Why is my car vibrating?

When you drive your car, you expect a smooth ride as you cruise down the highway. Lately, though, you find yourself feeling like you’ve been through the spin cycle. Shaking and vibrating down the road is no way to drive to work every morning. It’s time to investigate what is going on!


A worn driveline A u-joint, a bent wheel, or an out-of-balance or defective tire are the usual causes of vibration. You may find that the car shakes in an up-and-down motion. You may feel vibration through the seat, the steering wheel, or even the brake pedal.

Stop, look and listen

While there are many possible causes of vibration, observing under what conditions the vibration happens will help you and your mechanic find the source of the problem. Here are some things to look for:

  1. Does the vibration get worse as the speed increases?
  2. Does it happen only at certain speeds? If so, what speeds?
  3. Does the vibration seem to be concentrated in the car seat?
  4. Is there any abnormal noise when the car shakes?
  5. Does the car vibrate while standing still with the engine running?
  6. Does the movement seem to be concentrated on the steering wheel?
  7. Let’s take a look at some of the possible causes of vibration.

Wheel and tire problems

The most prevalent cause of vibration is problems with your wheels or tires. The potential problems include improper wheel and tire balance, uneven tire wear, separated tire tread, out-of-round tires, damaged wheels, and even loose lug nuts.

Regular car inspections, such as a visual inspection of the wheels and tires, checking and adjusting tire pressure, and examining the tightness of the lug nuts, can prevent many of these problems. Your regular maintenance schedule should include maintaining proper tire pressure, rotating the tires and balancing the wheels. Wheel alignment should also be performed at proper intervals.

 Close up on a tire, specifically tire tread, with a mechanic inspecting it.

Worn suspension parts and joints

Looseness in suspension or steering system components can cause your steering wheel to shake. Excessively worn ball joints or tie rod ends make it impossible to properly align your vehicle. Take your vehicle to a mechanic and have them inspect your ball joints and other components to help identify what is causing your steering wheel to shake.

Engine and transmission

If the vibration happens when you are driving and continues when the car is stopped with the engine running or if there is noise when the car shakes, the problem-solving focus becomes the engine and transmission.

A broken or loose engine or transmission mount may be the culprit, or even a broken radiator fan. A broken fan will usually be out of balance and cause a noticeable vibration when it is rotating. However, most cars have electrically operated radiator fans that only operate when the coolant temperature exceeds a certain level.

If your vibration is sporadic and happens only when the engine is warmed up, the fan may be the cause, but this would be extremely rare.

Damaged or worn brake rotors

If you feel vibration in your steering wheel and in your brake pedal, this may be indication that you have a brake rotor issue. If the rotors have excessive run-out or thickness variation, the brake calipers may vibrate while you step on your brake. You may even feel your steering wheel and brake pedal shake Take your vehicle to your trusted mechanic and have them inspect your brake rotors as well as your entire brake system to ensure the safety and proper operation of your vehicle.

Damaged brake rotor

Where to get more help

Once you have a handle on where your vibration problems are coming from, it might be time to take it to your trusted mechanic to look at it. With their expertise, they’ll get to the bottom of the problem in no time.

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