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Why does my car shakes when I brake?

Why Does My Car Shake When I Brake?

Is a shaking car giving you nervous shakes? Vibrations in your vehicle and steering wheel can be a bit jarring, especially when performing something as crucial as braking. If you feel vibrations when using the brakes, then you know it’s time to head to your nearest Tires Plus for brake service!

But first, let’s brake down what could be going on with your vehicle.

Why Does My Car Vibrate When I Apply the Brakes?

It’s a troublesome feeling when your car shakes when you brake. If the shaking only occurs when you’re braking while driving, particularly on a vehicle with front or all-wheel disc brakes, this may be caused by a series of issues, including those listed below.

Brake Rotor Issues

Your brake rotors are large metal discs attached to the vehicle’s wheel hub assemblyor axle, and they are positioned between the two brake pads. These pads squeeze against the rotor to slow and stop your vehicle by means of the brake caliper. This caliper utilizes hydraulic fluid pressure from the master cylinder, which is actuated by the brake pedal.

If one or more of your brake rotors becomes ‘warped,’ you might experience that dreaded vibration when you brake. In which case, consider having your brakes inspected at your local Tires Plus.

Worn Brake Pads

Brake pads wear over time — there’s no avoiding it. And depending on how either the pads or rotor wears, you may feel vibrations. If your vehicle vibrates when you apply the brakes and is accompanied by an annoying squealing sound, it’s likely time to get your brake serviced at Tires Plus.

Brake Calipers are Sticking

Your brake calipers are responsible for pushing the brake pads against the rotors. When you hit the brakes, hydraulic brake fluid fills chambers in the caliper, which forces the caliper piston(s) outward and against the pads, slowing the rotor. The harder you brake, the more fluid pressure builds in the calipers, and the more pressure is applied to the brake pads and rotors.

If the caliper or caliper pistons become stuck, it is unable to properly squeeze the brake pads against the rotors, which may cause you to feel some vibrations when you hit the brakes. Calipers may also get stuck while engaged, which won’t allow the brake pad to let off the rotor.

If your brake caliper is sticking, you may experience a few symptoms. Your brake pedal may become less responsive, you may experience acceleration difficulty, and/or your car might pull to one side. You may also hear unusual sounds while braking or even smell a burning odor from excessively hot pads and rotors being squeezed together for too long.

If you notice any of these symptoms, it’s important to get your brakes serviced at Tires Plus immediately to ensure you maintain brake safety on the road.

When I Hit the Brakes, My Steering Wheel Shakes!

A shaky steering wheel or vehicle while braking is certainly unnerving. Unfortunately, there can be many causes for a shaking steering wheel, and not all of them pertain to your brakes! ‘Warped’ rotors, a stuck brake caliper, tire balance or tire issues, and even suspension problems can all cause you to feel vibrations in your steering wheel or vehicle.

Have your shaky steering wheel diagnosed at your local Tires Plus, and our technicians will work to pinpoint the exact issue and provide you with the right service for your vehicle.

My Car Idles Rough When Braking

Many brake symptoms can crop up when you’re attempting to bring your vehicle to a stop. But if your car is vibrating when you’re braking and idling — meaning your foot is on the brake, your engine is running, and your vehicle is not in motion — the problem may be related to the power brake booster assembly.

My Car Vibrates When I Let Off the Gas!

Does your vehicle vibrate when you let off the gas? Shaking while coasting down the highway can be a bit more than a nuisance and should not be ignored. This symptom could be due to several issues. If your vehicle shakes when you let off the gas, schedule your visit to Tires Plus as soon as possible to diagnose and resolve the underlying cause.

Can’t Shake That Vibration? Tires Plus Has Your Back!

Shaking and vibrating while you brake is more than annoying — it can be a sign of serious wear you don’t want to ignore! Schedule a brake service at your nearest Tires Plus or a Complete Vehicle Inspection if you feel your vehicle is showing other worrying symptoms. Our expert technicians will diagnose the cause of your car’s shakes and give you all the details before starting any repairs.

Brake Shudder: Why Your Car Vibrates When You Brake

You’re driving down the highway, air conditioning blasting in your face, and listening to your favorite radio station when suddenly you notice traffic has slowed down completely. You step on the brake pedal and you feel a vibration coming from the brake pedal or worse, through the steering wheel. You hold on tight to the steering wheel as you come to a stop.

Brake Shudder - Car Vibrating When Braking

You’ve just experienced brake shudder, also known as brake judder. Brake shudder occurs due to difficulties within the disc brake system and if not addressed soon, could be dangerous.

How Brake Shudder Occurs

Brake shudder is a vibration that is felt through the steering wheel, brake pedal, and suspension when the brakes are applied at high speeds. The vibrations can range from mild to violent. Brake shudder can be caused by a number of things including damaged rotors, malfunctioning calipers, or new brake pads that have not been properly broken in after replacement.

The source of where the shudder is felt can clue you in as to whether the front or rear brakes are to blame for the shudder. Steering wheel vibrations are often due to an issue with the front rotors while rear rotor troubles will cause vibrations that are felt in the brake pedal.

Uneven Brake Rotors

Brake rotors become warped over time from the heat generated from the friction produced when braking. As the exterior of the rotors wear down they often wear down unevenly. Brake pads are made to come into complete contact with the rotors to produce a smooth braking experience. When rotors are unevenly worn, the brake pads only come into contact with the rotors in certain areas producing a vibration, usually when braking at highway speeds.

Poor Brake Pad Condition

Brake pads that are worn, damaged, or warped, may cause vibrations along with a squeaking sound that indicates brake pads require replacement. Similarly, brake pads that are soiled from dirt, oil, or other toxins can cause vibrations as they attempt to grasp the rotor.

Alignment or Suspension Issues

Vehicles that are out of alignment also produce a brake shudder when engaging the brake pedal. Poor wheel alignment can cause premature tire wear and damage to vital suspension components. Likewise, over time, suspension components including wheel bearings, tie rods, and ball joints may wear out due to normal wear and tear. When these components wear out, the braking experience can be affected. If the vibrations and shaking occurs with normal braking during a turn, your suspension system may be at fault.

How to Fix Brake Shudder

A knowledgeable technician should inspect your vehicle to let you know whether replacing brake pads, brake rotors, or having an alignment performed on your vehicle is recommended to eliminate shaking and vibrations when braking.

A new set of brake pads may be the easiest way to address your vehicle’s brake shudder. However, in some cases replacing your brake rotors or having them resurfaced will fix the brake shudder. If you’re replacing brake rotors, it is recommended you also consider replacing the brake pads as well.

Using old pads with new rotors results in undesirable driving conditions because worn areas of the brake pads won’t make the proper contact with the smooth surface of the new rotors.

How to Avoid Brake Shudder

It’s common for brakes to create intense heat from the friction created while stopping your vehicle. Over time, the heat created from friction causes damage to the braking system. However, excessive heat can also be caused by driving habits, overuse, or poor-quality brake components.

Drivers that speed from light to light and brake suddenly can wear down brakes much faster than the average driver. Though brakes are engineered to withstand extreme temperatures and are able to cool down between uses, frequent use does not allow for the proper cooling to occur, eventually leading to a spongy brake pedal feeling known as brake fade.

Brake fade decreases the pressure in the braking system which is vital in stopping your vehicle. Similarly, overuse of front brakes could create scorch marks on rotors, along with a rather unpleasant smell that cause permanent damage, requiring replacement.

Poor quality brake pads are made with less durable materials and are less tolerable of the heat created from friction which cause them to overheat. Lower quality brake pads may also cause scorch marks to develop on rotors.

Contact a Brake Professional

Brake shuddering is a signal that your braking or suspension system needs attention. Don’t ignore the warning signs and have your vehicle inspected right away. Brake judder makes handling your vehicle more difficult and may pose a danger to yourself or others if it worsens.

Does Your Car Shake When Braking? Here’s What to Do

as you’re coming to a stop, you feel a vibration in the brake pedal. maybe you feel it in the steering wheel, too. a car that shakes when braking is annoying — and it can make you nervous. you don’t want to wait to fix a brake problem. but what’s causing it?

car shakes when braking

a pulsation or vibration when braking can affect stopping and handling performance. it’s a serious problem, but the cause is usually pretty easy to identify and address. you’ll want a professional mechanic to inspect your car, but let’s run down how your brakes work, and some likely causes of this problem.

how your vehicle’s brakes work

it goes without saying that brakes are important. if you can’t bring your car to a stop, you won’t be driving it. so how does this vital system work?

there are two basic types of braking systems: disc and drum. most vehicles have disc brakes on at least one axle and many have discs all the way around.

disc brake system components:

drum brake system components:

both types of systems have a master cylinder, where hydraulic pressure is created when you press the brake pedal. the pedal moves two pistons inside the master cylinder, which pressurizes the brake fluid. the pressurized brake fluid is then forced through a series of brake lines to the wheels.

at each wheel, the brake fluid forces a hydraulically operated caliper to push the brake pads against the rotor. in a drum brake system, hydraulic pressure causes the wheel cylinder to push the brakes shoes against the drum. either scenario slows down the vehicle and eventually brings it to a stop.

why your car shakes when braking

not all brake vibration problems are actually caused by the brakes. there are a few different reasons why your vehicle may shake when braking:

  • brake rotors
  • brake drums
  • wheel bearings
  • steering and suspension components

get it diagnosed by a professional

brake rotors

if your brake rotors have excessive runout — meaning they have a wobble — or they have variations in thickness, this will prevent the brake pads from being parallel to the rotor face. the pads will slip when the brakes are applied. you’ll feel this as a pulsation in the brake pedal. in many cases the steering wheel will shake, as well.

solution: the rotors should be repaired or replaced. to determine which route to take, the rotors should be inspected and measured. have your mechanic visually check the rotors for damage such as cracks, scoring and heat spots, and then measure the rotor for minimum thickness, thickness variation and runout. if they still meet the manufacturer’s specifications, they can be machined and reused. but in most cases, a rotor that’s distorted enough to cause a vibration will need to be replaced.

brake drums

brake drums that are out-of-round can cause a brake pedal pulsation. other symptoms include a scraping or squealing noise when you press the brake pedal.

solution: the drums should be repaired or replaced. have your mechanic give them a visual inspection, looking for damage such as cracks, scoring and heat spots. any of these would indicate that you need new drums. next, have the drums measured for out-of-round, minimum thickness and thickness variation. if they still meet the manufacturer’s specifications, they can be machined and reused. but in most cases, a drum that’s causing a vibration will need to be replaced.

wheel bearings

wheel bearings allow the wheels to rotate while supporting the vehicle’s weight. the brake rotor is connected to the wheel bearing hub assembly. a worn wheel bearing that has too much play will cause a vibration when braking.

solution: replace the worn wheel bearing or bearings. in many cases, the wheel bearing will be an integral part of the hub assembly and won’t be serviceable. the entire hub assembly will have to be replaced.

steering and suspension components

typically, worn steering or suspension components will cause a vibration while driving, not just when braking. however, in some instances a worn or damaged component, such as a loose control arm or damaged knuckle, may cause a vibration when braking. a bent or otherwise damaged axle shaft can have the same effect.

solution: have the car inspected and replace any worn or damaged suspension or steering components. you may need a wheel alignment, as well.

get your brakes checked

even if you don’t feel a problem (or hear one), your brakes should be inspected at least once a year. how often you need to get them replaced will vary depending on your car and your brake usage.

remember, brakes are the most important safety feature on your car, and if something seems wrong with them, get your car inspected by a professional technician immediately.

About the Author

Mia Bevacqua is an automotive expert with ASE Master, L1, L2 and L3 Advanced Level Specialist certification. With 13-plus years of experience in the field, she applies her skills toward writing, consulting and automotive software engineering.

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