounts, axle issues, and bad brake rotors can also cause your car to pulsate. When you notice that your vehicle is pulsating, your best bet is to get a mechanic to inspect the car so you determine what is exactly responsible for your car pulsating.

Final Words

You probably found this article because you ran an internet search using the query “car squeak when I brake“. If you read the article to this point, then you probably have some answers. Identifying why your car shakes when braking and accelerating are great, but you might want to get a technician to check your car. This is because an experienced technician should quickly diagnose the reason for your car shaking when you brake.

Thankfully, resolving brake-related issues is relatively inexpensive and can be handled within a short time. That said, once you notice that your car shakes when braking, you must do something about it as soon as you can.

Osuagwu Solomon

Osuagwu Solomon is a certified mechanic with over a decade of experience in the mechanic garage, and he has over five years of experience in the writing industry. He started writing automotive articles to share his garage experience with car enthusiasts and armature mechanics. If he is not in the garage fixing challenging mechanical problems, he is writing automotive repair guides, buyer’s guides, and car and tools comparisons.

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