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6 Reasons Your Car Shakes When Braking + How To Fix It

When you press the brake pedal, you expect your vehicle to come to a smooth stop. When your car’s brake system is working correctly, that is exactly what should happen. However, you might notice that your vehicle shakes when you apply the brakes. This typically signals a problem with the vehicle’s braking system, and you likely need to get the problem corrected soon.

There are a few different things that can cause your car to shake when you press the brake pedal. Keep reading as we tell you what will cause your vehicle to shake and how to fix it. We will even tell you how much you can expect it to cost. Here are all the details you need to know.

Why Does My Car Shake When Braking?

There are several reasons your car might shake while braking, but there are six reasons that are most common. If you experience your vehicle shaking when you come to a stop, here are the most common reasons for it.

— Warped Brake Rotors

Warped brake rotors are likely the number one cause of your vehicle shaking when you hit the brakes. This problem is especially noticeable at highway speeds and when stopping on the way down a hill. The shaking will be extremely evident in the steering wheel, and the vibration will generally begin even with a light pressing of the brake pedal. You will also likely feel a pulsation in the brake pedal.

Your brake calipers are fixed, and the rotors pass inside the caliper as they spin. When your brake pads squeeze against the rotors, you can easily feel the slightest warp in the rotor. Excess heat or extremely hard braking can cause the rotors to warp. If your steering wheel shakes when you brake, you likely have warped rotors.

— Worn Brake Pads

Another potential cause of shaking when braking is worn brake pads. Disc brakes utilize brake pads that squeeze the rotor to bring the car to a stop. Your brake pads can sometimes wear unevenly, and this can lead to your vehicle shaking when you come to a stop. Drum brakes can also experience similar issues if the brake shoes wear unevenly, although almost all vehicles today are equipped with disc brakes. If you hear a squealing sound along with the shaking when you press the brake pedal, you likely need new brake pads. Shaking and squealing is a sure sign that it’s time to replace your brake pads. You should head to a local service center soon to have the repair completed.

— Sticking Brake Calipers

Your brake calipers have pins inside them that slide back and forth as you press and release the brake pedal. This sliding action is what causes the brake pads to engage with the rotor when you press the pedal and then release the rotor when you take your foot off the pedal. However, these pins can sometimes stick if they are not properly lubricated. A sticking brake caliper can certainly produce shaking in your vehicle, and this can be a possible cause of the shaking feeling you experience.

— Bad Wheel Alignment

Sometimes, a shaking feeling when braking is not related to your car’s brake system at all. In fact, it might be related to your car’s suspension system. Performing regular wheel alignments keeps your vehicle riding smoothly, and it also reduces the wear on your tires. It is recommended that you have a wheel alignment performed every 12,000 miles, but you should certainly get one done when you get new tires or after hitting a pothole. Your dealership can easily check your car’s alignment to determine whether it is within your manufacturer’s specifications. If the alignment is outside the normal range, then you should go ahead and have your vehicle’s suspension aligned.

— Tires Out Of Balance

A tire that is out of balance can produce a shaking feeling, and it can get worse when you hit the brakes. It is recommended that you have a tire rotation and balancing performed at each oil change. Typically, a tire out of balance will be even more noticeable at high speeds. As the tire spins, it should maintain a perfect center of gravity. However, when a tire is out of balance, it does not spin perfectly on a center axis. Instead, it “bounces” around and creates a shaking feeling in your vehicle. Some tires get so badly out of balance that they can be seen shaking violently by others around you on the road. This can create dangerous driving conditions and should be addressed immediately.

— Suspension Problems

We briefly talked already about your car’s suspension being out of alignment, but other problems with suspension components can create shaking when braking as well. Most of the time, the shaking related to suspension problems will be apparent all the time while driving and not just while braking. You could have a bad CV joint, damage to your axle shaft, or bad wheel bearings. Any of these issues could cause you to feel shaking when driving your vehicle, and all these items should be repaired as soon as possible.

How To Stop Your Car From Shaking When You Brake

Even normal wear and tear can lead to shaking when braking, especially if the shaking is a result of warped rotors or worn brake pads. So, how do you fix the issue? Most of the time, replacing your brake pads and rotors will do the trick. How long do brake pads last? In most cases, they will last anywhere from 20,000 to 50,000 miles.

You might want to go ahead and get a full brake service, including flushing the brake fluid, when you replace your pads. In some cases, an auto repair shop might be able to resurface your brake rotors instead of replacing them with new ones. The shop will need to measure the thickness of the rotors to make sure they are still within your manufacturer’s specifications. If they are too thin, they will need to be replaced.

If the problem is not related to your brakes, then a tire balance or wheel alignment will probably fix the problem. These are not typically jobs that you can complete on your own as they require specialized machines and equipment. If you have damage to any suspension components, a repair shop will typically discover the issue when performing an alignment. Replacement of worn or broken parts, along with the alignment, should get your vehicle running smoothly again. If you are experiencing shaking when you brake, you should go ahead and schedule service right away.

Average Repair Costs For “Shaking When Braking” Issues

The cost to eliminate your car’s shaking will depend on the specific problem you need to correct. If the issue is related to worn brake pads, your repair bill should not be overly expensive. On average, the cost to replace brake pads is about $200 to $400 on most vehicles. If your rotors are warped and need replacement as well, you can expect to add some cost. Replacement of pads and rotors will generally run you $400 to $600 on most vehicles.

If the shaking issue is related to a tire out of balance or a bad wheel alignment, the cost to repair it will be pretty reasonable. Most repair shops will balance a tire for about $25, so you can have all four tires balanced for about $100. A wheel alignment will cost you about $150 on most vehicles, although some high-end vehicles might cost you over $200.

Finally, the most expensive repair could be replacing suspension components. The cost will be very dependent upon which parts need to be replaced and your specific vehicle. For example, replacing a CV joint can cost you anywhere from $200 to $900, depending on the make and model of your vehicle. Similarly, the cost to replace a ball joint usually runs somewhere between $250 and $400. If you need to replace a suspension component, your cost is likely to be at least $200, but it could exceed $1,000 in some cases.

The Bottom Line

If your car shakes when braking, a few possible problems could cause it. The most likely cause is worn brake pads or warped rotors. In that case, the shaking will be very apparent through the steering wheel and a pulsing brake pedal. You might also have a tire out of balance or a bad wheel alignment. Fixing the problem could cost you as little as $100 or over $1,000, depending on the specific cause of the shaking. You will likely want to get your car to a mechanic so they can diagnose the problem and get it fixed.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why does my steering wheel shake when I brake?

If your steering wheel shakes when you brake, you likely have warped brake rotors. When a rotor becomes warped, it does not spin smoothly against the brake pads when you stop your vehicle. Instead, it touches the pad harder in some spots than others. This causes the shaking sensation in the steering wheel because it makes your wheels wobble slightly as you stop. The shaking could also be caused by a tire being out of balance, but the shaking is usually apparent in the steering wheel while driving in that case instead of braking.

Why does my car shake when I slow down?

There are a number of reasons your car might shake when you slow down. The most common cause of shaking when you slow down is warped rotors or worn brake pads. The issue could also be caused by a bad wheel alignment or a tire out of balance. Worn suspension components can also cause shaking when you slow down, but that scenario is not as common as the others. You might need to get the help of a mechanic to diagnose the specific problem.

How do I fix my car so it doesn’t shake when I brake?

The proper fix for your vehicle depends on the root cause of the problem. If you have a bad wheel alignment or a tire out of balance, then the repair will entail getting an alignment or having your tires balanced. If warped rotors are the cause, then you will need to either resurface your rotors or replace them with new ones. Finally, you might need to replace worn suspension parts to fix the shaking.

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