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If My Car Shakes or Vibrates While Driving, How Do I fix It?

by Eddie Carrara

If your car shakes while driving down the road or the steering wheel vibrates, you're not alone. One of the most common complaints of vehicle owners is vibrations. Whether it from the car tires, bent rim, or the brakes, they can be annoying and if left unattended for a long time, it could cause premature wear and tear on the tires and suspension.

Most vehicle owners think that when their car shakes or vibrates, it means they need and alignment, this is not true. All that and alignment will do is point the tires in the right direction, you see, over time you car goes through some hard hits like potholes, curbs, speed bumps, and just every day poor road conditions.

After a while, things get knocked out of place and the wheels are no longer pointing in the right direction, it's so minor that even the naked eye can't tell it's out of alignment, but an alignment machine will take measurements of your vehicle and compare it to the vehicles specifications, can you see how none of this has anything to do with your car shaking and vibrating?

Bald Tire Blowout

The most common cause of tire shakes or vibrations is tire balance. Most vibrations can be resolved by simply having your tires balanced by a qualified mechanic, but there are some cases where it gets a little more in depth because a tire balance didn't fix the vibration. This is where you need that qualified mechanic I was talking about; I find a lot of mechanics will give the customer a story and tell them their shock are bad or their alignment is out, just so the customer will go away.

Tire Balancing

A reputable garage will have a tire balancer machine called "Hunter Road Force Machine" or something similar. A road force machine will measure rim run out, (check for a bent rim) locate tire hard spots in a tire, check for broken belts in a tire, diagnose defective tires, and balance tires, it is truly the best machine for car shakes and vibrations in my opinion, so ask your mechanic if they have access to a Road Force Machine if you have a problem you can't fix with a regular tire balancer. 

RoadForce Tire Balance Machine

There are other less common causes of car vibrations like worn suspension parts, brake rotor pulsation, snow, mud, debris, things stuck in and on tires, transmission and motor problems, and loose wheel bearings. All of these could give you a vibration or make your car shake, but I was addressing the most common problem associated with car shakes and steering wheel vibrations.

So if your car has a vibration or a shake that is driving you crazy, I recommend having it checked as soon as possible, like I mentioned earlier, leaving a vibration alone, hoping it will go away, will only lead to tire chop and cupping, premature wear on suspension components, and worst of all, insanity, it will drive you crazy if it hasn't already.

Car Shakes or Vibrates When Applying Brakes Video

In the video below, you can see who the car shakes or vibrates when applying the brakes. You'll notice that I'm driving about 80 mph, so the shake isn't that bad, but it is noticeable. To fix this problem, either replace the rotors, or have the rotors resurfaced if the're within spec (thick enough).

Wheel Bearing Noise VS. Tire Noise

Car Shakes FAQ’s

Car Shaking at Idle.

When a car shakes at idle while the transmission is in park it usually is a sign of the engine not running properly or the engine is skipping/misfiring. This condition will also effect the performance of the engine while driving causing a hesitation or bucking, and it may also causing poor fuel mileage which is the least of your worries.  The next step to correct this problem is to have the engine diagnosed before it causes any damage to the catalytic converter. 

Car Shaking at Idle When the Transmission is in Drive.

When a car shakes at idle when the transmission is in drive there are a few common problems to look for first before digging in too deep. 

  • Low idle is a good suspect, if the idle is too low it will cause the car to shake or vibrate with the car in drive and your foot on the brake. If possible, rain the idle a few 100 RPM’s and notice if the vibration disappears. 
  • Worn or damaged engine or transmission mounts can cause a vibration or shake at idle with the car in gear and your foot on the brake. If any of the power-train mounts are torn, broken, or worn it can send a vibration through the chassis that will shake your teeth out of your head, but once the vehicle is moving the vibration subsides because the stress has been removed from the mount. If you suspect that you may have a faulty power-train mount, have all of them inspected by a reputable mechanic. 
  • A damaged or broken exhaust mount can cause a vibration or shake when the transmission is in drive with your foot on the brake. The exhaust system is directly connected to the engine and vibrates a lot, but because it’s supported by rubber hangers the transfer of that vibration is minimal. If  a rubber hanger becomes damaged or broken by impact, age, or defects it can cause a serious vibration through the chassis. 

Car Shakes When Driving Slow?

When a car shakes while driving slow, the most common problem is usually related to a tire problem. When a tire is low on air or there is damage to the tire itself it can cause a shake or wobble when driving at slow speeds. Here is how you should address the problem; 

  • Check all tires for proper inflation, most tires should be above 30 psi but to be sure check the side of the tire, it will display the proper inflation of the tires with embossed lettering. 
  • Check all tires for bubbles in the sidewall. A tire that has hit a pothole or object in the road could develop a bubble in the sidewall and cause a vibration when driving slow. If you find a tire with this condition it is highly recommended that you replace the damaged tires because it its unsafe and could blowout without warning. 
  • Check all rims for any damage or dents. Damage or dents can cause the car to wobble or shake at all speeds but is mostly felt when driving slow. 
  • Check all tires for uneven wear. Chopped or uneven tread wear is a very common problem with shakes at low speeds, the shakes is usually accompanied by a rumbling noise as well under these conditions. A quick visual inspection of all your tires can save you time by not having to bring your car in for a diagnosis. 
  • Bald tires can cause a wobble or vibration when driving slow. Visually inspect the tires, if any of the tires are close to being bald, it may be the cause of your shake. I highly recommend you replace any bald tires as soon as possible, it is dangerous to drive a vehicle with these conditions. 

Examples of Poor Tire Conditions

A quick check of the vehicle's tires and rims can save you the hassle of making an appointment at your local garage. Inspect the tires for uneven wear. This condition can result in a rough ride, vibration, and noise. Inspect the inside of all rims for any built-up debris like sand, mud, rocks, and snow, all of which can cause severe vibrations. 

My Car Shakes When I Hit 60 MPH?

Vibrations or shakes over 60 mph are most likely cause by tires being out of balance. Not all tires can be balanced to perfection like most of us want because there are so many variables. If you purchased cheap tires, you’ll most likely have some type of shake because the tires are cheap and not a lot of research and development go into a $40 tire, these types of tires were manufactured to just get you by. 

If you have purchased reputable tires and you have done your homework on the tires customer reviews, you may have a defective tire.  It’s not uncommon for tires to come from the manufacturer with internal defects that can’t be seen with a visual inspection, the tires will need special machinery to detect defects. The Hunter Road-Force tire balance machine can analyze tire defects, but the machine is only as good as the mechanic doing the work. 

My Car Shakes When Driving Over 70 MPH?

Vibrations over 70 mph are most likely cause by out of balance or defective tires. There are other causes but tires are the most common issue, if you have a tire dealer in your area that has a Hunter Road-Force tire balance machine I highly recommend you have them road-force the tires first and get a print out of your tires specs. 

Why is my Car Shaking in Park? 

If your car is shaking in park it’s possible the engine has a problem. Depending on what is causing the vibration will need to be investigated. If the engine is sputtering, hesitating, and running poorly this is most likely what is causing the shake. If the engine is running smooth and without any issues, it’s possible one of the power-train mounts is damaged or broken and needs attention. 

Another common cause of a shake in park is a damaged or worn exhaust mount because the engine transfers vibration through the exhaust system. The exhaust system is hung but rubber mounts so it can absorb vibration, if the exhaust is hanging because of broken or lost hangers or is pushed up against the floor of the vehicle, it will cause a vibration in park. 

Why is my Car Shaking When I Start it? 

If a car shakes when you start it and then disappears once the engine is running, the most likely cause would be a worn or broken power-train mount. When the engine first starts it creates a lot of vibration throughout the vehicle but the rubber power-train mounts absorb most of the vibration, if one or more mounts are worn or broken the vibration can become extreme and worse over time by adding stress to the other mounts that are not broken or worn. 

Car Shakes When Driving and Check Engine Light is on?

A car that shakes when driving and the check engine light is on could be caused by several problems. The first step to figure out your problem would be to have the code pulled from the computer, this may not explain exactly what the problem is but it will give you an idea of what may be causing the problem. 

The most common cause of a shake when driving with the check engine light on is the Oxygen sensor, some vehicles have one O2 sensor and other vehicles can have up to four O2 sensors, so guessing at what the problem could be can become very expensive. 

The reason I recommend having the code pulled from the computer is because the O2 sensor is only one possible issue. There are literally hundreds of possibilities from engine and transmission sensors to computers and mechanical failures, to give you an example; low coolant could cause your check engine light to come on and also cause a shake when driving so I highly recommend pulling the code from the vehicles computer first. 

If you have any questions about your car, please don't hesitate to ask, I enjoy helping people like you with the issues they're having with their vehicle. I also find great pleasure when someone has a question about a quote for a repair needed or if someone is trying to scam them, sometimes I'll tell you to get a third opinion if I think it's necessary, so if you have a question, just ask.

Oh, and one more thing, if you know someone who could use this information or if you would like to share it with friends, just email them the link or click one of the share buttons in the box on this page, I would really appreciate it, thank you.

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Eddie Carrara 

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