Why Is My Car Shaking When I Brake?

It can be alarming to discover that your car is suddenly shaking or making noise whenever you brake.

Whether you feel a slight tremor in the steering wheel when you’re braking, or your whole car starts shuddering when you press that brake pedal, this is not an issue to be taken lightly. Functioning brakes are essential to your safety while driving, and it’s important to resolve the issue as soon as possible before it can cause damage to the rest of your car. Luckily, diagnosing the issue is often fairly easy, and you may be able to solve it with a relatively inexpensive trip to the mechanic.

Reasons your car may shake
There are a variety of reasons that your vehicle may shake as you drive, from imbalances in the tires, a flat tire, an uneven driving surface, engine issues and more. However, if you’re only experiencing the shake while you’re braking, there’s usually only one typical culprit: your rotors. These are the round metal surfaces inside each wheel that your brake pads clamp down on to slow your vehicle. Their surface is wide and smooth, giving the brake pads plenty of surface area to grip, but if there is something preventing this connection from happening properly, it will result in shaking.

Why will rotors cause my car to vibrate?
Rotors can cause shaking if they become warped, which usually occurs because the rotor has been exposed to high amounts of stress. Driving through mountains or steep hills for extended periods of time, having your car towed, or prolonged use of the brakes can cause this to happen. A vibration can also be be the result of a rotor moving when you brake. This may happen if you have a build-up of dirt, rust, or rubber from the brake pad on the rotor, or if it is wearing unevenly due to variations in the metal’s density. Finally, if you have just replaced your rotors, it is more likely that they were improperly tightened during installation using the required torque and in the proper star pattern. If your steering wheel is vibrating when you brake, it’s usually the front rotors causing the issue, while the back rotors will cause your whole care to shake.

How can I solve the shaking?
Make an appointment to take your car in to a trusted mechanic or brake shop. You will need to have a professional check the rotors to see what is causing the problematic contact with the pads. If your rotors have been improperly installed, it may simply be a case of reinstalling them and tightening them properly. If you have a build-up of dirt or rust on the rotor, it may require the mechanic to remove the offending rotors and have them “turned” on a specialized machine, removing a thin layer from the rotor in order to give it a smooth clean surface again. If your rotor is warped, you may need a new set of rotors, in which case, it’s also a good idea to replace the brake pads at the same time.

It’s usually fairly simple to find out why your car is shaking when you brake. Rotors are the usual culprit, and a qualified mechanic should be able to quickly identify why they are malfunctioning. Catching the issue early and taking your vehicle in for repairs right away is the key to ensuring that your costs stay as low as possible and your car remains safe to drive.