Car Shakes When Braking – Critical Reasons!

Car shakes when braking

Why does my car shake when I brake? Seems a simple enough question to ask; but the answer is not so simple, as there may be a myriad of reasons as to why the car shakes when braking. Let’s have a look at it in detail.

Why Does My Car Shake When I Brake?

Why Does My Car Shake When I Brake

One of the most common reasons for ‘why car shakes when braking’ is that various substances tend to gather around the rotors. When you brake, pressure is applied to the brake pad, which in turn pushes down on the rotors to bring the wheels to a halt. Over time, residual stuff starts gathering on the brake parts causing vibration when braking. This may not happen at normal speeds, but you would have noticed that certainly your car shakes when braking at high speeds.

Now all brakes have brake calipers, which in turn have guide pins. If these are not clean or lubricated properly, they become dry and cause your steering wheel to shake and other forms of vibration when braking.

Brake calipers are like little pads that press against the brakes. Sometimes these stick and cause the brakes to jar and that may be one of the reasons why your car shakes when braking. If the rotors of your car are out of balance, that can also cause jitter so be sure to get the braking system checked and aligned by a certified mechanic.

Very often heat builds up, especially when the car is moving up an incline causing the rotors to wear out evenly. That is when contact between the pad and the rotors becomes a bit bouncy and your car shakes when braking.

 Worn Out Brake Pads

This is, by far, the most common cause of why the car shakes when braking.

Over time, and through usage, the brake pads wear out, and when they start emitting a squeal when the brakes are pressed, it is time to replace them. This is another reason for experiencing vibration when braking. Brake pads that have dirt, soil, or other material cause vibrations as they are trying hard to grab hold of the rotor. This normally results in a brake shudder, which is felt through the steering wheel which shakes when braking.

Over speeding and driving at high speeds up a slope can rapidly wear down the brake pads. Also, many drivers tend to speed up rapidly and then slow down when approaching a light. This again places undue stress on the brake pads. The result is a spongy brake pedal, which gives rise to a phenomenon known as brake fade, which could be attributed to why the car shakes when braking.

Warping of rotors can be rectified. They can be restored or alternatively, resurfaced if you take your car to the professionals. You do not always have to buy a complete set of new brakes, but if you have to replace your brakes, please do this soon, as this is one part, which is absolutely essential for safety, and demands immediate attention

Corrosion In The Braking System

Corrosion In The Braking System

While it is true that bad driving habits and infrequent checkups can lead to such a situation that you may wonder why does my car shake when I brake, a car that is lying at home for very long without being driven is also susceptible to corrosion. The rotor area under brake pads can become corroded, and that in turn can cause the brake pedal to shake badly, leading to vibration when braking. This is one of the reasons why the auto experts say that if possible, even if there is no obvious reason for it, take your car out for a drive every now and then.

Uneven Surfaces

Sometimes prolonged exposure to heat and constant wear and tear result in variations in thickness in the brake, causing an uneven surface. These are sometimes also known as Out-of-Round drums; and usually, when this happens, the tires emit a squealing noise when the brakes are jammed and the car rapidly comes to a halt. A frequent scene that you see and hear in the movies in the ever-so-common chase sequences. For cars equipped with disc brakes, deposits such as rust and dirt can cause variations in the thickness of the disc and this also leads to abnormal vibration when braking.

How To Fix Brake Shudder

How To Fix Brake Shudder

As already mentioned, erratic and careless driving habits can rapidly wear down the brake pads and the calibers. Change your driving habits. The next time you notice that the car shakes when braking, take your car to the garage, ensure that brake caliper service is included along with the standard check-up and servicing of brakes. Also check that the suspension and alignment of the car are periodically monitored, as this will slow down the process of natural wear and tear of the brakes. If you observe that your car shakes at high speed and that there is vibration when braking, this is a good time to go into a maintenance drive! The vibration is transmitted to the brake pedal and especially on long drives, this can become quite bothersome! Brake pads are hardy creatures. They are designed to survive for at least 50,000 miles, if not more. But as mentioned before, bad driving habits, dysfunctional calipers, and air trapped in the hydraulic brake lines – all can contribute to the premature death of the brake pads.

While replacement of brake pads is not very cheap as their cost can range anywhere from $35 to $ 150 for a complete set for one axle, brakes play such a crucial role in car safety that they can simply not be ignored!

Why Car Shakes When Braking – Crucial Reasons

A Tire-Some Issue!

A Tire-Some Issue

When the brakes of the car start giving you trouble, they become the point of contention, but sometimes – the real culprit could be something else, like for example, the tires of the car. If the wheel balancing has not been done for some time, you will notice that the steering wheel shakes when braking. Also, when going fast, the car shakes at high speed, when you are driving at say 55 – 60 miles per hour or more. It may be the right time to get the wheels of your car balanced, which may seem a mouthful, but does not take an awful lot of time. Improper wheel balance can also cause the tread of the car tires to wear out unevenly, eventually leading to you having to buy a whole new set of tires if you are not vigilant enough. This is also the main reason why auto experts tell you to rotate the tires – put the front tires at the back and vice versa so that tire wear and tear is uniform and limited to the minimum. Most auto mechanics will tell you to rotate the tires when your car has averaged between 5000 to 7000 miles, but the exact figure can be determined by referring to the owner manual of your car.

Alignment Problems

While it is true that tires whose tread is worn out or wheels that have not been balanced properly can be a cause of the car shaking at high speed, improper wheel alignment can cause considerable damage too. If while driving, the car tends to drift from side to side, or if the steering wheel shakes when braking, this is proof positive that the car is due for an alignment check. Occasionally, the problem can be traced to a loose lug or old axle shaft, but generally speaking, it is normally a wheel alignment issue. Alignment of the wheels is a relatively inexpensive process, but it needs to be done well in time before further damage can ensue to the car – or to the tires.

Wheel Rims That Are Bent

It’s not just worn-out tires, or unbalanced wheels, or their misalignment that can cause side-to-side drift or having the steering wheel shake when braking.

Bent wheel rims can create the same effect. The car shakes at high speeds and also the steering wheel shakes when braking. In the long run, driving with wheel rims that are bent can damage the axle of the car or place undue stress on the suspension. And you will land up with a much higher bill than you initially anticipated, just because of one single problematic cause. Fortunately, this is one of those things that can be visibly seen and hence you can attend to it immediately before it gets to the suspension. If there is not just vibration when braking, but slight vibration all the time, there could be other causes too like tires that are semi-full or partially deflated or loose bolts or lugs. Bad ball joints can also be a cause of constant vibration. These are some common reasons why the car shakes when braking. And whether it is about the vibration of the whole car or anyone part, this is an indication that something is seriously wrong, and you can only afford to neglect such problems at your own peril.

Symptomatic Suspension

Bad roads, cracks in the surface, or potholes can damage the axle and you will know this when your steering wheel shakes when braking. Axle damage is a fairly serious issue that can be expensive to fix and a more tedious process than a simple wheel balance. Sometimes it is the constant velocity or CV joint that lies at the root of the problem. The rubber boots that protect the CV joint may get filled with debris, dirt or become damaged by holes. Any stress on the axle affects this joint, and it can not only cause a vibration when braking, but sometimes also be referred to as “brake judder”, but a painful repair expense too!

Steer Away From Trouble

Steer Away From Trouble

Maybe the steering wheel shakes when braking, fooling you into thinking that there are other reasons, but steering wheels themselves can often cause wobbling and shaking.

While damaged tires of course do affect the steering if the steering wheel shakes when braking or when you go into a turn, the reason often is wheel bearings. If the terrain you drive over is rough or you are constantly hitting potholes, not only are there chances of the axle getting damaged, but can also cause abnormal wear and tear on the wheel bearings. If there is a defect, steering wheels usually begin to shake at speeds over 40 – 50 miles per hour. You might also notice that a strange burning smell emanates from the front of the car. This is when the steering wheel shakes when braking. Shaky steering coupled with unusual noises that get louder when you accelerate, point to the trouble maker. Get the bearings changed immediately because bad bearings can cause the tire to freeze or jam suddenly, leading to accident-prone situations.

A badly installed disc brake, which is out of alignment with the hub or caliber, can also cause steering wheel shakes when braking. This is not an adjustment for an amateur and your vehicle should be taken to a garage or mechanic who is used to dealing with such issues. The increased usage of wheel spacers nowadays is also one of the main reasons for the wheel hub getting damaged. Poor suspension can also lead to poor steering, especially on rough roads; so never ever ignore your suspension unless you enjoy having an unwanted rigorous spinal massage! Nowadays most garages and service centers have websites where you can fill up a form stating the exact nature of a complaint and services provided are immediate and usually polite. If you consistently find that the car shakes when braking, now is the time to fill up such a form and take immediate action


We have looked at possible answers to the question uppermost in your mind – why the car shakes when braking. There are numerous reasons why this is so, but ultimately, while shaking might be necessary, even desirable at a Zumba class but when it comes to your car, this is a premature warning that something is wrong with your car, and that something needs to be done. Pronto!

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